Reliving History at Living History Farms

 Living History Farms Whether or not you’re a history buff, at some point you’ve probably wondered what it would have been like if you had been born in another time period. But we’re here to tell you that that doesn’t have to be just a daydream. Recreating historical lifestyles is exactly what Living History Farms, an outdoor museum in Iowa, is doing. With live people and lots of land, they’re completely redefining the phrase “history repeats itself.”

Living History Farms’ own history started back in 1970. The 500-acre interactive museum is located in Urbandale, Iowa. Since it’s founding, it has worked to educate, entertain, and connect people of all ages to Midwestern rural life experiences. Using both staff members and volunteers, different time periods are recreated to demonstrate a variety of lived lifestyles from the year 1700 to present day. Within this huge outdoor museum, visitors can view an Ioway Indian Farm from 1700, an 1850 Pioneer Farm, a 1900 Horse-powered farm and a small rural town dated 1875.

“VolunteerLocal has been such a gift.”

In the year 2016, we know how important agriculture is. These recreations of the past are a powerful wayLiving History Farms to enrich public understanding and to engage conversation about the significance of past and present issues in agricultural and rural life. The Living History Farms offer a safe (and not to mention gorgeous) place for individuals, families, and groups from all over the world to view change through time.

For Jan Milroy, Manager of Volunteer Services at Living History Farms, there are a lot of favorite times to enjoy. “I love our historic special events, such as suffrage debates taken from real historical documents between two women. Or our recreation of an 1850 pioneer wedding, including a dance and a special cake! Halloween nights are also a special opportunity for families to trick-or-treat safely, and allows them to view our museum and enjoy our uniqueness.”

“I strongly recommend this to others. I’ll never go back to my old system.”

Living History FarmsBefore switching to VolunteerLocal, Living History Farms was using somewhat prehistoric methods for scheduling volunteers. “I was spending hours upon hours emailing or calling potential volunteers. Often we’d go back and forth and they might end up not getting the slot they wanted,” says Milroy. “Having VolunteerLocal allows potential volunteers to decide on their own, whenever they want and how they would like to participate.”

Don’t miss out on an opportunity to make a change and view changes in time. Sign up now to help with Halloween night!

Photos courtesy of Living History Farms

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5 Easy Steps to Find and Recruit Volunteers

So, you need volunteers?


Here are some quick tips we learned along the way about volunteer recruitment.

Follow these easy steps to get noticed, get the help you need, and get ‘er done.


Step 1: Understand Your Appeal

Light some candles, run a bubble bath and turn on Bon Iver–it’s time for a little introspection. Believe it or not, your organization has a unique appeal. Examine your mission, the core work you do, and your existing volunteers. What makes you special? By understanding your particular appeal, you can begin to determine what kind of volunteer you need.

Step 2: Identify Your Ideal Volunteer

Go ahead, be picky. In a perfect world, what would your volunteer force look like? Do they have any specific skills? What do they care about? Once you’ve identified your “ideal volunteer,” create a life-sized mannequin as a reminder and carry it around with you everywhere you go. Just kidding…sort of.

The point is, if you know who your volunteers are, you’ll know where to find them.

Step 3: Target Promotion

If you’re fortunate enough to catch my father somewhere between the aromatic smoke of a backwoods cigar and the taut line of a fishing pole, you may learn a thing or two about the water, the fish, and–if you hang around long enough–life. “Of course there are fish in the lake,” he once said to me, puffing his cigar as he scanned the shoreline. “But that’s no reason to cast your line wherever you feel like it. A good fisherman knows where the fish hang out–and that’s where he fishes.”

Your volunteers are waiting to be found–but it’s a big lake. Ask yourself: where are your fish “hanging out”? Where are you casting your line?

Step 4: Keep it Simple, Stupid

It’s time to up your game. Use an automated sign-up like VolunteerLocal to direct volunteers to your event registration online. No excel spreadsheets, no sharpie markers, no e-mail chains. You’ll have more sign-ups, fewer headaches, and happier volunteers. Click here to start today–it’s free and takes less than ten minutes to create your event on VolunteerLocal.

Step 5: Volunteer Appreciation

The last, and perhaps most important step of this process is a simple “thank you.” Volunteers love a little kudos (don’t we all?), so make sure they know how much you appreciate their hard work. From a t-shirt to a candy bouquet, a handshake to a milkshake, there are myriad ways to show your gratitude. Try a little tenderness–it’s the key to happy volunteers.

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Event Management: Volunteers Needed!

It’s finally summer! The waterparks are packed, the fireworks are over (easy on those leftover bottle rockets, kids) and you, savvy event planner, are in full-swing for this year’s sunny season of festivals, fairs and parades. While you’re busy deciding where to place those water stations and vegan-friendly food vendors, however, don’t forget one key ingredient to your successful event: volunteers.

Photo cred:

Now, we understand that volunteers can be a perplexing (and, well, sometimes frustrating) group to pin down. They run the gamut from teenagers to seniors; some are looking for community involvement, some want a free parking spot. We like to think that most volunteers are passionate about the work they’re doing–if they care to give, odds are, they’re giving because they care. With that in mind, we’ve put together five easy steps you can take to seek out and retain a happy and robust volunteer force.

Step 1: Understand Your Appeal

Don’t undersell yourself. You serve a purpose, you have a mission, and you address a great need. There are certain aspects about volunteering for your organization or event that are unique and therefore appeal to different types of volunteers. Understanding that specific appeal of yours is the first step towards finding the right volunteers for your event. For example, do your volunteers get to interact with children? Can they work outdoors with their hands?

Habitat for Humanity

Perhaps you provide a program wherein your volunteers can incorporate things they already love doing (like running or biking) into peer-mentorship. Maybe you can give them an opportunity to become more actively immersed in a hobby or interest–like directing tours at a history museum or teaching poetry at an inner-city art institute. When you discover that special something about your organization, don’t keep it a secret! Let prospective volunteers know, too. Not sure where they’re hiding? Understanding your appeal allows you to better understand (and find) your ideal volunteer. But now we’re just teasing you with Step 2. Keep posted–more to come!

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