Mobilizing Volunteers Toolkit

A step-by-step guide to recruit, train, and retain effective volunteers for National Ag Day

Download the Entire Mobilizing Volunteers Toolkit

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Table of Contents
 
Background Information and FAQs

Introduction

The most successful organizations and campaigns are driven by motivated volunteers and surrounded by engaged supporters. Not every volunteer’s experience is the same, and everyone has different skills to contribute. This toolkit will help you recruit a diverse group of volunteers for National Ag Day, prepare them for a variety of volunteer experiences, and retain their support for years to come. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Ag Day?
It's a day to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture. Every year, producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies, and countless others across America join together to recognize the contributions of agriculture.


When is Ag Day?
Ag Day is celebrated every March during National Ag Week. The actual dates vary from year to year.


Who Hosts Ag Day?
The Agriculture Council of America hosts the campaign on a national level. However, the awareness efforts in communities across America are as influential – if not more – than the broad–scale effort. This year, the State Ag Day Toolkit has been created to help communities and organizations more effectively host Ag Day events.


What is Ag Day all About?
Ag Day is about recognizing and celebrating the contributions of agriculture to our everyday lives. The National Ag Day program encourages every American to:

  • understand how food and fiber products are produced,

  • value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy, and

  • appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant, and affordable products.


Why Celebrate Agriculture?
Agriculture provides almost everything we eat, use, and wear on a daily basis. But too few people truly understand this contribution. This is particularly the case in our schools, where students may only be exposed to agriculture if they enroll in related vocational training. By building awareness, the ACA is encouraging young people to consider career opportunities in agriculture.


Each American farmer feeds more than 166 people – a dramatic increase from 25 people in the 1960s. American agriculture is doing more and doing it better. As the world population soars, there is an even greater demand for the food and fiber produced in the United States.


What Can I Do to Help?
Put simply, get involved! Your participation in Ag Day is critical in helping us spread this positive message about agriculture. Use this guide to prepare to host state–level Ag Day events and activities.

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Background Information and FAQs

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Recruit Volunteers

Volunteer Engagement Pathway

To effectively engage volunteers, design programs that adhere to the four major milestones of engagement and movement–building in the Volunteer Engagement Pathway. Not everyone will reach every step, but this pathway provides a clear blueprint for increasing engagement.

Milestone 4: Self-Organizing

Volunteers champion for and lead the campaign or cause. They provide tangible support to other organizers and mobilize volunteers.

Milestone 1: Awareness

Potential volunteers build interest in and gain awareness of the issue or cause. Taking no actions

Milestone 2: Sharing

Potential volunteers move from observation to endorsement. They share status updates and forward emails. This is a key step to showing others they’re committed to making change happen for the cause.

Milestone 3: Participation

Volunteers actively help the organization or cause reach a particular goal. They choose to donate time and/or money.

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Volunteer Engagement Pathway

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Types of Volunteers

Having volunteers in all roles is key to your agricultural literacy program’s success. As you engage your volunteers, think of how you can best prepare them to make your event successful while also providing them with a sense of fulfillment and meaning because of their actions.

 

1. One–time Event Volunteer

  • Level of Involvement: One–time Event Volunteers help with day–of responsibilities at individual events.

  • Recruitment Techniques:

    • Ask people you know from other community events, organizations, and activities.

    • Think of people beyond who “comes to mind” initially – this way, you can avoid over–utilizing some volunteers and under–utilizing others.

    • Emphasize that you are not looking for a large time commitment – just an hour or two.

    • Think about the benefits of volunteering at a one-time event. Share why you’ve continued to volunteer.

  • Engagement Examples:

    • Read to local elementary students for a class period.

    • Meet with legislators during a Day at the Capitol.

 

2. Returning Event Volunteer

  • Level of Involvement: Returning Event Volunteers have helped with the same events many times – this could be a recurring yearly service opportunity or multiple events in a shorter span of time as part of a special program.

  • Recruitment Techniques:

    • These volunteers can be easier to contact for events because you already have their contact information and you have previously established a relationship.

