Training

 
 
 

OCTOBER


12 Golden Rules of Nonprofit Finance
October 22, 2019 | 1:00PM ET

Nonprofit financial health can seem like an elusive, nuanced and subjective judgment call. But when you break it all down, it boils down to 12 Golden Rules of nonprofit finance that help keep your organization healthy. From budgeting to operating reserves, if you follow these rules, you’ll be on your way to a better understanding of nonprofit financial health. This session is a great introduction for those who are new to nonprofit finance.


How to Get the Most Out of Your Nonprofit Website
Tuesday, October 22, 2019 | 2:30 pm ET

You work hard and wear a lot of hats (with no time to buy the matching shoes). Changing the world can be time-consuming and stressful!

Let us lighten your workload and ease your mind with this webinar that’ll help you put your nonprofit website to work for you and make it multitask as well as you do. Go beyond the basics with Molly Coke as she talks about how to leverage technology to help support your mission and make your life easier. You’ll learn:

  • How to use the latest in marketing automation to engage your donors.
  • How to boost your website conversion with powerful landing pages.
  • The key fundamentals for creating a nonprofit website that works harder than a brochure site.
  • What to consider regarding website accessibility.

You can create a website that frees you up to focus on your mission and maybe even toss a few of those hats aside.


Developing a Strategic Plan for Volunteer Engagement
Tuesday, October 22, 2019 | 2:00PM ET

Are you engaging volunteers with an eye to the future? Do you know what your volunteer program should look like in 3 or 5 years? Join us as we talk about the fundamentals for creating a strategic plan for volunteer engagement for your organizations. This webinar will include components that should be included as well as ideas for working with organization leaders to include strategic goals for volunteer engagement in your organization’s overall strategic plan.

What You’ll Learn: 
  • Why a strategic plan for volunteer engagement is important
  • How to incorporate key components into a strategic plan.
  • How you can use a strategic plan to communicate with organization stakeholders.
  • How creating a strategic plan can elevate the work that volunteers do in your organization.
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019 | 1pm ET
 
Unbeknownst to many nonprofits, the emails you send to your mailing list go through an increasingly complicated and sophisticated obstacle course before landing in the inbox.
 
Much like the more familiar social media algorithms, inbox providers like Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo are constantly tweaking the algorithms that decide if and when the emails your nonprofit sends will get delivered — or if they are labeled as spam.
 
Understanding the new rules of email deliverability is essential to meeting your fundraising, advocacy, awareness and education goals – and these new rules are all about engagement.
 
Learn what you need to do to maintain an engaged list of donors so that your online fundraising campaigns are successful. We’ll cover these topics and more:

The new email deliverability metrics that matter most

  • How to find out who on your mailing list is engaging with your content and who isn’t
  • How to explain the health of your email list and importance of engagement to others, like senior managers and your board
  • How to structure a welcome series
  • How to structure a re-engagement campaign
  • How to handle special challenges like seasonal engagement (when you need to email a lot at certain times of year, but very little at other time)

DIY Content Strategy for Your Nonprofit Website Redesign
October 24, 2019 |11:00AM ET

Invest your expertise and insight into one of the most important aspects of your website redesign: the content strategy! Join this interactive training with nonprofit website expert Yesenia Sotelo and learn:

  • What content strategy is and why it matters to your website redesign project
  • Why you should start working on your content strategy as early as possible
  • How to get started creating, documenting and implementing a content strategy

Mining Your Facebook Fundraising Data
Thursday, October 24 | 1:00 p.m. ET

Facebook fundraising has introduced an exciting new fundraising channel for many organizations, but Facebook’s privacy policies have limited a nonprofit’s ability to communicate with these supporters and donors, even if only to say, “thank you.”

In this session facilitated by Katrina VanHuss, learn how to use the TeamRaiser® Facebook integration and GoodUnited’s AI-driven data capturing service to help mine data from 100% of the campaigns fundraising on Facebook. Also, hear directly from a customer using both of these solutions.


6 Ways to Make Your Nonprofit’s WordPress Site Secure from Getting Hacked
Tue, Oct 29, 2019 | 1:00 PM ET

If you’re part of a small nonprofit comms team, your WordPress website updates probably aren’t high on the priority list – but they should be.

