Cultivating Community in the Time of COVID-19

Cultivating Community in the Time of COVID-19

We know that an inclusive, community component is a facet of a healthy chapter.  And, in more conventional times, we typically know how to cultivate community by organizing affable events in accessible locations with a broad and friendly invitation.

During this time, chapters and councils are in a position to foster and support their community in light of varying event prohibitions, travel restrictions, and other limitations. Chapters across the country are adapting to grow their efforts outside of their conventional comfort zone with a variety of engagement offerings from printed communications to virtual events. You will find additional resources and chapter examples below.

In addition to participating in pandemic specific webinars and discussions, chapters may find this chapter community video helpful to learn more about how other chapters are staying connected and supportive during the pandemic.

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While we will continue to provide information on opportunities and ways for you to engage in your chapter work, please know that we recognize the challenging times we are in and that many of these suggestions will be impractical or impossible in your specific community based on the conditions and local health and safety requirements.

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Courtesy Communications
Council chairs, chapter presidents and committee chairs are making phone calls to their board members, active volunteers, donors and collaborators to inquire about individual well-being and answer questions. Many chapters are connecting people with community support volunteer opportunities as well as community resources, from family friendly home activities and guidance on angling to food insecurity support. PDX Women on the Fly contacted their business donors and TU Businesses to inquire about their status and learn how the group might help. In response to a conversation with local businesses, a chapter in Tennessee budgeted to buy thousands of dollars of full priced items from the local fly shops that had donated to their regular banquet for years.

Digital Communications
Chapters and councils are not letting in-person event prohibitions keep them from digitally connecting with their communities. Councils are encouraging their chapters to contemplate messaging around angling in this time, sharing considerations highlighted in To Fish or Not to Fish During the Outbreak?.

Many chapters are sharing community support volunteer opportunities as well as community resources, from family friendly home activities to food insecurity support. The New York Trout in the Classroom (TIC) program is sharing staff led trout release videos with TIC students, staff and supporters for an uplifting experience at home.

Multiple chapters are supporting business donors and TU Businesses with “Shop Local” campaigns encouraging members who can to support businesses that have supported our mission with online purchases of supplies, gift cards and more. While digital communications can be effective, note that if your efforts rely solely on electronic means, you will miss a large percentage of your community. Consider including mailings and phone calls to your plan. 

Virtual Events
Today’s technology offers a variety of ways to virtually connect with your community. The Southeast chapters organized a virtual trivia event via Zoom to connect, entertain and learn. Alaska’s Southcentral Chapter is promoting Pig Farm Ink’s #OnlineIronFly, a virtual fly tying challenge with random materials around the home. The Klickitat Chapter hosted a Facebook watch party of the 5 Rivers Odyssey film, Resilient Waters, inviting people from across their chapter geography. Review free TU films as well as free feature films for hosting a virtual event.

  • Learn About Virtual Events: Hosting engaging virtual events entails more than simply taking an in-person event format and streaming it via the internet. In addition to recruiting individuals with the skills and innovative perspectives to drive virtual event organization, spend some time researching how to offer an engaging online event (e.g. Virtual Events 101, Virtual Events 201, Leaders Forum discussions).
  • Run An Online Contest: Whether it’s a coloring contest for kids, a photography contest, an online Iron Fly or an online quiz testing your members’ knowledge about conservation, fishing and local waters, there are lots of fun ways to engage the community.
  • Organize a Virtual Restoration Event: Host a virtual opportunity like the Clean My Water Challenge, strive to make everyday Earth Day with these at home activities or use the new online fundraising tools to virtually participate in restoration. Individuals can purchase a tree, remove an invasive plant or water a newly planted tree with an online purchase using the chapter’s online fundraising platform. The chapter then completes the task (i.e. purchases trees from a local native plant nursery, pay a local restoration business to complete the task).
  • Meet Virtually: Whether you host an online fly tying class, have a digital happy hour to talk trout, virtual teen camp or want to offer a live training to your members, use tools like Google Hangouts Meet or Zoom video conferencing which are providing free tools during the pandemic.
  • Facebook Live: Had a chapter meeting you needed to cancel? Ask the speaker to do a Facebook Live session on your chapter page instead! Also great for weekly fishing reports, social gatherings, fly tying demonstrations and more.
  • Organize an Online Fundraiser: Organize a virtual run, host an online auction, offer a legal online sweepstakes, conduct crowdfunding, or extend a challenge with fun activities like ice bucket challenges, hyperlocal litter removal competitions and more.  Learn more in this tutorial video or contact your Volunteer Operations Staff for more information and ideas for raising funds in tough times.

Supply Donations
Multiple chapters have reached out to school districts to inquire how they might help, providing printed Stream Explorers in prepared student lunches in accordance with safety standards. The Adams County Chapter donated their relevant banquet prizes to local community support organizations who will distribute the restaurant and grocery store gift cards to families in need. Other chapters have donated unused and unopened personal protective equipment like nitrile gloves and hand sanitizer to clinics and grocery stores.

Outdoor Events
When consistent with state and local ordinances and guidelines, outdoor activities where social distancing and other safety practices are employed, may occur at this time. As states begin easing restrictions on events and activities, it is incredibly important for chapter and council leaders to be thoughtful of your specific community based on area conditions and rules in place through your local and state authorities.
Returning to some form of outdoor events where social distancing is strictly adhered to, hand-washing and other safe practices are in place and people can connect in a meaningful way is something we all hope to do soon. Yet we must be mindful of the risks such activities create, not just for the participants, but for the communities where the events will take place.
To that end, TU has created a new guide “Safety Protocols for Local Outdoor Events & Activities During Coivd-19” which provides a deliberate approach to determine appropriate outdoor event timing, location, activity and more (example response plan sign-in sheet). If you have questions, contact your Volunteer Operations staff to discuss hosting outdoor events safely in this time.

There are a variety of ways and means to support your community in these times and this is simply a sampling of offerings. Continue the conversation with additional details and fresh ideas in the TU Leaders Forum.