VolunteerLocal Demo Team Spotlight: Beth Hicks

Beth Hicks

Beth is a business owner and consultant with more than 25 years experience in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Most recently she’s served as a community coach with Keep Iowa Beautiful and on the project management team for the Viva East Bank! coalition that is revitalizing three Des Moines neighborhoods.

Beth founded Urban Community Concepts, a business venture that provides project management, grant writing and educational programming services to organizations and businesses. Previously, she was a program manager with Rebuilding Together Greater Des Moines and the director of advancement services for Keep Iowa Beautiful. She has also worked in project and health/safety management positions for an environmental engineering firm; managed “Buy Recycled” and industrial waste audit programs for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources; and served as board president and employee for a Wisconsin recycling nonprofit. Beth is a co-founder of Center on Sustainable Communities (COSC) and serves on its board of directors.

Originally from the Chicago area, she graduated from Drake University with a B.S. in
Biology and a Masters in Public Administration. She received her Master Gardeners
certification in Fall 2012.


Where are you from?   

Plainfield, IL

Where do you live currently?

Des Moines, IA

What is your favorite hobby outside of work?

Reading and gardening

Who is your favorite musical artist?

Emily Kinney (Aka Beth on “The Walking Dead”)

What are you passionate about? 

The environment; giving people voice (especially those who are vulnerable); connecting people with resources to make a difference in our community

What types of events do you love the most? Any special experiences you’d like to share?

Intimate get-togethers, especially with music

What is one thing our customers should know about you?

I hosted the first ever backyard chicken bike tour in Des Moines for two years in a row.


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Winning Over the Reluctant Volunteer

While we’d all love to believe that any volunteer coming our way is in it for the good of the cause, every volunteer coordinator knows that’s just not always the case.

Whether it’s a sullen teenager, a court-ordered volunteer, or just a serious introvert, you know you need a way to win them over. We’ve collected some of our favorite ways to chip away at those reluctant volunteers.

Appeal to Their Interests

Even though your volunteer might have joined your crew out of duty (rather than passion), chances are you can probably find something for them to like about your organization. If your volunteer is a parent, maybe they’d love to find out that the work they’re doing is going to benefit kids. Maybe the crabby teen volunteering for your 5k is into music and would love to help you set up the speakers at the check-in booth. Who knows? Honestly, not us. Are teens still into music? It’s worth a try.

Give ‘em a Break

Every volunteer needs a break sometimes and a volunteer who doesn’t want to be there definitely does. Set clear times when your team can sneak a snack on the side or a quiet moment. Just the knowledge that a chance to rest is in the near future is a huge help in keeping unenthusiastic volunteers on the move.


If a volunteer shows up to your event a little less than gung-ho, try giving them an option of what to do. While sitting in the break area with a bag of chips might not work, you might end up with a people-person who would love to do check-in, or a perfectionist who can make sure every single poster is straight. You might even get someone who’s obsessed with picking up trash and wants to be on garbage duty all day (we can dream).


And if all of that doesn’t work?

There are always snacks.

You can win anyone over with free snacks.



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Building Community Among Your Volunteers

During an event, volunteers are a part of your team.

Creating a strong volunteer community can help retain and encourage them to do their best. Whether it’s offering perks or setting up group activities, fostering a close environment for volunteers could be the key to keeping them coming back. We’ve compiled some of our top ways to get your volunteers acquainted, engaged, and excited to be a part of the team.


Keep it Social
The first step to getting your volunteers “together” is to create a Facebook group for volunteers only. Not only does this offer an easy place to post updates and information about your event, but it also offers a spot for you and your volunteers to share photos of their experience.


Creating a hashtag just for your volunteers is a great way to help them share their experiences and link up with others. Giving volunteers a way to share moments will not only help to build your community, but will also result in awesome, on-the-ground social media content for your event.


Whether it’s a break from frozen toes or a moment to sit, sweat-drenched in front of a fan, everyone needs a minute to recoup – and we don’t mean the kind where you eat a sandwich behind the media tent. Designating a small area for volunteers is an easy way to make them feel like they’re valued members of the team. Throw some water bottles and a bag of chips in there and a small volunteer station is suddenly the volunteer VIP lounge.


And After the Party
Every volunteer knows that after a long day of helping out their favorite organization, they could probably benefit from a couple hours letting it all out on the dance floor. Why not treat your volunteers to the VIP experience with an after party? Snacks, beers, games, whatever, a little post-event party to blow off steam and talk about the day will have your volunteers remembering not only how great it was to help your organization, but how fun it was to party after.