It’s hard to stay on top of the site maintenance but in the back of your mind, you know it needs to be done. But while your site gets left in the dark every month, a hidden security risk grows. It’s a matter of time before your website gets hacked. The last thing you want added to your list is trying to figure out how to fix a site that’s been suddenly hijacked or taken offline. Your website is an investment that’s worth protecting and it’s important that your donors and constituents have a consistently positive experience.

In this webinar, you’ll learn:

  • Why strong security is important for WordPress
  • What can happen when your nonprofit’s website gets hacked
  • Six practical steps you can take to keep your site protected
  • Bonus tips and security recommendations

Introduction to Finding Grants
Wednesday, October 30, 2019 | 2:00pm ET

Discover what funders are looking for in nonprofits seeking grants and how to find potential funders in this introductory course.

You will learn the 10 most important things you need to know about finding grants, including:

  • Who funds nonprofits and what are their motivations.
  • What do funders really want to know about the organizations they are interested in funding.
  • How do you identify potential funders and make the first approach.
  • In-person classes will end with 30 minutes of hands-on, guided online grant research. It is advisable, but not necessary, to bring a laptop/tablet for this portion of the class.

Social Media 101 for Nonprofits
October 30, 2019 | 1:30PM 

This session includes practical tips and tools for extending your cause and mission via social media. We cover the basics of using social media for your nonprofit organization and give you handy tips for the “big 3:” Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You may be surprised to learn that Facebook is less important than you’ve been told and LinkedIn may be more important.  

Join us to learn: 

  • How to use Facebook to create awareness for your organization. 
  • How nonprofits are using Twitter to connect with constituents. 
  • Why nonprofits must be LinkedIn to be fully connected. 
  • Powerful no-cost or low-cost tools to manage your social media presence. 

How to Decipher Your Web Analytics (and Use Them to Your Advantage)
Thursday, October 31, 2019 | 2:00 pm ET

You can market your organization till you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t know how your efforts are performing, you might find yourself running in circles or spinning your wheels. It’s important to stop. Look at the numbers. Learn from them, then pivot if necessary–and that’s where metrics and web analytics come in. They can steer you in the right direction if you know how to interpret them, then use them.

Put your analytics to work and make a huge impact on your organization’s success by using all that information to optimize for future messages, fundraisers and campaigns. Join us to discover:

  • What web analytics tell you and why they’re important.
  • The insights you can glean from email marketing metrics.
  • How to target audience segments from your web analytics.
  • How to analyze your data to know what’s working (and what’s not).

Your nonprofit website is a powerful tool, and it will provide you with useful feedback if you simply understand how to decipher the web analytics that can help you make smart marketing decisions.


The Fundraising Myth That Should Scare You the Most
Thursday, October 31, 2019 | 2:00 pm ET

On Halloween we all enjoy a little bit of fright. So we’ll be looking at some of the most deadly — yet commonly believed — myths in fundraising that chase away your donors and squash your fundraising revenue. More important, I’ll show you how to free yourself from these myths and maximize your fundraising all year ’round.
 
Participants will discover that common beliefs about fundraising are deeply damaging to relationships with donors and ultimately their fundraising bottom line.
 

 

NOVEMBER


Make the Most of Your GuideStar Nonprofit Profile in Time for #GivingTuesday
November 5, 2019 | 2:00pm ET

The deadline to update your Nonprofit Profile on GuideStar before #GivingTuesday is Friday, November 15. If you miss it, potential donors may make decisions based on stale information about your organization. Don’t let them, and don’t panic!

Join us to learn lightning fast ways to maximize the fundraising potential of your profile before potential donors and funders start looking.

We’ll show you how to gain access to your organization’s profile–a very important first step. Then we’ll focus on the “must have” information shared with GuideStar’s 10 million users and millions more on our 200+ partner websites, including AmazonSmile, Facebook, Charity Navigator, and many more.

Plus, we’ll show you how to earn a Bronze Seal of Transparency, so your organization can unlock the feature to add a donate button to your profile.


Nonprofit Overtime Webinar
November 5, 2019 | 3:00PM ET

On Tuesday, November 5 at 3:00 pm Eastern, the networks of the National Council of Nonprofits are hosting a national presentation to help all in the charitable community understand what the Overtime Final Rule means to nonprofit operations and missions, and what nonprofits should be doing now to prepare. We will be joined by officials from the U.S. Department of Labor and experts from groups representing workers and employers who will present their unique perspectives and answer questions from nonprofits.


