Winter activities that build community

When the temperature drops, the daily drudgery factor can shoot up. Those of us in colder climes are about to start shoveling sidewalks, de-icing windshields, and spending 15 minutes lacing boots and buttoning coats before we can so much as step out the front door.

But not all winter activities are such a grind. When daylight retreats, it sets the perfect tone for huddling up, sharing ideas, and working on shared goals together—preferably over a plate of warm cookies.

Here are a few great examples of winter activities, brought to our attention by ioby friends and leaders, that make the most of cooler days and nights—and make neighborhoods better places to live, work, and play.

See and snap snekdowns!

If you live in a place that gets snow and don’t know what a sneckdown is, we’re happy to introduce you. “Sneckdowns” (a portmanteau of “snowy neckdown” popularized by Streetfilms director Clarence Eckerson, Jr. and Streetsblog founding editor Aaron Naparstek) are leftover snow piles on city streets that can illustrate the areas where cars don’t drive. These spaces can easily be reclaimed, by sidewalk extensions or other improvements, for pedestrian use.

sneckdown[Sneckdowns in New York City. Where the snow is, and where cars don’t cross, could be reclaimed for people!]

Clarence wrote this great Learn from a Leader blog post for us about how to get a crew together on a snowy day, document a bunch of sneckdowns, and report them to people who can help convert them from dead space into usable public amenities that make a neighborhood safer and more appealing. This is a fun winter activity that can reap benefits for many seasons to come.

Gather support now for warm weather happenings

If winter has you dreaming about gussying up your community garden in the springtime, or organizing a summer weekend party in the park, ride that reverie into action!
Here’s a picture-perfect winter activity: Invite your fundraising team over for tea and cookies, plot out everything you’ll need to execute your project in the spring or summer, and start a list of everyone you want to ask for support. While you may want to time your ioby campaign to begin closer to the start of the project, you can absolutely make asks now for permits, sponsors, in-kind donations, and other non-cash backing. Organizations especially—like government agencies, hardware stores, and restaurants—often need and appreciate an early heads up.

If you’re planning a big project, you might need to schedule multiple tea-times. That’s okay; it means more cookies.


Build an all-season haven that all can enjoy

Picture an inviting wooden outdoor structure that can be used all year round: as a shaded oasis on summer days and an inviting snow shelter in winter. This fabulous invention is what ioby Action Corps expert David Jurca calls an “all-season pavilion,” and he detailed the steps necessary to design, build, and program one in your neighborhood for In the Cold: The ioby Guide to Winter Community Projects.

David’s how-to walks you through the whole process: from convening residents to assess the proposed site, to working with a local designer or carpenter, to planning winter activities and summer events that people can enjoy in the space, whatever the forecast.

Winter Activities

Write that novel! er—your fundraising story

If your idea of idyllic winter activities involves a quill pen, an inkwell, and a roaring fire—or maybe just a laptop and your PJs—now is your moment. One thing the vast majority successful fundraising campaigns have in common is the compelling story behind them.

ioby Leader Lee Forbes-Belue led the revitalization of a beloved Memphis playground. One of the most effective tactics in the fundraising plan that netted her effort over $14,000 in support? A “very personal and heartfelt” Facebook post she wrote about what the playground meant to her and her family. Take advantage of the universal desire to curl up with some good reading material when it’s cold outside, and craft the irresistible story behind your project.

Ride the “season of giving” train

As all seasoned fundraisers are aware, the six-or-so winter weeks between Giving Tuesday (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving) and the start of the New Year are when one third of all annual giving takes place. With parties, family, and holidays on the brain, lots of people are feeling festive and generous this time of year. That means it’s a great time to tell them about your project and invite their support!

A perfect way to harness the momentum of the season is to plan winter activities that raise funds and build buy-in for your idea. For example: if you participated in a winter composting workshop at a community garden, wouldn’t you be more likely to donate to their raised bed campaign in the spring?


See? The notion of staying productive in the cold doesn’t have to be all driveway salting and jumper cable wrangling. When winter activities involve a new vision for your block and the help of your neighbors, they can actually be fun and gratifying. Now, break out those cookies!

Got an idea for a winter activity that will benefit your neighborhood but need some help getting organized? Give us a shout! Helping local leaders like you is what we do.