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Recognizing Volunteer Trends

Photo Credit: clipartimage.com

Volunteer coordinators are always looking for new team members – and volunteer trends are a good place to start. At VolunteerLocal, we’ve noticed a few trends that seem to be popping up more and more across the country. Below, we’ve listed some of the top trends we’re seeing that may help you find your next great volunteer.

Businesses are Getting Involved

More and more businesses are looking for ways to make a group outing a way of giving back to their community. Whether it’s a major corporation that just moved into town or a small business with 10 dedicated team members, there are so many opportunities to get help for your cause. Try reaching out to the HR team at the company with a bit about your organization, what kind of help you need and see if they might be interested. For this kind of outreach, offering an opportunity for a large group to come to help out all at once can be a great option.

Colleges are Looking for New Partners

Colleges offer a wealth of volunteers with varied schedules and a passion for changing the world. We’re seeing a growth in millennial activism and with that, there are plenty of willing volunteers walking around local campuses. With colleges, you can often reach out to a specific organization on campus that’s just right for your cause. Maybe the track and field team can help at your next marathon or students in the communications school are able to do social media outreach for your event.

Schools are Teaching Civic Duty

Volunteers aren’t just walking around college campuses these days; they’re also bounding through the halls of elementary schools. More and more primary education teachers are looking for ways to teach students about civic engagement. While high school kids are old enough to help with quite a lot, you’d be surprised what the little ones can do too. Stuffing envelopes and making signs are simple and fun ways to get younger kids involved.

So get out there and broaden your base! There are people of all ages looking to help, and keeping an eye out for volunteers in the places you might not normally think to look might just win you a lot of new volunteers.

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Creating a Hype Squad

 There are lots of important volunteer jobs – but what about one that keeps your volunteers excited to be a part of your movement? Enter: The Hype Squad. Take those energetic teens and millennials in your volunteer base and create a team to hype everyone up about your event and organization’s mission.

At the Event
When you start scheduling out each role for your event, why not leave 15-minute shifts here or there for a small crew to get the other volunteers excited? Send them out with bottles of water, small pieces of swag or (our personal favorite) snacks! Giving volunteers that quick acknowledgment that you’re glad they’re there can be a huge morale boost and keep everyone excited for the cause.
On the Ground
Get your organization evangelists out to the masses! Create a small team of people who will go the extra mile in getting the word out about your organization. Make sure this team has a clear understanding of your mission, some literature/pins/swag and a genuine interest in getting the word out. We’re not necessarily suggesting you send them out to a street corner to yell about your cause, but outreach can be as easy as talking about it at a party or posting flyers at school.
Virtual Squad

While face-to-face is always great, social media is a hype squad’s best friend. See if volunteers are able to share news about your event and organization on their social media accounts and offer ideas for how to share to make it even easier (a selection of event photos, sample tweets, etc.). Encouraging your team to take photos while volunteering and creating organizational hashtags will get the word out fast about what your crew is doing and attract more volunteers.

Most of all, make sure your organization has a mission that people can get behind. Help volunteers understand why your team is so important and how much you can help your community so you can create a team that truly wants to hype your cause.

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Best Preparation Practices for the Big Day

Clipboard? Check. Volunteer contact form? Check. Sanity? Kind of.


There are a million and one things a volunteer coordinator needs to remember the day of an event. Setting a plan, preparing for potential obstacles and keeping everything on course is just the beginning. To help our volunteer coordinators out, we’ve whipped up a few of our best practices for prepping for the big day.


Communication is Key

Emails, texts, Facebook groups and even old-fashioned phone trees are all great ways to communicate early and often with volunteers. Clearly stating arrival and dismissal times, expectations for behavior and dress, and other pertinent details are crucial to making sure volunteers show up informed and ready.


Be Realistic

Volunteer coordinators should always believe in their volunteers, but they’re not superheroes. Can three people really set up your entire event before the rest of the volunteers arrive? Probably not. Consider exactly how many people you’ll need for each shift and then add a few more to be safe. Volunteers are ready and willing to help you, so let them!


Know Where to Go

When you’re in the middle of managing a group of helpers, chances are you won’t have much time to direct volunteers to the bathrooms. Making a detailed map of everything a volunteer might need to find (bathrooms, water station, breakroom, etc.) will provide a quick reference point. And if they still ask you where the bathroom is, take a deep breath and kindly point to the map.


Self Love is the Best Love

Coordinating volunteers can be incredibly rewarding – all these people giving their time to help your organization?! – but it can also feel like herding giant, human cats. So, our biggest suggestion to help you prepare is to take care of number one. Meditate, listen to music, eat all the chocolate in your house. Do whatever you need to do to show up at your event calm, collected and ready to coordinate.


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