Pollinator Series: Be Communities at Established Meadows
November 6, 2019 | 2:00 PM ET

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is leading a collaborative, multi-disciplinary, inter-agency effort to conserve native pollinators and their habitats within the Great Lakes Basin.  Join Meri Holm, the USFWS GLRI Pollinator Coordinator, as she shares background on how the GLRI Pollinator Task Force was established, the partners involved, and an overview of their strategy and action plan.

To register for the webinar go to WebEx Events by Program and locate “Pollinator Webinar Series.” Click the Register link next to the webinar.


Put Your Donor Data to Work: Five Frameworks to Develop Your Top KPIs
November 7, 2019 | 2:00pm ET

Learn how to collect and analyze donor data to generate meaningful key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you make strategic decisions about where to devote time, what is resonating about your mission, and where your gaps are for reaching their fundraising goals.

 


Pollinator Series: Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Pollinator Conservation
November 13, 2019 | 2:00pm ET

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is leading a collaborative, multi-disciplinary, inter-agency effort to conserve native pollinators and their habitats within the Great Lakes Basin.  Join Meri Holm, the USFWS GLRI Pollinator Coordinator, as she shares background on how the GLRI Pollinator Task Force was established, the partners involved, and an overview of their strategy and action plan.

To register for the webinar go to WebEx Events by Program and locate “Pollinator Webinar Series.” Click the Register link next to the webinar.


Free Webinar: An Introduction to Online Fundraising for Small and Medium-Sized Nonprofits
Thursday, November 14th, 2019 | 1:00 PM EDT

Online fundraising is the fasting growing segment of giving. Donors of all ages are using their smartphones, tablets, and computers to connect with causes and to give money to fundraising campaigns.

During this free nonprofit webinar, you’ll learn the tactics to successfully raise money online for your nonprofit, even if you are a small or midsize organization.

This webinar will detail the basics of an online fundraising campaign;  how social media & online tools can be used to raise more money; ways you can fit online giving into your long-term strategy;  and Julia’s 10 steps to online fundraising success!

Key Takeaways

  • The basic components of a successful online fundraising campaign
  • Tools to use for online fundraising
  • Ways to use your website, email, blog, and social media channels to promote the online fundraising campaign
  • Examples from small and mid-sized nonprofits who have successfully raised money online

10-Step Budgeting Process
November 20, 2019 | 1:00PM ET

The success and usefulness of your budget largely depends on the process used to create it. You will walk away from this webinar with a proven 10-step budget process that will get everyone involved and ensure that your budget reflects your organization’s mission, strategic plan, and programmatic priorities.


Introduction to Foundation Directory Online
November 20, 2019 | 2:00pm ET

Looking for grants for your nonprofit?

Come learn how to use Foundation Directory Online (FDO), the most comprehensive prospect research tool for fundraisers, with over 140,000 grantmaker profiles. You will learn how to search for grantmakers who have funded organizations working on causes and with communities similar to those you serve.

NOTE: This class is for nonprofit organizations looking for funding. It is not geared to individuals seeking grants. We recommend you take our free one-hour course, Introduction to Finding Grants, before attending.

Upon completion of this course you should be able to:

  • Explain what FDO is
  • Identify your needs in preparation for searching for potential grantmakers in FDO
  • Research potential grantmakers using a project-based search in FDO
  • Evaluate prospects for strong or weak fit using FDO
  • Identify the options for accessing FDO
  • Access resources for getting help with FDO

 

Partnerships that are Just Right

goldilocks2Just like Goldilocks searching for the just right porridge, chair or bed; partnerships need to be just right.

Some partnerships require little trust, some a little more, and others a lot.
Some partnerships need a little time, others a little more, and others even more.

Some partnerships only share information and others share everything.
Some partnership have a very loose structure while others are highly formalized.

Just like Goldilocks your organization needs to find what is just right for you. Unlike Goldilocks if both partners agree on what is just right for them there is no need to run, you want to stay around.

The right partnership depends on:

  • Reason for forming the partnership
  • Trust between the partners
  • Time available to invest in the partnership
  • Willingness to share turf
  • Structure for the groups’ interaction
  • Decision-making process
  • Ability to share resources
  • Benefits to each organization

Partnerships move along a continuum from informal networking to collaboration, where partners share their resources to accomplish a mutual goal. Your position on the continuum depends on what you want to accomplish. As the partners increase their trust in each others competencies they tend to move towards integrating decision-making authority. (See table)

The partnership between a community group, such as Friends, and a government agencies comes with challenges. The organizations often have divergent needs and cultures. However, that is why the partnership is so beneficial. Friends are part of the community and have the potential to access resources not readily available to government agencies. The Service brings their competency and passion for wildlife management. Together they enhance each others capacity to achieve their mission and joint vision.

