SYRCL’s Volunteer Community Survey Results

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SYRCL deeply values the contributions of our Community of Yuba Volunteers. In our efforts to enhance the SYRCL volunteer experience, we recently conducted a survey to gather insights and recommendations from subscribers to SYRCL’s E-News about what motivates them to volunteer (for SYRCL and other organizations), and what might make volunteering even more enticing. 

These insights will help shape our outreach initiatives and support our aim to make volunteering even more purposeful and enjoyable for all involved. 

We thank our volunteers for their ongoing support and dedication as we work together to make a lasting positive impact on our community and environment. 

We are also grateful for the survey respondents and are excited to share key findings with you now. 

Survey Summary:  

This survey was sent to SYRCL’s General E-News List and Volunteer E-News List and was open from May 9, 2023 to June 30, 2023. It generated 40 unique responses. The survey used an exploratory framework (focused on the discovery of ideas, with probing questions and open-ended questions).  

While the survey research conducted has provided valuable insights, it is important to acknowledge its limitations. First, the survey relied on a self-selected sample of participants, which may introduce a potential bias as those who chose to participate may have different characteristics or perspectives compared to those who did not. Additionally, the survey was administered electronically, which could have excluded individuals who do not have access to or are less comfortable with technology, potentially limiting the diversity of the sample. Finally, the survey was limited in scope, focusing on specific aspects of the volunteer experience, and may not have captured the full range of factors influencing volunteer satisfaction and engagement. 

Volunteering Frequency

Volunteering Interests

If other, please say more:

Food distribution

Helping with the signs stickers sounds right up my alley

I am a history member that volunteered at Empire Mine and many others

shelving books at library, native plant nursery, at SYRCL kitchen help, usher. (new to SYRCL, live out of town

providing professional services

I help with reviewing films and like doing that as a volunteer position

Bridgeport Bridge

fire tower, water monitoring, foodbank, state parks

City beautification

Animal Shelter, Assistance League, Briar Patch, Center for the Arts, Wild & Scenic, Worldfest, Rock Creek Care Center

Benefits of Volunteering

If other, please say more:


Staying involved in the community

not to sound selfish, but I often volunteer for the perks involved, such as attending events for free

Learning new skills

Having structure that I lost when I retired after working full time many years.

Reasons not to Volunteer

If other, please say more:

My work schedule, ability to get time off

I will be a trail rover for South Yuba and empire state parks. I went through state parks volunteer training

Dates-need several months of advance notice

Getting motivated

Complicit bias getting attacked and threats from so called liberal and other community members are dangerous

Driving long distance

Crabby folks, job doesn’t keep me busy, doesn’t fit schedule, too much work or not enough work

not being appreciated

Unable to meet specific needs of task at hand

My experience at some events has not been positive

The Value of SYRCL’s work

What makes you passionate about the Yuba?

Response Summaries

Personal Connection

Many survey participants have developed a deep emotional connection to the river, often stemming from their initial encounters with its beauty and magnificence. This connection is further nurtured by a sense of belonging and attachment to the area, as well as a recognition of the Yuba as their home and a source of magical experiences.

Ecological Value

The Yuba Watershed holds significant ecological value, recognized by its designation as a Wild and Scenic River. Many of the responses demonstrate people’s understanding of the importance of maintaining clean water and complete ecosystems, which contribute to the overall health of the watershed. They advocate for the protection and preservation of the Yuba as a natural resource, striving to ensure its longevity and support for diverse wildlife and fish populations.

Beauty, Recreation & Inspiration

The Yuba is also appreciated for its accessibility and natural beauty that evolves with the changing seasons. The river’s accessibility allows for enjoyment and recreation, fostering a strong sense of community and bringing people together. It serves as a place of great enjoyment, acting as a local “water park” where individuals can engage with nature and forge meaningful connections.

Furthermore, the Yuba is seen as a source of inspiration and restoration. It offers solace and healing, with individuals feeling infused with a sense of peace and tranquility when in its presence. The river’s power and beauty serve as a reminder of the need to honor and protect it, recognizing that actions have consequences and a responsibility to preserve this living system for future generations.

