“Where are all these newcomers? I don’t see them volunteering with us!”

Ben Winchester doesn’t have to know the name of your town to say that you have a lot of newcomers. Ben’s research shows that the Brain Gain has been going on, almost entirely unnoticed, since the 1970s. It has brought a significant flow of 30-44 year olds to almost every rural area. (Read more at the Brain Gain resource page)

The trick is that even we didn’t notice it about our own towns. A family here, a family there, and a few more you never met, and it starts to add up. 

Ben says that in almost every town, when he pulls up the actual census data and shows them the hard numbers of new residents, people don’t believe him. 

“Where are all these newcomers?” they cry. “I don’t see them joining our clubs or volunteering in our organizations!” 

That doesn’t mean they aren’t there. They’re doing their own thing. The traditional civic organizations may be hurting for volunteers, while the upstart kayaking club thrives with lots of new residents. 

The new people in town will get involved, but only in the things that interest them. That’s almost never your traditional old organization. 

Ben says the best $150 you can spend is to hold a Newcomers Dinner. There is no agenda. No one gets to do a presentation or ask people to join an organization or volunteer or anything. The whole point is to listen. Listen. 

The only time you are allowed to talk is to ask these two questions: 

  • Why are you living here? 
  • What do you like to do? 

The hard part is finding them to invite personally, Ben says. And you do have to invite them each individually and personally. 

You don’t need to organize anything for newcomers; you just need to get them together. They’ll organize around the things they care about. 

Here are your action steps: 

  1. Profile one newcomer every week in your newsletter, newspaper, emails or on social networks. 
  2. Listen to my interview with Ben Winchester Part 1: Rewriting the Rural Narrative

You can shape the future of your town,


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