Creating and maintaining a successful partnership takes planning. The trust, time and effort each organization contributes moves the partnership towards collaboration. It is not practical for every partnership to aim for collaboration, what is necessary is finding that sweet spot were both partners know whatever form of partnership they have is just right for them.

The following table provides guidance on the different forms of partnerships, their purpose, necessary trust levels, time commitment, and resource sharing. It outlines the structure of the partnership, joint decision-making and benefits. This research helps you determine where your organization is on the partnership continuum and what is needed to get to that “just right” spot for you and your partner.

Partnership Continuum

line

Partnership Continuum table

Adapted from Collaboration (Lessons Learned Series). AASL, Fall, 1996.
Bernard Bull, The Difference Between Networking, Coordinating, Cooperating, and Collaborating

http://www.northeastcapt.org/products/srategies/collaboration/collaborationpaper.html
http://www.buildinitiative.org/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/resource-center/community-systems-development/1B%201%20Types%20of%20Partnerships%20Continuum%20of%20Coordination.pdf

Thomas Kayser, True Collaboration Is a Partnership: Six Ingredients for Making it So

Joan Patterson currently serves on the board of Friends of the Duck Stamp/Migratory Bird and was the former Director of Grassroots Outreach of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and board member for the Friends of Tualatin River NWR and the Friends of Potomac River Refuges.

Resources:
http://www.strengtheningnonprofits.org/resources/guidebooks/Partnerships.pdf
Public Lands Alliance,
Best Practices Establishing a Partnership Model for America’s Public Lands
Stephen M. R. Covey,
The Speed of Trust

When You Hit a Wall

Screenshot_2017-04-24_14-37-11

Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”             Henry Ford

After leaving high-tech I had a chance to pursue a passion, team-building. In the outskirts of Kansas City, I worked on a ropes-course helping kids and corporations develop their team-building skills.

One Spring morning I faced a dilemma, a group of fifth graders, each determined to climb an eight-foot wall on their own. Mind you, the challenge was for the entire team to ascend the wall with the stipulation that anyone who had ascend could not descend the wall to boost up remaining team members. They weren’t succeeding.

My dilemma was, do I let the kids face possible humiliation at the end of the day when the various groups typically compare how many challenges they completed or do I guide them towards the creation of a process that would allow them to succeed on the wall and other challenges.

Over the next two-hours the kids worked on building their problem-solving skills at the wall. As their facilitator it was my responsibility to introduce them to a problem-solving process, help them develop their competencies, demonstrate my belief in the process and more importantly my belief in them, and mentor them as they repeatedly implemented the problem-solving loop.

loop Screenshot_2017-04-24_14-43-36

At times, their frustration was palatable, but with a little nudging they recognized and admitted their failures, learned, and grew. They SUCCEEDED!

During the process they abandoned their individual goals and worked together to achieve a common goal. The end result was everyone did more than they could ever do on their own and were incredibly proud of their accomplishment. The team completed other challenges with ease.

The kids succeeded because they doubled-down on communication including clearly articulating their goal, soliciting ideas, listening, coming up with plans, and a willingness to revamp those plans. Every attempt brought them closer to achieving their goal and with every attempt their trust in each other increased. They built trust by making and keeping their commitment to get everyone over the wall and building their competency in the problem-solving process and wall climbing.

The success of a partnership depends on these same factors. If you find your partnership stuck, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the purpose of the partnership clear?

  • What commitments are we making to support the partnership?

  • Is there an adequate level of trust to sustain the partnership?

  • Have we determined a clear working arrangement?

  • Are we accountable for our performance?

  • What have we learned from the partnership and how are we applying it to enhance the partnership?

There is a solution for every wall, sometimes you just need to dig a little deeper to find it.

Joan Patterson currently serves on the board of Friends of the Duck Stamp/Migratory Bird and was the former Director of Grassroots Outreach of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and board member for the Friends of Tualatin River NWR and the Friends of Potomac River Refuges.

