The University of Iowa

Engage and Promote Keokuk

Hoerner YMCA
Academic Year 
2019-2020
College/Department 
Journalism & Mass Communication
Project Partner 
Led by 

Students from the School of Journalism & Mass Communication created a strategic communication plan for increasing community pride and volunteerism in Keokuk.

The City of Keokuk, located in the southeastern most tip of Iowa at the confluence of the Des Moines River and the Mississippi River, was once a boom town for manufacturing and industry.  Like many rural communities, the changing economic landscape and shifting demographics have introduced significant challenges in the community.  Although it remains an economic hub in the tri-state region, several large plant closures and increased automation have left Keokuk poorer, less populated, and less healthy.  The city and its county, Lee County, have the unfortunate distinction of bottom (or close to bottom) ranking in the state across many community wellness indicators, including unemployment, educational attainment, and health outcomes. 

Hoerner YMCA, a community-based non-profit, conducted a community needs assessment as part of an effort to craft their own strategic plan and to determine how they can best respond to community needs.  As they interviewed community leaders and community members at-large, they came to believe that one need surpassed all others: the need to engage residents in volunteer efforts and improve the pride in the community.

They and other community leaders recognize that the path to a stable, healthier community requires positive momentum and broad community support.  While they can point to many unique community assets and significant accomplishments, community leaders struggle to overcome the pervasive attitude of pessimism and negativity that plagues the community.  Community leadership seeks to bolster civic pride with the hope of engaging and motivating local residents and organizations to collectively work toward a better future. 

The strategic communications plan include objectives and tactics aimed at increasing volunteerism from residents that have generally stayed on the sidelines, as well as a measurable improvement in civic pride.  A significant focus of the plan centers around corporate social responsibility- specifically, encouraging volunteerism through volunteer time off policies among local businesses.