Advice for Outreach Groups


After working for several years to help expand my university’s student outreach group, I was so excited to present this work to the SfN community today. I have served as president of the Neuroscience Outreach and Volunteer Association (NOVA) at the University of Maryland Baltimore for several years. We’ve grown in size and activities and I knew this year my chance to share that with everyone. I expected to spend Saturday afternoon bragging to people about NOVA. Instead, I found most people who stopped by were frustrated and looking for answers. They were frustrated by the same things that I struggle with NOVA. I thought I’d share here some concerns and solutions.

One of the largest problems with outreach events is getting volunteers. Everyone is short on time. I have found what works best is 1-2 large events, and regular small events. You can’t spread yourself too thin. But without enough events people lose interest. Try events that only take 2 volunteers at a time.

Getting into schools is also a struggle. Several people told me stories of schools turning them down when asking to work with students. The best solution I heard today was to ask teachers directly. They’re more excited to have volunteers come to their classroom and can win over their principals.

Think outside of the box. SfN and the Dana Foundation are doing great work with students and brain awareness. But consider also working with psychiatric patients directly. Try psychiatric hospitals or TBI patients.

Finally, consider joining the NetCentric Science! Rather than creating a central database, they’re help outreach groups connect with each other, form a network, and learn from each other’s experiences. Email with your story so they can help compile and share information! Or visit their second poster on Tuesday “To infinity and beyond Bitcoin: Blockchain technology for beginners.” to learn about connecting people together.

And as always, I’m happy to help the best I can with any outreach related questions!