Resources:
http://www.strengtheningnonprofits.org/resources/guidebooks/Partnerships.pdf
Public Lands Alliance,
Best Practices Establishing a Partnership Model for America’s Public Lands
Stephen M. R. Covey,
The Speed of Trust

The Partnership Dance

The other week Tim Blount and I were discussing the take over of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the lessons learned about partnerships created during the occupation. Our discussion caused me to reflect on a 67-year partnership that had incredible results. You see 67 was my Dad’s favorite number, it was the number of years he was married to Mom. A little over a month ago Dad passed away, just 371 days after his beloved bride. So when I think about successful partnerships I can’t help but think of them.

Dad would boast that together they could do anything. They grew up during the Depression and their union made possible immeasurable blessings for both of them, their family, and friends. When Betty and Jerry said their “I do’s” in 1948 they were committed to a long-term partnership. For their union to be successful they realized they needed to be flexible. Their marriage evolved as they learned how to effectively manage their household, build their capacity to support their family, and shared valuable experiences.

These are the same elements that every organizations wants to achieve when working with a partner. The value of partnering with others is that each organization is able to achieve more than they could working alone. A successful collaboration requires commitment, flexibility, and an organic approach because the relationship evolves over time as each party learns to effectively manage, build capacity and gain valuable experience.

For a partnership to be successful each party must be willing to learn and evolve. As my philosophical Dad would say his best teachers were his wife and kids, my mother would smile and graciously nod in agreement.

So Friends as we look at partnerships, whether with the Service or other organizations there are some common themes that I have learned from research that identifies critical factors for success:

  • Working persistently to create a balance between working within the requirements of your partnership arrangement and maintaining the flexibility to do what is needed.

  • Building a solid understanding for the partnership including purpose, vision, goals, values, roles, decision-making, communications and accountability.

  • Understanding that partnerships have life-cycles just like organizations and they are impacted by what is going on in your environment.

As you consider forging or enhancing a partnership it’s imperative that your board and potential partner:

  • Identify what you want to achieve.

  • Determine what factors will make the partnership successful.

  • Identify potential barriers.

  • Recognize and accept any dependency on specific individuals to achieve the goals of the partnership.

  • Focus on how your partnership adds value and show that you appreciate your partner.

  • Recognize the strengths and assets of each partner that can contribute to achieving your common goal(s).

Your board needs to have frank discussions about these components.

A successful partnership offers immeasurable benefits such as increasing your organization’s exposure, ability to provide services, decrease costs and increase your organization’s credibility in the community. Plus your stellar partnership will inspire others and attract resources to support your mission. That’s what my folks did. Even in their later years, they would hold hands as they walked around the neighborhood. Their neighbors told us that simple symbol of their partnership inspired them to hold their partner’s hand a little tighter as reaffirmation of their partnership.

Friends embrace your partners. Grab their hand ask them to dance and keep on dancing. Be open, flexible, understanding and enjoy!

Joan Patterson currently serves on the board of Friends of the Duck Stamp/Migratory Bird and was the former Director of Grassroots Outreach of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and board member for the Friends of Tualatin River NWR and the Friends of Potomac River Refuges.

Your comments are welcome.

Look for future post on:
Types of partnerships at the local and national level
Managing successful partnerships
Creating collaborative work plans
Evaluating and monitoring partnerships
Partnership life cycles
Relationship versus Agreement

Sources:
https://boardsource.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/3-Questions-Collaborating.pdf
http://www.strengtheningnonprofits.org/resources/guidebooks/Partnerships.pdf

Stand Up, Speak Out

A little over a year ago we woke to the unthinkable, a militia group was occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Fortunately the occupation ended and this week four more defendants go on trial. But the assault on public lands continues.

town-meeting-feature-imageSome members of Congress with extreme views on public lands are proposing more formidable threats in the form of legislation and thankfully the Refuge Association’s Action Alerts keeps us informed. We as Friends need to take action, we need to get in front of your legislators.

I’ve been fortunate to hear from hundreds of Friends members and you all have at least one thing in common – you are passionate about your refuge. I saw this passion in Tim Blount, when as the Executive Director of the Friends of Malheur, went to the Hill last January and spoke to his congressional team and the natural resources and judiciary committees. He demonstrated that his commitment to the refuge went far beyond its boundaries to include the community and the entire Refuge System.

Like Tim we all need to speak up for our refuge, community, and the Refuge System. Next week members of Congress will be in their districts for a week-long recess. Please join in contacting their offices and ask him/her when and where their next town hall forum will be. If they don’t know, ask to be added to their email list so you’ll get notices of future meetings. If you need their phone numbers go to Senate and/or Representative.