    • Remember not to over–utilize these volunteers. Don’t make an ask every time you have an event, and be sure to express your gratitude when you see them at the events to which they donate their time.

    • If you have had one–time event volunteers who enjoyed their experiences, consider inviting them back to another event.

  • Engagement Examples:

    • Volunteer at several County Farm Bureau events hosted throughout the year.

    • Partner with the local FFA chapter to run an agriculture literacy program each spring.

 

3. Planning Committee Member

  • Level of Involvement: Planning Committee Members are volunteers who helped plan the details of the event, often volunteering more time prior to the event than at the event itself. 

  • Recruitment Techniques:

    • If you have a planning committee for an event – or less formally, a group of volunteers who are most involved in the planning of an event – it can be challenging to fill an open role in that committee. First, look to other volunteers who have been involved with the event or similar events in the past. They will have valuable experiences and perspectives to contribute.

  • Engagement Examples:

    • Use your expertise as a County Farm Bureau board member to help plan a county event.

    • Volunteer for a committee that is planning an event.

 

4. Key Organizer/Coordinator

  • Level of Involvement: Key Organizers and Coordinators are the people most involved with the planning and execution of an event. They often help to organize other volunteers, plan out responsibilities, and are the “go–to” person for any questions or decisions.

  • Recruitment Techniques:

    • Most likely, key organizers and coordinators were involved with this event at another step prior to leading. They may have started at any step of this pathway, gotten involved, and decided they wanted to continue volunteering at a more engaged level. Sometimes, these volunteers also work for the organization which is running the event, and this is a part of their job. Look at the involved volunteers at other steps in this pathway for your event to find someone who may be a good candidate to become the next key organizer or coordinator.

  • Engagement Examples:

    • Organize an ag literacy event and coordinate volunteers for it.

    • Coordinate with the local school to organize agriculture programs for their students.

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Types of Volunteers

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Best Practices for Organizing Volunteers

 

Many events need a lot of volunteers – or even just a few – to run successfully. As you organize volunteers for your next Ag Day, here are a few best practices to keep in mind.

 

A Larger Mission: Creating Purposeful Work for Volunteers

  • Identify a key mission or message that guides your event or organization.

  • How do your volunteers fit into the larger picture of that mission?

  • How can you effectively share with them how their role contributes to that mission?
     

A Cooperative Community: Ensuring Volunteers Feel Utilized

  • Volunteers come because they want to be involved. Make sure you have the right number of volunteers – too few, and it could cause stress; too many, and they may leave wondering if they were even needed. To avoid this, think about how many people you will need for each part of the event. For example:

    • 1 person reading in each classroom x 5 classrooms = 5 volunteers each class period

    • 2 people visiting each representative x 40 representatives / 4 visits each = 20 volunteers

    • 1 person for each type of food being served (6) + 2 people to replenish food + 2 people to clean tables = 10 volunteers

  • Make it easy for volunteers to sign up or schedule themselves to work. Consider your target demographic of volunteers and what the best method of signing up is for them (online, over the phone, etc.).

  • As volunteers arrive, make it clear where they should report to get instructions for how to help. This could be in the form of large signage or in communication prior to the event.

  • Create a welcoming environment for new volunteers and returning volunteers alike and be sure to thank them for their time before they leave.
     

A Positive Outcome: Benefitting Your Cause and Your Volunteers

  • What is your ideal outcome for the event? For the volunteers?

  • Who benefits from your event?

  • Consider collecting feedback on the experience and contact information from volunteers so that you can improve future events and include volunteers again.

 

Keep in mind how you can create a larger mission, a cooperative community, and a positive outcome for your volunteers. This way, you can ensure that volunteers leave your events feeling fulfilled and looking forward to staying engaged with your mission, community, and organization.

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Best Practices for Organizing Volunteers

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10 Tips for Building Your Ag Day Committee

 

A key ingredient to successful volunteer–driven events is finding the right volunteers! Without effective and motivated volunteers, it can be difficult to accomplish your goal. Recruiting volunteers may seem like a daunting task, but it is a critical component of accomplishing your goals. Here are ten tried and true tips to build a committee for your National Ag Day programming.

