By Leah Smith, Food System Projects Coordinator, AmeriCorps OSM*VISTA
Are you wanting to keep your community up to date with what is happening with your school garden work? E-Newsletters and Facebook are good ways to keep people connected with your project.
Things to share:
• Volunteer opportunities in the garden
• Donation requests or wish lists
• What you are planting or harvesting in the garden this week
• A nice story from a lesson with the students this week
• Photos – The most popular posts on the WVFFC page have been photos of visits to food and farm projects. People love to see photos of projects, and would love to see photos of your school garden project. If you have photos of students, make sure you have worked out how to get consent for taking and sharing these photos.
The West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition sends out a biweekly newsletter which provides a selection of news, events, funding opportunities, resources, and ideas that may be helpful to anyone involved with food and agriculture issues in West Virginia. We often hear very positive feedback about our newsletter from people who are grateful to be kept up to date on so much that is going on in the state. In addition to this newsletter, we also offer updates on specific food and farm topics. See how we invite people to join our newsletter here.
For your school garden project, think about sending out an e-newsletter. Does your project have a need to send out regular updates? Are there people that would want a regular collection of news, events and stories from your project? Think about sharing your newsletter with local groups that might want to start connecting with your project: 4-H, FFAs, other local high school clubs, PTAs, Master Gardeners, Extension, and other community groups and churches
Resource for E-Newsletters: http://www.convio.com/files/Convio_Email-Marketing-Guide.pdf
Creating a Facebook page is a great way to connect new people to your project. When people “like” and share your posts, their friends see the posts and find out about your project. But Facebook isn’t for every project. There are some questions you should probably ask yourself:
• Do the people I am trying to connect with use the internet? Are they on Facebook?
• Do I think I can build a base of supporters and volunteers by building a network on Facebook?
• Do I want one Facebook page for a certain school garden, or do I want one page for all of my school garden projects?
The West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition has recently created a Facebook page. We’ve found it a good way to reach out to our network with information before the next newsletter is scheduled. It also is a good way to connect with others in the state who didn’t already know about our work. Facebook lets us know when new people “like” our page, as well as who “likes,” shares, and how many people view each post.
Only post when you have something to say. People will start ignoring your posts if they aren’t interesting or engaging. We usually post once a day, but only if there is something to share that is relevant to our network. School garden projects might have success only posting once a week. Just feel it out and see what works.
Some resources for using Facebook:
An Appalachian Coal Country Team OSM*VISTA Mike Bloom put together a collection of online resources for general nonprofit help: https://sites.google.com/site/osmvistamikebloom/non-profit-help
Leah Smith is an AmeriCorps*VISTA working to improve food access and to increase the local food economy with the WV Food & Farm Coalition. After graduating with a Sociology degree from UNC Asheville, she brought her love for Appalachia to Charleston, WV, where she worked as an AmeriCorps with the Covenant House, a low income resource center.