Digital Toolbox for Rockstar Community Organizers

Here’s a big shout out to all the community-organizing, people-engaging, smile-inducing, neighborhood-improving, relationship-building, change-making rock stars out there. You do this work because you love it, and your community loves you back. And good thing, because your to-do list is probably packed with headaches and thankless jobs that you’ve never actually been trained to do, from managing budgets to making posters to baking treats.

How could any one person be expected to do all the stuff you need to do to make a project happen? Maybe you’re a visionary and have amazing project ideas, but you’re a hot mess when it comes to coordinating and scheduling volunteers. Or maybe you’re great at organizing, but you’re wondering whether to use fuchsia or purple text in comic sans (no. just no.) on your event posters. There are apps and digital tools for everything from scheduling your nail clippings to creating artsy filters for your grocery receipts, so there must be tools to make these things easier. But who has time to find them?

We’re here to make it a little bit easier for you. We spend a lot of time using, testing and researching tools for community projects. We promise this digital toolbox will help you out. Every tool listed here is free (though it may have paid options), easy to use, looks great, and certified useful for community organizing.

  1. Make Great Graphics with Canva
    Need to design a poster or a Facebook image? Canva is by far the best tool out there. It has dozens of templates that look beautiful and are sized the right way for everything from social media to print publications. Use stock images or upload your own.

  2. Organize Volunteers with SignUp
    Scheduling a big event with a lot of volunteer slots? SignUp is a great way to manage the process. Create individual volunteer slots on one day or more. Add a description, where to meet, and any other info. Share your SignUp, and you’re off and running. Volunteers can choose a slot and add themselves, change their slots, trade and add notes.

  3. Create a Poll with Typeform
    There are dozens of survey platforms out there. Nearly all of them cost money, once you go beyond a set number of responses and question types. Some of them offer complicated analysis and question formats. But if you just need a simple option that looks great, works smoothly and stands out, you can’t beat Typeform. It’s easy to setup and easy for users, whether you’re creating a survey or a simple response form.

  4. Share Data with Infogram
    Done with your survey? Now you just need to share the results. Please don’t make a Word document with lots of annoying charts that no one can read. Just use Infogram. It will help you make a beautiful, interactive report of your data that you can send out as a link, embed in a website, or even download and print.

  5. Schedule a Meeting with Doodle
    Scheduling meetings is yucky. Scheduling them with multiple people, and trying to do it over email or in person is even yuckier. Doodle makes it as painless as possible. Set up a poll with different meeting options, send it around, and choose the best option.

  6. Build an Infographic with Piktochart
    Infographics make it sooooo much easier to share and explain complicated concepts, but you don’t need to be a professional designer to make one. Piktochart offers nice templates and tons of stock graphics to help you create a great infographic for your project.

  7. Host a Video Call with ZOOM
    Ever joined a webinar or video call that worked perfectly, with everyone managing to get connected on time? It’s about as common as a municipal budget surplus. But ZOOM makes it easier than all the other platforms we’ve seen, and video calls are free (!) for up to 45 minutes.

  8. Handle Document Review with Kauses
    PDF documents and reports are everywhere, so there should be tons of tools to share PDF files and gather feedback on them, right? You’d think so, but the only good one we’ve seen comes from our friends over at Urban Interactive Studio. With Kauses, you can upload a PDF, adjust comment settings, and gather and review feedback. Just leave yourself a couple of days lead time, since you’ll need to apply for an account.

  9. Make a Nice Website with Weebly

    “Do I need to make a website for my community project?” We hear this question all the time, and the answer is “maybe.” You probably need some kind of web presence — somewhere to post information and share it out with the community. If you can do that on an existing website, great. If there is no existing site, then you probably need to put up a simple, free site to be a home base. If you don’t need a lot of features or a custom URL, then Weebly is great place to start.

What do YOU need help with? Leave a comment and let us know, and we’ll go on the hunt for a great digital tool to help you out.

Resilience Games

Communities face a host of unpredictable challenges — stronger storms and heavy rains, heat waves and droughts, invasive species and wildfires, epidemics and fires. Wouldn’t all this be less depressing if it involved games?