Gather a few Friends and go to the town hall forum. We can make a difference. Ask them questions to solicit their support for public lands and in particular for your refuge. We can use the message the Refuge Association sent on February 7th to formulate a question such as:

I and many of your constituents value our public lands and urge you to oppose any legislation that seeks to transfer the title or management of our public lands or legislation that would harm the National Wildlife Refuge System. These lands, like our local ______ National Wildlife Refuge, are incredibly important not just for wildlife, but also for all Americans to whom they belong. Will you commit to voting to keep our public lands public and our Refuge System safe and secure?

Try to get a video of their response and please post your experience on Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates Facebook group. This information will be helpful as we work together to support the Refuge System.

Fellow Friends members please make sure you are receiving the Refuge Association’s Action Alerts and GO to your representatives town hall forum and STAND up for you refuge. Let your representatives and everyone else at the forum know how important these public lands are to you and your community. Thanks.

 Joan Patterson is the former Director of Grassroots Outreach of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and has served on the Friends boards at Tualatin River, Potomac River and the Duck Stamp/Migratory Bird.

What We Friends Can Do: Part 2

Across the country, nonprofit sector leaders from many different areas (conservation. child welfare, health care, arts, education, etc.) are working overtime to make sure that all nonprofit board members everywhere understand that advocacy is an important strategy for achieving their mission. (Find out more about the national campaign at the Stand For Your Mission website here.) The right to provide information to our elected leaders is fundamental in America, and 501(3)(3) organizations absolutely share in that right. Advocacy – including lobbying at the national, state, and local levels –  is a critical part of our role as Friends. Remember, there are limits on what our Service colleagues can do to advocate for the refuges we love. If attacks on public lands continue or gain traction, it will be up to us to mount the defense.  So what can we do to get ready?  Here are my thoughts.

Clarify your mission.  If you haven’t already done so, please read the blog Joan Patterson posted on November 5 regarding the mission of Friends groups. Share it with your colleagues on the board and ask for time on the next meeting agenda. Ask yourself and each other: “If the administration proposes or supports actions that threaten the refuge system, are we ready to oppose it?” “Is our mission to support the refuge or the organization that manages it?” “Do we as a board believe that a threat to any refuge is a threat to us here?” “Is it part of our mission to defend Vieques, Arctic, Monomoy or Loxahatchee?” Have those discussions internally and know where your group stands before the time comes.

2013-11-12-12-05-18

Cathy Allen with Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio in his DC office

Know Your Rights.  There is a lot of confusion about the laws governing nonprofit advocacy. Misinformation abounds. Since my days as Executive Director of Ohio League of Conservation Voters, I have successfully relied on The Bolder Advocacy Initiative of the Alliance for Justice (AFJ). They provide legal information, tools for effective advocacy, even a technical assistance hotline for getting your questions answered. Their attorneys want us to engage in vigorous conservation advocacy without crossing legal lines.  They are an excellent resource. Click through to learn more.

Establish an Advocacy Policy. AFJ and others recommend that all organizations put a policy in place governing their practices, stating what issues they would take up (or not) and what activities they will engage in (or not.) The Friends of the Carr Refuge adopted such a policy a few months ago, thereby empowering me as advocacy champion to take quick action when an issue emerges. I know exactly what my board colleagues want me to do and not do, and I can use my title and the name of the organization within those parameters without any risk of getting ahead of the group.  We will make adjustments as we go, but we are ready.  To download the policy we created, click here.

2013-11-12-14-05-22

Joan Patterson and Cathy Allen on Capitol Hill

Sign up for action alerts.  If you don’t already receive the action alerts Desire Sorenson-Groves sends from the National Wildlife Refuge Association, please visit their website and sign up.  She and her team provide a quick and easy way to stay up to date on the issues in Washington, and the Refuge Association’s stance on them. They craft position papers on everything from the budget to species conservation to threats against individual refuges.  Together with the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement, they kick out a great deal of information about how to lobby, the positions taken by individual members of congress, and how we can best help. If you do talk to a representative or senator, make sure to feed that information back to Desiree. It all helps. 

Participate in coalition activities.  As refuge Friends groups we are not alone. Many other organizations stand with us in the fight to defend our public lands. There are Friends groups at national parks, state parks, and local land trusts, as well as conservation-minded organizations like The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, Audubon, League of Conservation Voters, and many more. Many savvy and experienced advocates are out there waiting for us to add our voices to ongoing efforts. If there is a local coalition or network in your area, make sure you are part of it.  If there isn’t, call a meeting. There is strength in numbers.

