- Make time to get to know your students in class. They are your first line into what is going on for their families. What do families do? How do they like to spend their evenings or weekends?
- Engage students as advocates for your program. Make sure they have the information they need to be excited about your program and events and be able to bring their families and friends along.
- Engage with students of various ages. Schools are always looking for organizations where students can do community hours. Check with your local high school or college to see if there might be students you can partner with.
ESY Strategies For Successful Community Engagement
The following is a list of considerations and strategies that have been effective for us in engaging our community. This is not comprehensive or exhaustive, but we hope it offers you some ideas for ways to engage your own communities.
Family and Trusted Adults Outreach
- Be cautious of situating your program or events in any way that could make people feel unwelcome because of their culture, beliefs, practices, or way of life. This is especially important with food because everyone’s relationship to food is different and so personal - take the opportunity to learn from others as opposed to make judgments or declarations about what is good or what people should do.
- Spread the word far and wide in as many different forms as possible (phone calls, emails, fliers, announcements, word of mouth, talking to students etc.). Different people will have different ways of receiving information and by diversifying your form of communication, you will reach a more diverse group of stakeholders.
- Make a personal connection whenever possible - call people, talk face-to-face. This is so much more personal than just an email or flier.
- Think about how to make your events accessible for everyone regardless of economic situation (tiered pricing and free options at every event)
- Offer incentives to people who do come (raffle at FNO, extra credit for students who attend, raffle tickets for students at Plant Sale)
- Solicit feedback. Always ask, offer surveys for people who do attend your events to improve your programming.
School and Broader Community
- Familiarize yourself with the broader community, build your network.
- Figure out who your potential stakeholders are - what groups already exist that you can draw in?
- Is there anyone already doing community organizing that could help bring people into your program?
- Show up to community events, get to know people.
- Do you have people who speak other languages that can connect with communities that don’t primarily speak English?
- Try to say ‘Yes’ - think very hard before saying ‘no’ to somebody. Is there any way you can accommodate a request or support a new idea?
- Take advantage of gatherings of people. If you’re at a school, ask teachers if you can talk to kids in class, or visit a community event and drop off fliers. Go to sports meetings and banquets, PTA meetings.
- Get to know your PTA.
- Talk to local businesses and organizations or rotary club that are willing to give donations (swag etc.) that you can offer as raffle prizes.
- Coordinate with important cultural events in your community - host a party for Halloween if that is something special where you live, or offer potlucks for the end-of-year celebrations.
- Make your event somewhere that people build community with one another. This is not about you and your organization, this is about building community and making sure people have a good time.