Community & Historical Significance

The Yuba is recognized as a crucial and vibrant part of the community, intertwined with both personal and generational experiences. The river holds cultural significance, with a rich and unique history. This, along with the access to diverse landscapes, contributes to the area’s distinctiveness.

Participant Responses

“I fell in love with Mama Yuba 35 years ago, the first time I saw her. I now reside here in Nevada County and want to be of service to this beautiful river and to my community.”

“There are still so many opportunities to make improvements that make a difference- creating salmon habitat, alpine meadow restoration, collecting water quality data that informs water quality improvement.”

“The Yuba is a Wild and Scenic River. It’s on my neighborhood. I understand the importance of clean water and complete ecosystems.”

“Beautiful, spiritual river and a crucial watershed.”

“I’m 68 years old and I’ve been coming to all of the Yuba’s for 65 of those years.”

“Living nearby, I am infused with this magnificent & sacred river. The canyon walls cradle me, huge boulders support my body and the crystalline waters rinse away my worries.”

“It’s clean water and wild.. Let’s keep it that way.”

“It’s natural beauty that changes with the seasons. And how accessible it is for us to enjoy. And the animals that call it home.”

“Natural resource.”

“The Yuba and all of nature need advocates and SYRCL provides one of those jobs. Also, the Yuba is our local ‘water park!'”

“Spent decades going to the Yuba river & want it to last & be healthy.”

“I’ve been exploring the river since 1984. It’s just part of my life here.”

“Community and wilderness.”

“We are lifelong swimmers who love swimming in the Yuba (north and south forks).”

“It is our duty to protect nature. And especially the water. We were promised free clean water. But anyways.”

“The natural beauty, the river’s role in a healthy ecosystem.”

“It was the film festival that drew me in and learning about the region, river and getting to know the people.”

“It is so beautiful and magnificent.”

“Knowing some of the folks who work there, love rivers and watersheds.”

“It’s very beautiful, and a valuable source of water, a home for wildlife & fish, and a place of great enjoyment for people.”

“Mama Yuba is so special.”

“I’ve lived in Nevada County for 40 yrs and the river has always been an important part of my family’s life.”

“I’ve lived here for more than 35 years and have loved the Yuba River from the moment I stepped into it. It’s home and it’s magical.”

“It is beautiful. It restores me. I love that it is not tampered with. We are lucky to have it.”

“My family has grown up on the South Yuba for 5 generations. I love the Yuba!”

“It creates and sustains life! It’s beautiful and resilient and it needs our help and support now and forever.”

“I’m a professional forester; it’s all about the watershed….”

“I spend most of my time at the river during the summer, care deeply about the environment.”

“I am an outdoors person, wanting to nurture my environment, S Yuba is in my neighborhood.”

“It’s a beautiful place full of fish with a mostly caring river-going community.”

“The beauty and power of the river must be honored and kept healthy and safe. People need to learn actions have consequences.”

“It is the heart that keeps this area alive.”

“I love having a vibrant watershed.”

“The Yuba encompasses a unique and diverse area.. From the first trickle from under a snow bank through the forests and mines, parks and towns to the Lower Yuba Gold Fields.. I can not think of another area with this history as well as incredible access..”

“It’s unique in its beauty and accessibility.”

“Appreciate what a beautiful resource the Yuba and watershed are to the community and want to ensure it’s just as wonderful for future generations.”

“Having enjoyed it for many years recreationally and now my grandchildren are. I love the wildflowers and the geology that is unique only to the Yuba.”

“It’s home!”

Volunteer Connections

Response Summary

The survey participants expressed various preferences for connecting with their fellow volunteers.

The majority of survey participants expressed interest in connecting with others while volunteering together, emphasizing the importance of building relationships during shared activities. They also offered ideas on creating more opportunities to work on field projects and engage in activities such occasional volunteer get-togethers, events, or gatherings for education and guided hikes or walks in the watershed.

Some participants mentioned the importance of staying connected through texting, online platforms, or social media, while others preferred face-to-face interactions but acknowledged the acceptability of online communication in today’s world.

