Photo by Flickr user Will Marlow, used under a Creative Commons license
Get your gardening gloves ready, your mural-painting brushes clean.
This year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is coming up on Monday, Jan. 18, and with it comes the 21st annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service. It’s a big day for many nonprofits and service-oriented organizations in the city that want to kickstart support for their work. The question is, though, how they should best attract volunteers.
Repair the World caught our eye with its method. The national nonprofit’s raison d’être is encouraging volunteerism as a tenet of Jewish life, and its local base connects volunteers to opportunities related to education justice and food justice.
“We say that we don’t serve for people or at them, we serve with them,” said Nina Rosenberg, a RTW education justice fellow. That means the fellows attempt to engage people in volunteering within their own communities rather than just doing the work themselves.
Because the organization’s mission aligns so perfectly with the goal of the MLK Day of Service, RTW goes all out for the holiday: This year, it’s aiming to recruit 400 volunteers to serve at 12 separate Day of Service events from Jan. 15 through Jan. 18.
So, how does the team of eight fellows plan to do it?
“A big part of Repair is relationship-building,” Rosenberg said. RTW has several regular partner organizations, such as Books Through Bars, where RTW fellows are placed throughout the year to support their missions and recruit volunteers for their needs. RTW has less formal relationships with other socially minded organizations as well, such as the Jewish Relief Agency.
Rosenberg said she and other fellows started making calls to both types of organizations about this year’s Day of Service in September. If the partner organizations were planning their own Day of Service events, RTW told them it would recruit volunteers for them.
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RTW also plans its own volunteer events via its Philly Farm Crew initiative, a group it heads with the Jewish Farm School. The Philly Farm Crew visits local urban farms during farming season and helps grow food for the community. On the Day of Service, the Crew is hosting visits to various farms.
The number of volunteers RTW aims to recruit for each event depends on the needs of the host organization. Jewish Relief Agency is seeking 800 volunteers for its meal packaging service, for instance, so when RTW got in touch, it was told to simply send as many people as they could. Books Through Bars is hosting a book sorting at the tiny A-Space Anarchist Community Center in West Philly and needs only 10 volunteers.
RTW gets the word out for each event by reaching out to local service-minded and Jewish organizations, putting up fliers, tabling at synagogues and relevant events, detailing opportunities in its weekly newsletter and rolling out daily promotional social media.
And it uses Eventbrite (which is where we found out about its work). RTW lists its full Day of Service offerings on one simple, clean-looking page; clicking “Register” brings the user to a scrollable box with each of RTW’s partner organization’s service events, where they can choose which they’d like to attend and how many people they’re bringing along. It’s as easy as buying concert tickets online — except instead of money, you’re pledging your time.
RTW uses Eventbrite for all of its events: “We want to make it as easy for volunteers as possible so they’re not clicking back and forth, because you lose volunteers that way,” Rosenberg said.
Makes sense to us. Now, will the volunteers come? We’ll see on Jan. 18.
What’s your organization planning for MLK Day of Service? Share your story with email@example.com.-30-
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