Much as we Friends love being in close partnership with our Service partners, on the question of advocacy we must be on our own.  Let’s use this forum for open discussion among ourselves.  Please comment and share widely.

Cathy Allen is a nonprofit organizational development consultant in Florida who is also a passionate lover of wildlife refuges.  A former president at Friends of Ottawa NWR (Ohio), she currently serves on the board at Friends of the Carr Refuge.

 

It’s Time for a Hug (and Some Work)

bears-hugging

I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about the transition to a new administration and what it might mean for the National Wildlife Refuge System. It is clear to me that our national discussion about the value of public lands will be as important as ever. I know there are hopeful signs, and I agree with those who say we don’t need to hit the panic button yet. Still, the wise women in my family always said “Expect the best, but plan for the worst.” So, what can we Friends do to make sure we can participate in that national dialogue and be as strong as we can be in case we are called upon to defend our refuges? Here is my list. I’d be glad to know what Friends around the country are thinking or working on.

Hug a member of your Refuge staff. Some federal employees may be quite worried – for themselves, their families, and the refuges they love so well. The expected hiring freeze has many moving around these last few weeks. New leaders are coming to fill those top jobs. Let’s make sure we show our staff how much we appreciate all that they do and stand for. Tell them that you will be there to support the refuge, that you will always be in communication, and always working for the values you share. At a recent gathering of the USFWS directorate here in Florida, we were able to hold a reception and include Friends from nine different refuges. I know it made these leaders feel better, seeing that we were with them, and it helped strengthen our bonds of friendship.

Strengthen your organization. If you are not operating at full capacity, now is the time to get organized. Learn about nonprofit legal requirements and best practices in governance and organizational development and start taking steps to improve. Find your state affiliate of the National Council of Nonprofits, a local nonprofit resource center, or a consultant, and get their assistance. Find the treasure trove of great resources at the National Wildlife Refuge Association’s www.RefugeFriendsConnect.org. Think through what kinds of skills and talents you need on your board and recruit people, orient them, and integrate them into the existing team.

Develop contingency plans. During the government shut down of 2014, the Friends of Ottawa NWR found that we were unable to get to our computers, files, lists, phone messages, mail,and more. Everything related to the running of our organization was at the refuge, and we were prohibited from going there. Other groups have experienced the sudden departure of a treasurer or web master and all the related passwords were lost. In the electronic age there is no excuse for that. If your records and operating systems are not cloud-based, set that up and make sure multiple board members can access everything from home. Set up a post office box in town and start shifting your incoming mail to it. Recycle the telephone answering machine and invest in voicemail.

Make sure you are communicating with members. Your members may be even more interested than usual in knowing what is happening and how they can help. Do your best to gather all forms of contact information from members, donors, supporters, visitors to the refuge, anyone you can. Make sure you have a good contact management system. Send out electronic newsletters. Get people used to seeing you in their inbox. Get on the mailing lists of some of the other Friends groups and see how they are doing it. There are some Friends volunteers out there who are doing super inspiring and creative things with electronic media.

Build outreach efforts. In addition to beefing up our websites and social media efforts, this is an excellent time to begin seeking opportunities to present information about our refuges and their friends in schools, libraries, churches, civic organizations, and service clubs. Invite community leaders to the refuge and give them a great tour. Set up a media day and invite all the reporters. Provide them with information and make sure they know how to contact you if they have further questions.

I have other ideas that are more specifically related to advocacy and lobbying, so watch for those next week. Meanwhile, I will be working locally to make sure we have as much in place as we can if the time comes when we really have to be on the hustings. If that time doesn’t come – great! Our organizations will be stronger and able to accomplish even more. Thanks for listening. Feel free to contact me if you want to discuss this offline or on.

Cathy Allen is a nonprofit organizational development consultant in Florida who is also a passionate lover of wildlife refuges.  A former president at Friends of Ottawa NWR (Ohio), she currently serves on the board at Friends of the Carr Refuge.

Your Mission Matters

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Your Mission Matters
by Joan Patterson

Many years ago one of the founders of the Friends of Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge proposed amending the group’s bylaws to change its mission from supporting the Service to supporting the refuge. I am so thankful that the membership had the foresight to approve the amendment.

