Volunteers are most certainly the backbone of Friends of the Rouge Watershed (FRW), an environmental group dedicated to the protection and restoration of the Rouge River ecosystem – including land that is now Rouge National Urban Park. Since 1991, FRW has engaged over 65,000 community volunteers in local hands-on restoration and stewardship efforts. Through their collective efforts, volunteers have helped plant 730,000 trees, shrubs and wildflowers. With a full-time staff of two, this type of impact would not be possible without FRW’s dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers.
In 2019, FRW received core funding through the Greenbelt River Valley Connector Program to further their restoration efforts and engage community volunteers in the enhancement of the Greenbelt protected urban river valley. With support from the Greenbelt River Valley Connector grant, FRW hosted over 25 events and engaged 960 people, including volunteers, throughout the summer and fall. Danielle Marcoux-Hunter, Environmental Project Coordinator with FRW shared how she celebrates the contributions of over 100 FRW volunteers!
1. Give Thanks
A personal thank you goes a long way. We all know from our personal lives that an expression of gratitude helps people feel appreciated and valued. Danielle has even started posting a monthly ‘volunteer profile’ on social media as a means to recognize the key individual’s efforts.
2. Offer perks
Danielle provides volunteers with exclusive invites to nature walks, local events, holiday socials and meetings with politicians. Volunteers really appreciate the opportunity to mingle and get to know one another in a more relaxed setting (compared to helping run a planting event!). Their annual wreath-making social held each December is a unique way to bring volunteers together, learn about native trees and shrubs, flex their creative side and have fun!
3. Celebrate achievements
In addition to timely-thank-you letters, Danielle likes to send out a year-end e-card that celebrates all the accomplishments made possible by volunteers. Although a simple gesture, these little interactions have helped to build rapport between volunteers and FRW and have supported volunteer retention.
There is no better way to understand the importance of our Greenbelt protected River Valleys then to play a hands-on role in their naturalization. The over 900 volunteers who pitched into these restoration efforts are vital ambassadors who will go on to spread knowledge about the Rouge Watershed. Making the experience as memorable as possible by providing the right kind of thanks and appreciation helps these vital volunteers have a deeper experience which will help build collective support for our protected watersheds.
For other ways to attract and retain volunteers, have a look at the resource page on our website.