Table of Contents


Introduction & Recycle-A-Bicycle: The New York Model

Laying the foundation

Project Definition

Organizational Structure


Nuts and Bolts

The Bicycle Collection Network

Curriculum Content

Public Relations

Finding the Funds

Safety, Quality Control, and Liability

Last Words

Resource Directory & Bibliography

Appendix I - Financial and administrative information

Appendix II - Forms and Materials used by RAB [1 MB]

The Authors

Thank yous

Tools for Life: 
A Start-Up Guide for Youth Recycling & Bicycling Programs

Public Relations: Recruitment and Project Promotion

Recruiting Children

As we keep pointing out, kids love bikes. The incentive to learn is built into the project. Recruiting youth to participate in the project is rarely a problem. However, there are two procedures that should be followed in order to guarantee your success.

1) Establish requirements for access to the project and follow them. These requirements will be determined by the organization's mission and the partners it may have. Some examples of requirements:

  • The child lives within certain geographical boundaries (many programs are intended to benefit low-income neighborhoods)
  • The child participates in a certain organization
  • The child pays a small fee (programs can offer scholarships to those who cannot afford it)
  • Children of the same age are grouped together (older kids will sometimes dominate the others if not put in a mentor position)
  • The child must demonstrate a certain level of competency to be placed in an advanced course.

2) Advertise the project in a timely fashion. Some organizations work with schools, youth agencies, and clubs that can provide you with a pre-selected constituency. Children can be selected by the youth organization, sometimes as a reward for their good behavior or because it fits into a theme that a particular group is developing. Other groups rely on posters and word-of-mouth in the neighborhood to announce this opportunity. Advertising far in advance will ensure that your project reaches its capacity and also allows families to plan for the activity. Demand may be high, so be prepared to announce dates of future classes and have sign-up sheets ready.

Recruiting Volunteers

The first place to appeal to when looking for adult volunteers is your partner organization, if you have one. Many of the same techniques used to enlist kids may be used to draw adults, but you may need to upgrade your materials a bit. Professional-looking posters and brochures will convince wary volunteers that they will be in good hands once they come through your door. Make it clear that your project is a worthy one and that the help of adults is important to its success.

Throughout its existence, RAB has been able to draw upon the resources of Transportation Alternatives, an organization that already enjoyed a broad volunteer base. TA publishes a magazine (formerly known as City Cyclist and now named after TA itself) six times a year that not only goes to its membership, but is also distributed free at bike shops all over the metropolitan area. RAB's monthly column in the magazine regularly urges TA members and other cyclists to contribute time and materials.

Of course, there are other places to find volunteers. Pay some calls to bike shops, volunteer centers, senior centers, high schools, and sports clubs in your area.

But maybe you've gone through your partner organization, your community, and everyone in your little black book and you still don't have the volunteers you need. If so, it's time to appeal to a higher power.


Good directors have an unrelenting drive to inform others about their project. Everywhere they go, they are constantly networking be- cause they know that the best contacts are usually made face to face. However, there's no denying that even a tiny bit of media attention can produce a quantum leap in the public awareness of a project. For this reason, you would be wise to put together a solid package of materials that presents your project in the best possible light. Your p.r. arsenal may include the following:

A Logo- People respond well to symbols. It's not absolutely essential, but a well-designed logo is like the Presidential seal: it lends authority. You may be thinking "Oo, we can have the kids design one!" Maybe so, but in our experience it's tough to get a usable final product with kids. You may get some valuable input from them, though, or even a drawing that you can incorporate into a logo.

Stationery- A well-run project is constantly sending out inquiries, appeals, thank-you notes, and grant proposals. A nice letterhead can make all the difference in making a first impression.

A Brochure- A project should have one good piece of material that tells a stranger everything they need to know. It should be clearly laid out, illustrated (pictures of kids are worth several thousand words), and succinct. It should also be easy to carry around, give to others, and stuff into a business envelope. Color and glossy paper are optional. A one- or two-sided 81/2x11 sheet can do the job quite well. RAB's ver- sion is a tri-fold of that size.

Press Releases- One of the easiest ways to make a bid for media attention. A release can be printed on your regular stationery and should always be about a special event. Start by building a mailing list of local media that includes newspapers, magazines, TV and Radio stations, and community newsletters. Try to mail them to specific individuals working for those media. A parent/partner organization might be able to pro-vide you with a ready-made list. If you're not already in operation, your first release should be about the grand opening of your project. Big bike donations (to or from your group), volunteer and bicycle drives, new corporate sponsorships, bike rodeos, and group rides can all be the subjects of successive releases. Writing effective press releases is a fine art, but the best advice we can give is to keep them short and sweet. Any- thing bigger than one page is long-winded.

A Newsletter- This is a good way to keep your "membership" (if you have one) abreast of the project's activities. It doesn't have to be terribly elaborate, and it can appear infrequently (every three months is typical). A single, well laid-out sheet will do. Always include illustrations, either of, or by, kids.

Posters- Not as essential as a good brochure, but they can be useful. Posters are better for targeting the community than the media, but check local ordinances before plastering them on walls all over your neighborhood. You might find that a leaflet will suit your purposes better, mainly because they can be posted on bulletin boards. In New York, the best places to get posters and leaflets displayed is in the windows of kindly retailers; in particular, coffee shops and Laundromats.

Videotapes- Not too long after we opened Alan Lowe, the host of a local public-access cable TV program called The Bike Show, shot a 15- minute segment about RAB. As a videotape, it became a useful tool. If an influential person was curious about our project, all we had to do was send them a copy. If you've got a video camera, you might try shooting a mini-documentary about your project. Once again, keep it short. Noth- ing is more boring than a long, homemade video.

A press kit- File away a copy of every article published about your project. After you've got a few good ones under your belt, you can start packaging them (and your other materials) in folders to give to media people and other VIP's.

Merchandise- We think it was the late Fred LeBow, the man behind the New York Marathon, who said, "Never underestimate the power of a free T-shirt." The gift of a nice, thick, 100% cotton tee with a snazzy logo on it can go a long way toward cementing a friendship. They can also be a great incentive award and status symbol for the kids. Caps are great, too, but they usually cost more.

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