It takes true resilience to prepare and respond — the ability to work together, solve problems, and build back stronger than before. It takes action and collaboration in a number of diverse areas to build that resilience — emergency response, environmental protection, local government and utilities, community building and education. And yet hazard mitigation and emergency plans are often written in silos, by a few key experts.

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Resilience games, interactive assessments and collaborative workshops make these topics a whole lot more fun, engaging and accessible. A slew of interactive activities are out there today, all of which can help build connections among a broad range of stakeholders and community leaders, helping to build understanding of shared challenges and build momentum for shared solutions.


Check out some of our favorites and try using them in your community. Want to bring an event or customized version to your group or town? Get in touch - we’d love to help!


EXTREME EVENT  WAS Created by the Koshland Science Museum (now LabX)

EXTREME EVENT WAS Created by the Koshland Science Museum (now LabX)

The Extreme Event Game

Any closet dungeons & dragons fans out there? Participants of all ages love this immersive resilience game, where they take on a variety community roles, work together and find out what it takes to build true resilience and community in the face of disaster. This detailed game is ideal for 20-60 people, whether community members, planners or technical audiences. You can download a full set of game materials that simulate a city of about 200,000 people and include variations for floods, hurricanes and earthquakes, rent the materials, or hire a facilitator.

What We Love: You’re immersed in this award-winning game from the minute you walk in the door, and participants always have some big “aha moments” about the complex interactions between planning and response, and the importance of building community.

How We Adapt It: We work with many small towns and rural areas, with their own distinct needs and challenges. We’ve created an adaptation of this game that more accurately depicts communities with less than 50,000 (or 5,000!) people, and incorporates the real lessons we’ve learned from working on resilience projects with Vermont communities.


Resilience Bingo was created by community workshop LLc.  DOWNLOAD FOR FREE!

Resilience Bingo was created by community workshop LLc. DOWNLOAD FOR FREE!

If Extreme Event sounds pretty intense (it is!), Resilience Bingo is about as simple as it gets. This simple activity is a great ice breaker or intro game for any community meeting or workshop: just design and print your bingo cards, pass them out, and go! Instead of letters and numbers, these bingo cards include a variety of skills and resources needed for community resilience. Participants win by completing a row, and the whole community wins by learning more about their neighbors and needs. Download our free printable version here or design your own!

What We Love: This activity is incredibly simple to create, use and adapt for most any community or group. Even better, it helps people get to know each other and learn about community assets.

How We Adapt It: We tailor the cards to whichever town or group we’re working with — changing or adding squares that are important for that particular place. We try to offer a prize to up the ante — bonus points if it’s related to resilience (think first aid kit or seed packets). And we often use this activity to kick off a real asset mapping process — collect the cards at the end, and you have a head start on identifying local resources!


Community Resilience Assessment

This great tool isn’t quite a game, but it can be a fun and interactive (and serious!) way for community members to work together and understand how their community measures up in a range of resilience categories. The assessment includes four big categories and several dozen areas; participants evaluate where they are on a spectrum and give their community a score. Individuals can take the assessment as an online tool and save their results, or download a copy to use in a meeting or group setting. Communities can track their progress over time and see how they improve.

What We Love: This is a robust tool that allows communities to look comprehensively at their resilience actions, and understand a range of ways to improve on them. It’s simple scoring also makes it easy to hone in on areas of improvement, and it can be used in a variety of ways.

How We Adapt It: Most communities wouldn’t have a single person with all the knowledge needed to fill this out, so it works best when you bring together people with different roles in the community to complete it together. Bonus: that means they have to talk to each other! We like to run this activity as a larger event — either following the Extreme Event game, or in a workshop with keypad polling to prioritize areas for action.

we worked with Community resilience organizations to develop the tool and pioneer workshop methods. The assessment is  available for free.

we worked with Community resilience organizations to develop the tool and pioneer workshop methods. The assessment is available for free.


RAND CORPORATION DEVELOPED THE  HUNGRIER GAMES TOOLKIT , AVAILABLE FOR FREE ONLINE.

RAND CORPORATION DEVELOPED THE HUNGRIER GAMES TOOLKIT, AVAILABLE FOR FREE ONLINE.