 

Your committee is the heart of hosting a successful event. Here is some advice on how to build and keep your Ag Day committee on track.

 

1. Find a Diverse Group of Participants 


“Variety is the spice of life,” the old adage goes, so make sure your committee is comprised of individuals from different backgrounds and different skill areas. Contact different associations and organizations with interests in agriculture and ask for their participation. Below are some potential committee members you may enlist:

• Farmers and ranchers

• Business and trade associations 

• Service, fraternal, and youth groups 

• Religious and educational groups 

• Health, safety, and environmental groups 

• Government 

• Media 

• Women’s organizations 

• Merchants 

2. Start Early 
 

Don’t wait until the last minute to form your committee. Begin at least two to three months in advance so members can get to know each other and have time to prepare. See our timeline suggestions on page 18.

 

3. Identify Responsibilities Early 


It’s helpful for every member of your committee to know their specific role. If you have time, jot down the key responsibilities and expectations of each member to avoid confusion or duplication of efforts. Talk one–on–one with each member about what you expect from them. 
  

4. Begin Meetings with a Fresh Perspective 


Keep committee members enthused about Ag Day celebrations by starting each meeting with a memorable thought or quote that underscores the overall mission of the effort. 
  

5. Keep Meetings on Track 


Meetings that are too long or go off subject can be draining to committee members. To prevent this, prepare an agenda in advance with a start and stop time and make a commitment to keep to it. 
  

6. Plan Ahead 


Provide a list of meeting dates and times in advance so members can plan their schedules accordingly. Meeting participation will be greater, and you won’t have to track down everyone with a new meeting time. 
  

7. Recap Action Items 


It’s easy to get lost in the details, so it’s helpful to be proactive in remembering what needs to be done. Keep a record of "action items" for each committee member and regularly check back in on their status. 
  

8. Celebrate Successes 


When members of your committee make progress, be sure to recognize it at meetings and in person. Positive accolades are an inspiration to the entire committee. 
  

9. Go Easy 


Leading a volunteer committee can be challenging at times. Approach your leadership with a sense of humor and understanding. 
  

10. Get Commitments Right Away 


If you’d like to host an event next year, talk with committee members immediately following your event when enthusiasm is highest to seek their commitment. If you need to raise funds to hold an event or require other donated resources, a diverse committee from several organizations may be able to help in your endeavor. 

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10 Tips for Building Your Ag Day Committee

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Train and Prepare Volunteers

Getting Started: A Checklist

Effective planning in advance will help you coordinate your volunteer team or committee in the most efficient way. Use the checklist below and cross of these tasks before you begin training your volunteer team for the event.

Determine Your Key Message 

 

What is the single most important point that you’d like to be able to communicate through your event? Is it the importance of quality ingredients (to a successful recipe or article of clothing)? The value of sound nutrition? The financial impact of agriculture in your community? The contribution of agriculture to renewable fuel resources? 

 

The more specifically you can focus on - and demonstrate - your message, the more likely it is to be remembered!  

Identify Your Audience 

Decide who you want to reach most with your message. Consider individuals who are least aware of the benefits of agriculture or can influence others. Some possibilities include: 

  • Consumers (general public) 

  • Children and teachers 

  • Business Leaders 

  • Parents 

  • Media contacts

  • Government leaders

Form a Strong Committee 

Once you have a general idea of whom you’d like to reach, begin enlisting support from others who share your enthusiasm for agriculture. By joining together, you can expand creativity, lend credibility to your celebration, and cut down on costs. Potential committee members may include:

  • Farmers and ranchers

  • Business and trade associations

  • Service, fraternal, and youth groups

  • Religious and Educational Groups

  • Health, safety, and environmental groups

  • Government

  • Media

  • Women’s organizations

  • Merchants

Select an Event or Activity

One of the first steps in choosing your event may be to find out what other groups in your community, state, or industry are doing to celebrate Ag Day. This is a good opportunity to enlist their support, thus enhancing each other’s efforts. Work with your committee to host an event that keeps to the mission of Ag Day, but also brings exposure to involved members and organizations.

