National Wildlife Refuge System

Match Volunteers with Speed Dating

Friends Forward November 2013

Potential volunteers at a Friends of Willapa Refuge “speed dating” social learned that the refuge can use help building and repairing visitor facilities.
Credit: Friends of Willapa

When “speed dating” was suggested as a way to recruit volunteers for the Friends of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge in Washington acting president Clay Nichols turned to Wikipedia to learn about  this  modern, organized way of rapidly introducing people with like interests in a facilitated social setting.   Ironically, applying the concept to volunteers came from a most traditional source:  the local Rotary Club. 

Refuge manager Jackie Ferrier is a Rotary member, as is local businesswoman Deb Sterling, who responded to Ferrier’s request for volunteers by suggesting a speed dating social.  The local utility opened its meeting room for the event where Friends set up separate booths for people interested in administrative activities (mailings, publicity, secretarial support); environmental education; trails or birding. Visitors stopped for a “date” at each booth, where Friends explained the opportunities.

The event was advertised in local papers and by word of mouth.  Each Friends board member contacted  potential volunteers, including relatively inactive members.  Nichols noted that most attendees  had been contacted personally. “Nothing substitutes for one-on-one contact.”

The results? About 50 people stopped by, seven became new volunteers and all seven joined the Friends.  He advised other Friends to make sure their volunteer activities are truly focused on the needs of the refuge and for people of all political persuasions, making volunteerism the common theme.

 


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Last updated: November 8, 2013