Your core group has a responsibility to keep the project moving forward but your core group can’t build the skatepark alone. You’ll need more people to support this important project.
How do you convince people to support the project? What does “support” mean?
These are tough questions and skatepark advocates have all kinds of different answers. You’ll be asking yourself where to look for more support often.
In general, people will support the project in abstract terms. They will tell you, “I support the new skatepark.” They think it’s a good idea.
This doesn’t mean that they are willing to volunteer or even donate any money to it. It just means that they are cool with the idea. They might volunteer or donate money, but when you’re beginning this process, it’s fine to just tell as many people as you can about your group’s goal of getting a new skatepark built.
You supporters provide an important ingredient for the skatepark effort. When someone says that they support the idea, that’s a good time to get their contact information so that you can keep them updated on the project. These names and emails or phone numbers will be who you invite to various events and opportunities to get more involved. These early supporters are the beginning of your contact list.
For example, you might want to have a lot of people show up to a City Council meeting to give the skatepark project legitimacy. You will need to tap your supports and invite them to the meeting. Maybe you plan on being at a local Farmer’s Market handing out flyers. You can send out an email to your supporters that you’ll be out there and encourage them to say hi if they see you there. Keeping people informed about you group’s activities helps depict the skatepark effort as an active project that people are committed to. That’s important!
Here are some ways your group can raise public awareness:
- Hand out informational flyers about skateboarding and skateparks at public events
- Leave informational flyers at the library, local businesses, and schools
- Canvas (door-to-door) particular neighborhoods and have friendly conversations with the people that live there about skateboarding. (This is especially useful in areas where you hope to see the skatepark eventually be built.)
- Write letters to the editor of your local paper.
- Post on the city’s website or Facebook page.
Here are some ways that people might show their support for the skatepark project:
- Write a letter or email to the city
- Attend and speak at a meeting
- Write a letter of support for your group’s goals
- Donate products or professional services, or help with an event
- Add their signature to a list of supporters, (or sign a petition)
Once you start asking for the public’s support, you should see the need to stay organized. Hopefully you’ll have lots of people asking you about the skatepark project through social media, phone calls and emails, and in face-to-face meetings. They may want details that you don’t have yet or want to get more involved. Keeping track of all this is a large part of what skatepark advocacy is all about.
Volunteers and supporters don’t need to be involved with every conversation about the skatepark. To keep things simple, plan on creating a short monthly newsletter that will go out to all of your core group members, volunteers, and supporters. Most people do this through social media, (Facebook, Instagram, etc.).
Sometimes it can be challenging to come up with things to share with your supporters. If you core group is meeting weekly, you can ask for ideas that can be shared with your wider group of supporters.
Supporters that are willing to physically help the skatepark project are volunteers. Some volunteers are willing to do more for the skatepark project than others. You will encounter some people that want to volunteer but don’t have the time.
Sometimes a volunteer will tell you that he or she will be there then fail to show up. This is a common problem with volunteers. Things come up. Sometimes people forget, and sometimes they just flake out. A person might volunteer to please you but then they don’t take the commitment seriously or think that you don’t really need their help. It’s good to keep in touch by sending out reminders. Avoid assigning critical responsibilities to untested or unreliable individuals.
When volunteers don’t show up to an event where their help is needed it can be demoralizing and you may feel like you’re doing everything alone. This happens to everyone and every skatepark group struggles to get good volunteers. Like you, volunteers are motivated to see this skatepark built and so it helps to remind them that their involvement is a big help whenever they show up. Shout-outs and sincere thanks to your volunteers is a good practice that will ensure that they help out again in the future.
Some groups consider providing volunteers with small rewards as a token of their appreciation. You can decide if that’s a good fit for your group. In general we recommend doing as much as you can with as little as possible. Everything that you don’t give away can ultimately turn into skatepark. You also risk the expectation from volunteers that they may only be showing up for the free stuff. Remind your volunteers often that their work is for a great cause and that the whole community appreciates their help. For your best volunteers, this is all they need.
Here are some of the things you might want to use volunteers for:
- Park clean-ups
- Assisting with other groups’ community events
- Attending public meetings where there will public voting
- Attending a meeting on behalf of the skatepark project
- Running errands
- Help with social media, marketing
- Fundraising and awareness events
Throughout this process you will be communicating with lots of people. Remember to keep good notes using the tools you’re most comfortable with. Keep your project organized!