Lessons Learned in 2018 and Next Steps for 2019

As our year ends, we noticed a few remarkable characteristics and challenges during our first set of programs.  It seems while our “Let’s Grow Montclair” events are appreciated by our attendees, we’ve noticed that our attendance was significantly lower than our registrations. Our registration rates were exciting – even impressive. But come the day of the event, we had few participants.  We delayed the presentations on numerable occasions. And we felt bad for the presenters who didn’t have the audience we had told them had registered.

So what is the solution? We took pride in marketing these “generously grant funded, free programs” to a wide audience. We made sure the presenters were qualified, the topics were appropriate for the time of year, and the various locations were accessible to all. We sent out reminders the week before. Our attendance evaluations were all “excellent”. The best attended events were the ones where we were giving away items – or feeding those present. And even that wasn’t always enough to draw people to us.

So as we reimagine our second year’s offerings we wonder if having a small attendance fee will encourage the participants to get to the event. Even a small payment makes people feel more committed. Another idea to increase participation is to schedule workshops around already established breaks.  We will host this year’s workshops as “lunch and learn” events, allowing people to learn during lunchtimes during the work week, away from home and family responsibilities.

Without an audience, we can’t spread our message to the community about how to adopt a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.

We have learned that these days, people do not often prioritize health. Our goal this year is to engage more community members in learning about healthy food and healthy lifestyles.

As a Rutgers Master Gardener who gets to create and organize the workshops designed to improve the overall health of the community, I am so very grateful to work with New Jersey Healthy Communities Network and Partners for Health Foundation. We can't believe we get to be involved in these special projects through this wonderful grant which makes us overall, healthier, too!