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Recruiting and Keeping Volunteers

Mountain bike organizations are only as strong as their members. The most effective clubs include not only hard-core bikers, but also weekend warriors, beginners, and even non-riding members of the community. These groups attract members—and keep them coming back—by diversifying their mission and their events, combining trailwork with social occasions, and keeping volunteers enthusiastic.

IMBA affiliated clubs and chapters receive great volunteer benefits, pro-deal and swag incentives, plus calendar listings and a worldwide locator map to promote volunteer days by registering on the Teaming for Trials program of IMBA.

Here are 10 more tips for recruiting—and keeping—volunteers:

  1. Just Ask: Simply asking new people to join, attend, or get involved is often all it takes to bring them into the fold. We all want to be part of something big and have a sense of community—you can offer that.
  2. Publicize, Publicize, Publicize: It is impossible to over-promote your activities. Publicize events early and in appropriate venues—a flier advertising trail maintenance days might be better placed in a local bike shop than in the local newspaper. After events, update your website with pictures and a summary of what was accomplished. Send an account to the local paper.
  3. Take it to the People: Host a pancake breakfast or bratwurst feed at the most popular trailhead in town. Fix flats, pass out patch kits, or offer energy bars. Highly visible efforts to find new club members and volunteers will bring results.
  4. Look Beyond the Usual Suspects: Ask Chamber of Commerce committees, youth groups, conservation corps, scout troops, environmental groups, and other do-gooders to pitch in with your projects. In the U.S., check out www.volunteermatch.org and The Corps Network at www.corpsnetwork.org to find other partners.
  5. Host Regular Group Rides: Isn’t riding the reason bikers advocate for trails in the first place? Host regular rides that are purely social and you’ll likely see the same riders coming out for workdays.
  6. Celebrate Good Times!: Make your meetings and trailwork events something volunteers look forward to, with raffles, food, and fizzy beverages. Be creative with location, themed days, even costumes—volunteers will be plentiful if your events are dynamic.
  7. Chunk it Down: Divide volunteer projects into bite-sized chunks and make it easy for people to volunteer a little of their time. One IMBA club posts volunteer projects based on time commitment: “If you can donate half a day, help us with this project; if you have a few hours, try this one,” and so on.
  8. Swag it Up: Pump shops for raffle items and giveaways. Also, look to your local businesses for support. Track volunteer hours and work-quality, and give prizes. Prizes don’t have to be expensive. Volunteers appreciate something that is creative and personal.
  9. Nurture Newcomers: Look at a planned event from a new volunteer’s perspective. Whether they join a group ride, a trailwork day, or a movie premiere, new volunteers need and appreciate more guidance, even if it’s just to let them know they are doing a good job.
  10. Stay Regular: Pick a schedule and stick to it. Mapping out events well in advance lets participants plan ahead. Think about setting reoccurring events on the same day each month (i.e. second Saturday of every month). It takes the work out of the scheduling, and riders always know when your meeting, trailwork, or group ride takes place.
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