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By 2012, the Historic Downtown Advisory Committee, particularly its Events Team, recognized the need for a broader pool of volunteers to consistently produce effective and successful events.  What began as an effort to recruit friends and family members to help with the award-winning Rhythm & Brews Concert Series, has grown into the “Friends of Downtown” program with a pool of over 200 volunteers.

To manage its volunteer base, staff to the Advisory Committee turned to technology, namely an online scheduling tool known as “Sign-Up.” To recruit volunteers for a project, staff use “Sign-Up” to send an email blast to “Friends,” who can then log in and choose from a variety of job types and time slots.  The program allows volunteers to focus on opportunities that fit their interests and schedules.  The organization uses the form to better understand volunteers’ strengths, what drives them to help, and to identify people with specialized skillsets.

More than 5,600 hours of volunteer time with an estimated value of $98,000, have been contributed since the program began in 2011.  Over 1,750 volunteer hours were recorded in the most recent budget year – five times (5X’s) more than the first year. The “Friends of Downtown” program has virtually eliminated concerns about having enough people to help with projects. The “Friends” have also become a strong, informed group of boosters who can promote the downtown organization to a broader audience and recruit more volunteers.

The NC Department of Commerce – NC Main Street and Rural Planning Center congratulates Historic Downtown Hendersonville’s Advisory Committee for encouraging citizen participation in making downtown Hendersonville a vibrant downtown!