The Impact of Volunteers on Sustainable Rural Community Development

See Project Abstract:

PI: SoJung Lee, Iowa State University
Co-PIs: Linda Niehm, Iowa State University; Jichul Jang, Kansas State University; and MiRan Kim, Michigan State University 

Award: $25,000

Project Abstract:
A rural festival can be an important contributor to a community’s resource base and a means of sustainable community development. Effective festival operation and management are also essential to a successful event. Many rural festivals rely heavily on volunteers to remain viable. However, there is limited understanding regarding the role of volunteers in rural community events and their impact on civic life and local leadership development. The primary purpose of this research is to identify the role and impact of festival volunteers on sustainable rural community development using a community capitals perspective. For this study, a research model will be developed and tested to 1) identify how volunteers influence community sustainability through a set of input variables, including: motivation, attachment, ownership, loyalty, leadership, engagement, and community support, 2) examine if volunteers’ demographics and festivals’profiles moderate the impact of volunteers on a rural community, and 3) create a foundational assessment tool to be used for a festival volunteer training toolkit. Twelve rural festivals in Iowa, Michigan, and Kansas will be selected for the proposed study. Surveys will be distributed to festival volunteers between fall 2018 and summer 2019. Findings will portray the current opportunities and challenges of managing volunteers in rural festivals and provide a feasible and practicable perspective for developing a volunteer training program and related toolkit. Results will offer preliminary data for a larger external grant (e.g., USDA Rural Community Development Initiative Grants) to develop a sustainable volunteer training program to for rural festival organizers and community stakeholders.

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