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Rural Volunteerism
In 2012 the Minnesota Alliance for Volunteer Advancement (MAVA) conducted its first study on volunteerism in rural Minnesota. The purpose of the survey was to learn what was changing in rural volunteerism, strategies being used to address the changes and current perspectives on rural volunteerism. With the importance of rural communities in Minnesota, it is important to understand the status of volunteerism in rural areas.

Click here to read the Executive Summary - MAVA's Survey on the Status of Volunteerism in Rural MN

Click here to read the full report - MAVA's Survey on the Status of Volunteerism in Rural MN.

Click Here to read the article from the Rural Minnesota Journal on “Rural Volunteers: A Vital Force on Fertile Ground” by MAVA members Elizabeth Ellis and Heather Thormodson and MAVA staff Mary Quirk and Katie Bull.

MAVA is available to provide training and consultation on engaging volunteers in rural communities. For more information contact

Key Findings - MAVA Rural Volunteerism Survey
  • 60%+ of emergency food, activities for youth, firefighting and transportation for older adults reported to be done primarily through volunteers in rural communities
  • Volunteerism is currently strong with 88% of organizations responding that they have as many, or more volunteers this year than last.
  • 98% reported seeing one or more change in volunteerism in rural areas. The most commonly cited changes were:
    • People seem busier (58%)
    • Rising gas prices affecting how much people can volunteer (52%)
    • Older volunteers no longer able to volunteer and no one to replace them (49%)
    • Harder to find volunteers to take on main responsibility roles (43%)
    • More use of the internet and electronic communication (39%)
    • New people moving into the area are a new source of volunteers (31%)
    • People care more about their community and are more willing to help (30%)
Strategies for Engaging Volunteers in Rural Areas

Many volunteer managers reported, in the survey, developing creative strategies to respond to engaging volunteers in rural areas. Common suggestions included:
  • Provide assistance in transportation, such as resources for public transit, car pools, driving buddies. Look for funds to cover travel stipends or mileage reimbursement.
  • Be ready with short term projects, one time events and projects that are specific and manageable.
  • Utilize community connections (churches, schools, friends and family) to spread the word about the work of the organization and how the volunteer has an impact on important community issues.
  • Emphasize the benefits of volunteering, such as better health, meeting potential friends or people with common interests; remind people what great new contacts they'll make.
  • Be flexible to work around their scheduling needs, such as offering longer volunteer shifts so the drive is worthwhile.
  • Place volunteers in situations that are rewarding to them. Monitoring the placement to ensure the placement is successful and highlight the important work through community recognition.