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Getting Started: A Checklist

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Training 101

 

Set SMART Goals

It is important to equip your volunteers with the tools they need to be successful. As a group, consider setting SMART Goals. This will ensure the foundation of all volunteering efforts is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Use the chart below to guide your team as well as hold each committee member accountable throughout the process.

Facilitation Best Practices

Some volunteers are more comfortable in front of groups than others. It’s our hope that the tips we share with you will help anyone feel more comfortable with their audience. Here is the facilitation formula for success. It’s a simple four–step process to help craft your time in front of your audience. This is perfect for conducting an informative event or visiting a classroom!

 

Step 1: Hook ‘em! 

Hook your audience into the content you are about to share. Leave your audience wanting more about the topic.   

 

Step 2: Meet ‘em! 

The second step is to meet your audience! Depending on the size of the group, you can have participants share their connection to agriculture. Regardless of their responses, be sure to help the audience see the correlation of their purpose for being there and what you are about to share and how it can benefit them. 

Step 3: Engage ‘em! 

This step is arguably the most important step for successful facilitation. We must engage our audience! Rather than thinking about it as teaching them, have the mentality that you are learning alongside your audience and continuing to discover more and more about agricultural literacy with them. Share real experiences or admit that you might not have all the answers, but make it clear you are committed to helping them learn more. The more real you are with your audience, the better! A good measure of engagement is the amount of questions that are asked. We do our best to write our resources with this mentality in mind! 

 

Step 4: Connect ‘em! 

The final step is to connect them! Once you have concluded your presentation, connect your audience to resources and places where they can continue to learn more about the subject. Whether it is directing participants to the AFBFA website (www.agfoundation.org) or giving out a local Farm Bureau member's contact information, find a way to keep the engagement with agricultural literacy happening. 

Engaging the Audience

Reflection is powerful. This is how we ensure that our message was clearly received!

 

What?

In this phase, we ask our audience, “What?,” to start this reflective process. Possible questions include:

  • “What happened?”

  • “What did you learn?”

  • “What did you feel from this experience?”

 

So, what?

The second phase of this reflective practice is asking your audience, “So what?” This is the theoretical and conceptual phase. Possible questions include:

  • “So, what is the importance of this?”

  • “So, what is the significance to you?”

  • “So, what more do I need to know about this?” These questions will help us continue to process the importance of the experience.  

 

Now what?

At this final phase, we consider other ways of thinking or acting and what we can do now to be proactive in the future. This step encourages participants to think about the next steps in using the knowledge gained from the experience. Potential questions include:

  • “Now what should I do?”

  • “Now what is my plan of action based on the information I have been given today?”

 

Event and Activity Ideas

 

There are a variety of ways you can get involved and spread awareness during National Ag Day. You can host events, contact legislators, or reach out to a local elementary school to educate students. There are endless opportunities, so you can pick what fits your schedule, skills, and passions! Providing different options to fit each unique volunteer is a great way to successfully advocate during National Ag Day.   

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Training 101

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Event and Activity Ideas

 

There are a variety of ways you can get involved and spread awareness during National Ag Day. You can host events, contact legislators, or reach out to a local elementary school to educate students. There are endless opportunities, so you can pick what fits your schedule, skills, and passions! Providing different options to fit each unique volunteer is a great way to successfully advocate during National Ag Day.   

Day by Day Activities for Ag Week

 

Sunday

Make a farm-to-table meal with your family.


Monday

Volunteer at your local school and plan an activity with a classroom to teach kids about the importance of agriculture. (examples: make a compost bin for them to observe in their classroom, or do this egg shell seed growing experiment)


Tuesday

Research agricultural issues affecting your region.


Wednesday

Contact your legislator and remind them of the importance of supporting farm initiatives.

Thursday

Share what agriculture means to you in a photo on social media—whether it’s the ingredients for your dinner, a rural field, or a busy market. Use the hashtag #FoodforLife


Friday

Throw a cook-off party with friends. Try to incorporate ingredients your state is known for, i.e. pork, apples, almonds, beef, corn, etc.


Saturday

Check out local farms or dairies in your area that offer tours. Visit with friends or family, and learn how they produce, sell and market their food.

