Finding and selecting the "right" attendees

Archery.jpgYour program can't possibly succeed without the right participants. Teaching bluegill fishing to a group of people who would like to know how to hunt for whitetail deer will never satisfy the participants or meet the objectives of the program, no matter how good the material or the instructors are. So the first step in developing a program is to define who your participants will be so that the curriculum and teaching methods can be catered to their needs, experience and learning style.

Your definition of a target participant could include demographic considerations, outdoor skill levels, food motivations or other issues. In the locavore sense, we would define the target participant in one of two ways

You could take a very broad approach and simply define your ideal participant as anyone who is:

  • Interested in local/sustainable food
  • Has little or no experience hunting/fishing
  • Would like to know how to hunt/fish
  • Over 18 years old
  • Who live in the city where the class will be taught

Or you could get more precise in your definition of the “right” food motivated participant:

  • Interested in local/sustainable food
  • Has little or no experience hunting/fishing
  • Would like to know how to hunt/fish
  • Probably participates in some outdoor activities
  • A young adult (25 to 35)
  • Of either sex if not more likely to be female
  • Racially diverse
  • College graduate
  • Employed in a professional field
  • Living in an urban or suburban setting (not rural)
  • Within 50 miles of the location where the class is being taught

This second more precisely define participant is the individual we are writing to prepare you for here on Locavore.Guide.

Defining your target participant that precisely makes recruiting more difficult but it would make for a better program experience and success rate. If you are so lucky as to have more participants than you program can handle you could use more precisely defined student groups as a way to divide participants into different programs or to decide which students to select and which to hold for a better match in the future.

Once you have defined your ideal participant regardless of whether that definition is broadly or narrowly defined, you will need to locate and recruit potential students. You won’t be able to use the same recruiting methods you have always used to reach traditional hunting and angling audiences (e.g., news releases, announcements on agency web pages or electronic newsletters, announcements in agency regulation pamphlets, etc.). To reach truly new audiences, like those who are primarily motivated by obtaining food, you will likely need to use new methods, or use traditional methods directed and distributed in a new manner.

Topics for additional training include:

As recommended in Planning and administration, carefully thinking about and writing down your program’s goals and objectives is a critical first step in finding the “right” participants. If well written, your program’s goals and objectives will identify your target audience.

For example, your goal may have identified your target audience as being 20-35 year-old non-anglers, who are interested in eating sustainably and locally, and who reside within 25 miles of a specific city. In this instance, you have already identified many of the criteria you are seeking as the “right” participant. The more specific you are in identifying your target audience, the more efficiently and effectively you will be able to find them!

If we continue with the above example, since y our target audience is interested in local, sustainable eating, then they might belong to food co-ops or shop at farmer's markets. You can also use this knowledge to look for ways to recruit participants. You might rent a booth at the farmer's market, post a flyer on the bulletin board at Whole Foods, or place an ad or story in the food co-op newsletter. Just as you would cast a line where there are fish, you seek potential participants in places they visit or by using media they read, watch or listen to.

Once you have recruited a group of people interested in participating in a new program, you will need to narrow the list of applicants to a reasonable class size based on their attributes and interests. You don't want avid anglers in a beginner’s class or people interested in saltwater fishing in a bass fishing class. By refining the list of participants to match the objectives of the class, the program and the participants both benefit. You do this with a screening process like the one outlined in Determining the "right" audience.