Additionally, there was a significant number of participants who expressed a lack of priority or specific ideas for connecting with other volunteers.

Participant Responses

“I’d like to connect while volunteering together.”

“More opportunities to work on field projects. Many of these opportunities went away during COVID and have been slow in coming back. I believe some of this is related to staff turnover and new staff not knowing capabilities of long-term volunteers and sometimes of reluctance of staff to include volunteers in more complex projects.”

“I used to be an active hiker but my physical abilities have aged. Maybe a short easy hike for seniors and such.”

“Volunteer get-togethers occasionally.”

“More direction to clean up areas.”

“More gatherings for education.”

“More guided hikes or walks in the watershed.”

“Events or online is fine.”

“Participate in both activities on or about the River, both active and social.”

“Volunteer appreciation events.”

“Potluck, party?”

“No ideas.”

“Don’t need to stay in touch with others but not opposed to it.”

“Walks, river get-togethers, live music. Some healthy social media spot.”

“Working as a committee on conservation projects and learning opportunities.”

“Just interacting with others.”

“Texting and online.”

“I’d keep in touch with individual volunteers if I felt connected while we were volunteering.”

“Just keeping connected with SYRCL and helping when possible.”

“Volunteer acknowledgement event.”


“Educational hikes or other informational activities would be interesting.”

“I prefer face to face but in today’s world online is acceptable.”

“It’s not a priority to me.”

Volunteer Benefits

Ideas for Enhanced Volunteering Experiences

Responses Summary

Below is a summary of the participants’ suggestions to make volunteering a positive experience.

Volunteer Database

Establishing a database of volunteer skills, knowledge, and capabilities to effectively match volunteers with projects they have experience or knowledge would add more personalization and efficiency to volunteer recruitment, and helps volunteers feel appreciated.

Advanced Notice for Opportunities

Providing adequate notice for upcoming projects or events, ideally a few weeks in advance allows volunteers to plan and potentially rearrange their schedules accordingly.

Inclusivity for Different Lifestyles & Accessibility

Ensuring inclusivity for part-time residents who seek a sense of belonging within the community.

Considering practical aspects, such as reimbursing gas or hotel expenses for out-of-area volunteers and providing designated parking to facilitate convenience and accessibility.

Recruitment Events & Personal Touches
  • Organizing volunteer recruitment events and following up personally with interested individuals.
  • Allowing volunteers to share their own stories and make the pitch for involvement creates a compelling and authentic appeal.
  • Utilizing effective marketing tools, such as SYRCL merchandise like bandanas and shirts, also help to spark conversations and raise awareness about the organization’s activities.
  • Continuing to offer small gestures tokens of appreciation, such as providing bottled water during river cleanup days or offering festival tickets for events like Wild and Scenic.

Participant Responses

“SYRCL project managers should reach out to volunteers to create a database of volunteer skills, knowledge, and capabilities. Volunteers should be contacted by phone or email to see if they are interested in helping on a project where they have experience or knowledge. Being asked is always nice. Adequate notice should be given (a few weeks) for those who are.”

“Inclusivity of part-time residents…not the vacation folks…but, folks like me with two homes…living in two worlds and not always feeling the love of some full-time residents.”

“Advance notice for planning.”

“Volunteer recruitment events. Personal follow-up after events, as requested.”

“I enjoy the outings like the day at the meadow, work projects like that!”

“Gas or hotel expenses and designated parking.”

“I donate a room for out-of-area filmmakers.”

“Just keep asking community members to get involved. Maybe have volunteers make the pitch based on their own positive experiences.”

“Whenever I wear my bandanna from SYRCL, it starts dialogue with others and is a great marketing tool. Ty!”

“Provide bottled water on river cleanup day.”

“I do not need any gifts of gratitude, but I do appreciate festival tickets when I volunteer for Wild and Scenic, and I love wearing SYRCL shirts around town, so I wouldn’t turn down a new design.”

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One Comment

  1. Caroline Hickson says:

    Good survey. I hope you learned what you need to. I am in Colfax, so am torn between two watersheds. Volunteer in both, and it’s always fun: to meet people, and to help out.

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