Additional Ideas

Below are list of potential events and activities for Ag Day.

  • Community service event

  • Farmer’s market

  • Library display

  • Ag Day panel/talks

  • Fair

  • Pizza party

  • Mall exhibit

  • Point of purchase exhibit

  • School lunches

  • “Bring a farmer to work” day

  • Thank a farmer initiative

  • Ag literacy booths

  • Film screenings

  • Dash for ag 5K walk/run

  • Petting zoo

  • Adopt a legislator

  • Ag Day reception

  • Essay/story writing contest

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Event and Activity Ideas

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Educational Resources

 

Helpful Websites

Don’t know where to start? There are many great resources available for your use. Check out the link below for learning resources you can use at your next ag literacy event.

www.agday.org/helpful-websites

 

American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture  

The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture (AFBFA) has a variety of free K-12 educational resources to use in the classroom. The resources are also aligned to learning standards. Use a lesson plan and interactive activity or read the Book of the Year to a class!  

www.agfoundation.org


The Ag Lit Catalog  

The Ag Lit Catalog is a “one stop shop” for free agricultural literacy resources for learners of all ages. A project of AFBFA, the online catalog makes resources easier to find to fit your outreach needs. This searchable, sortable, and listable database will help you find the right resource.

www.agfoundation.org/ag-lit-catalog

 

Accurate Agriculture Books

Below is a curated list of books which accurately portray agriculture – ideal for taking into classrooms and reading to students. Check out the full list at www.agfoundation.org/recommended-pubs.

 

Additional Volunteer Resources
 

Classroom Visit Planner

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Classroom Visit Email Template

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Event Timeline and Checklist

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Retain Volunteers

Build Relationships with Volunteers After the Event 

After you’ve successfully conducted your National Ag Day event(s), your work is not over. Building relationships with your volunteer team will keep them coming back and help grow your team in the future.

 

Here are a few tips and tricks to keep your volunteers coming back.

  • Provide meaningful experiences.

  • Highlight the volunteer team’s impact and share the importance of their work! For example, post “Volunteer Spotlights” on social media, websites/blogs, or in newsletters.

  • Create a community of volunteers.

  • Understand each volunteer’s motivation, strengths and weaknesses, talents, and ways they want to contribute to the cause.

  • Ask for honest feedback. Send surveys after volunteer efforts so folks can share what went well and what can be improved for the future.

  • Share your gratitude and thank them!

 

Thanking Your Volunteers

It is important to share your gratitude with those who volunteer and those with whom you coordinated to make the event happen. A handwritten thank you note, or email is a kind gesture, and one that is often overlooked once volunteering is complete. It is important to cultivate positive relationships with your volunteers for future years and events to follow. “Thanks” can come in the form of a phone call, handwritten note, or typed letter, but all forms should include the following:

  • The volunteer’s name – this will keep your expression of thanks personal and help you avoid seeming scripted.

  • The name of the event they helped with.

  • The impact of their help.

  • An allusion to looking forward to working with them in the future.

  • A final note of thanks/well wishes.

 

Below is a sample thank you note you can customize for a volunteer on your committee. 

Dear VOLUNTEER NAME,

 

Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication to the mission of agricultural education in our youth! We sincerely appreciate the time you took out of your busy schedule to read an accurate agriculture book to the local elementary school students on National Ag Day. Your efforts are helping to plant the seeds for your community to be informed about the agriculture industry. We hope you are able to continue advocating and educating in any way you can.

 

Thank you,

YOUR NAME

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Build Relationships with Volunteers after the Event

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Communications Resources and Tools

Press Release Template

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Video and Photography Consent and Release Form

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National Ag Day is organized by the Agriculture Council of America (ACA). ACA is a nonprofit organization composed of leaders in the agricultural, food and fiber community, dedicating its efforts to increasing the public's awareness of agriculture's role in modern society.

 

Agriculture Council of America, 11020 King Street, Suite 205, Overland Park, KS 66210  |  Tel: (913) 491-1895, Fax: (913) 491-6502, email: info@agday.org

 

©2018 Agriculture Council of America. All rights reserved.