You see this particular founder was a leading advocate for the creation of the refuge and even donated 12-acres to get the refuge established. She and others in the area saw the refuge as a community asset. However, twenty plus years ago a refuge in a metropolitan area was controversial and some members of the community had a nagging concerns that the Service might pull the plug on the project.

Thankfully that did not happen and the refuge is now one of the Refuge System’s leading urban refuges.

In the case of Tualatin River changing the wording of the Friends’ mission from “Service” to “refuge” ensured the Friends’ ongoing support for the refuge’s natural, cultural, educational, and recreational resources. In the original mission statement, the word “Service” referred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service organization and not the Service’s mission which is “…working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.” This change to the group’s mission is even more important today than it was then.

The Refuge System is faced with external and internal threats. Historically, Friends have spoken up against external threats such as: militants occupying Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), language in the Puerto Rico debt relief bill to transfer ownership of a portion of Vieques NWR, and current legislation to transfer portions of Desert and Monomoy refuges out of the System. The National Wildlife Refuge Association keeps Friends informed of these threats.

Proposals or actions by an Administration can create predicaments for Friends. For example, the current GOP platform (and I’m not saying which party I support), calls for the transfer of federal lands to states. It declares,“Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing for a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to states.” Imagine a future Administration implementing this provision – YOUR national wildlife refuge could easily be turned over to the state and thus no longer protected under the Refuge System Administration Act or Refuge System Improvement Act – both ensure lands and waters in the System are managed for biodiversity and wildlife dependent public use. As federal employees who work for such an Administration, Refuge System staff would have to support such a proposal, but Friends who support the mission of their refuge, the Refuge System, or the Service’s mission (instead of the Service organization) could take action against such a proposal. However, if your group’s mission supported the Service, you would also have to support the Administration’s proposal.

There may be times that Friends will disagree with an action proposed by the Service. This year the Service began discussions about potential support of legislation to transfer the National Bison Range in Montana to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Transfer of this national wildlife refuge would require legislative action by the U.S. Congress. The National Environmental Policy Act requires proposed legislation that has a significant effect to include an environmental impact statement (EIS). The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and others believe that this transfer proposal would have a significant effect and, therefore, the Service must conduct an environmental analysis. However, the initial legislation that the Department of the Interior helped draft specifies that the transfer is not a major federal action and therefore does not require environmental analysis. Or take another example when in a previous Administration: the Service was supportive of the de-designation of wilderness at the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and subsequent transfer of lands to the state in order to build a road through the heart of the refuge. Or yet again during a previous Administration when the Service supported drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Regardless of whether the proposed transfer at the National Bison Range might be appropriate, the Service needs to adhere to the National Environmental Policy Act and adhere to regulations of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality. An EIS would provide a transparent, public forum for the Service to explain its proposed transfer and alternatives to it, and discuss the relative impacts of such actions. Hopefully the Service will not support legislation that will bypass Federal environmental requirements that would chastise another agencies for attempting to avoid. Additionally, while the draft legislation states that this transfer should not be viewed as precedent for any other federal properties or facilities, in fact it would establish a dangerous political precedent. This is a difficult situation tied up in history and culture and hopefully whatever the resolution is will ensure the protection of the wildlife the Range currently protects.

If a future Administration were to implement the transfer of federal lands to willing states, I just can’t imagine supporting the removal of the Tualatin River NWR from the Refuge System. My family and I, like so many community members, dedicated so much time and energy to getting that refuge established and open to the public so everyone can experience the wonders of nature.

So I am very thankful that one of the leading advocates for the creation of the Tualatin River NWR had the foresight to propose amending the bylaws and more importantly having discussions with the board, members, and the Refuge employees on the importance of supporting the refuge, its resources, and the entire Refuge System versus the Service organization. It was important for both parties to discuss what the term “Service” means.

That discussion at Tualatin about our mission enhanced the partnership between the Friends and Refuge employees. It affirmed our joint commitment to conserving and restoring habitat for the benefit of wildlife, the surrounding communities, and the nation. This affirmation recognized our common vision and acknowledged that both organizations could support the vision through different means. Friends and Refuge employees knew that based upon our shared vision we would work together and on those rare occasions when either party’s policy or action conflicted with the shared vision, Friends and the Service had the capacity to respectfully disagree.

I urge you – if you haven’t yet – to have this mission conversation with your Friends board. Ensure that you can always be a powerful voice for your refuge, your community, and for your National Wildlife Refuge System. Our voices supporting public lands is more important now than ever.