Resilience is a tough concept for adults to understand, and it can be even trickier for kids. This toolkit from Rand is the full package: talking points and simple messages, activities that integrate with school curriculum, and a fun scavenger hunt game that empowers high schoolers to understand and identify ways to proactively build resilience.

What We Love: This is an approachable and adaptable game that brings resilience down to earth. It’s also a full kit, with carefully designed messages and instructions that make it easy to run.

How We Adapt It: Like most games, we change this one up to have specific details, challenges, talking points and clues that fit the particular group of kids or community we work with. And while this game is geared toward high schoolers, we find that younger kids are pretty great at building resilience too — we’ve adapted parts of this kit to work for middle schoolers or even mature elementary-aged kids.


Game of Floods was created by Marin COunty, CA.

Game of Floods was created by Marin COunty, CA.

Here’s another great role playing game, this time geared more toward professionals with a solid understanding of hazards and mitigation actions. You get the same collaborative decision-making fun of the Extreme Event Game, but with a more technical challenge based on sea level rise on the California coast. Players must argue for specific investments in hazard mitigation steps, based on a detailed understanding of flood projections and mitigation benefits. You can download the materials for free or pre-order a game set from Marin County.

What We Love: This game gives professionals real practice at understanding tradeoffs and making tough choices about where to invest and where to let things go. The mitigation actions are realistic, and the big picture questions are applicable to many communities.

How We Adapt It: The California model is applicable to many coastal communities, but not so much for inland areas or communities facing non-flood hazards. We’ve used the concepts of this game to create game boards with different maps and investments that work for rural mountain communities, smaller towns, or areas facing fire, wind, snow and ice, or other hazards.


Want more?

There are dozens of great games out there — we can’t stop at just 5. Here are links to additional games, activities and resources. Leave us a comment and tell us about others that you like and we’ll keep adding to the list!

  • Rand Corporation has developed a number of resilience toolkits with activities and messages, table top exercises and more.

  • Games4Sustainability includes a blog and Gamepedia platform with more than 100 simulations and games around climate and sustainability, including stories of how they are used.

  • Centre for Systems Solutions offers several simulations and multiplayer games for systemic challenges including energy transition, sustainability and more.

  • Climate Interactive has a great list of 19 games that could change the future, from computer games to apps to board games — including many familiar games that can be adapted for serious resilience education and planning.

Small Change - Grants and Funding for Small Community Projects

We work with lots of community groups and organizations that want to do projects. Small projects — maybe a community celebration, public art project, engagement event, or building a parklet.

Many of these projects need less than $5,000 (or even $500!), but that funding is critical to helping projects get off the ground. So where do you find funding for those small projects with big impact?

Here is a list of the top places you can look, plus a special list of specific funding programs for our Vermont communities.

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  1. Community Foundations

    If you’re lucky enough to have a community foundation in your state or region, that’s the place to start. If they don’t have small grant programs of their own, they can likely advise you on sources and point you in the right direction.

  2. Local Banks

    Local banks are often very generous with their funding. Many have foundations, and most have smaller, flexible giving programs on a rolling deadline. Managers can sometimes make a donation of a $100 or so on the spot, or ask about bigger programs and opportunities.

  3. Community-Minded Businesses

    Look around your community for the businesses that operate in your area of interest, that contribute to local projects or causes, or that are known for being good neighbors. Ask whether they have grant programs or make contributions. Planning a community energy project? Try a solar company. Looking to build a park? Google landscapers.

  4. Similar Events

    If you’re really at a loss, look around for similar events in the community. Check out posters, programs or websites and see who sponsored them.

  5. Philanthropy News Digest

    PND is one of the best national grant aggregators, with hundreds of listings of grants. Most are larger, and most will not be relevant, but if you scan it often you’ll sometimes find smaller grants in your area of interest. This could be a great place to find a few thousand dollars to build a community garden or start a reading program. Search online or sign up for a digest of grant announcements.


Small Grants for Vermont Projects

  • Vermont Community Foundation’s SPARK grants

  • New England Grassroots Environment Fund

  • Ben & Jerry’s Community Action Team grants

  • Vermont Natural Resources Council

  • Catamount Solar