Roles of Respondents We asked respondents to give us a little bit of information about their Friends group and their role within the group. We realize that many of you play a lot of different roles in your group, so we tried to let everyone give us as much information as you wanted to about that. Over one third of our respondents identified as Board Members, although many of them also selected other ways that they are active with Friends.
Board Size Over half of respondents serve on boards with 6 to 10 members with the rest on boards that were bigger or smaller than that.
Size of Membership Almost a third of our respondents were from Friends groups with over 200 members and over a quarter were from groups with 101-200 members but well over a third of our survey-takers are in groups with fewer than 100 members or don’t have memberships for their group.
Age of Friends Organization Thirty-seven respondents came from groups that have been in existence more than 20 years while 10 came from groups less than 5 years old. We really love that diversity!
What else should we have asked about the people taking the survey and the Friends group(s) they are affiliated with? I wonder if we had respondents from any Fish Hatchery Friends groups. Were their survey-participants from community partners or groups that don’t have a Partnership Agreement with a refuge? How about people in groups that support programs like Friends of Duck Stamps or Friends of NCTC? There are so many ways that you all support the refuge and fisheries system, and we all know that no two Friends groups are alike. The more we learn about each other, the more support we can provide in making sure that each Friends group is strong, resilient, and accomplishing everything they can to support our fragile environment.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like it when I take part in a survey and then never hear anything about the survey results. So, for the 88 of you who generously gave your time to provide us with answers to our questions and for those of you who didn’t but would like to know what the respondents told us, here you go with the results of our recent Friends Webinar Survey.
I’m going for the focus of the survey first, specifically, what webinar topics seemed to be of most interest to the respondents of our survey. Look for information from other parts of the survey in coming blog posts.
We provided 11 general subjects that we thought might be of interest to Friends and asked them to rate their interest in each topic as High, Medium, Low, or No interest. Here’s what you told us:
The winning topic in both “High” plus “Medium” interest and with the most “High” interest votes was OUTREACH & COMMUNICATIONS. We need to dig deeper now and find out exactly what kinds of things you are interested in but be sure to check out our Webinar on June 9 at 2:00 Eastern, with Angie Horn the NWRA Southern California Regional Refuge Partnership Specialist and Angelina Yost, The FWS Urban Programs Coordinator. They will be telling us about successful ways of building community partnerships, no matter where your refuge is located. To register click here.
No surprise that the second most “High” plus “Medium” interest votes was FUNDRAISING, followed closely by GRANTS. We have one fundraising webinar planned for the near future and will continue to seek presenters and subjects related to these two high-demand topics for additional presentations in the future.
The last topic we will highlight was GOVERNANCE & LEADERSHIP. Again, this is such a broad topic that we will be looking for some guidance from you as to what aspects of governance and leadership you would like more information about.
A couple of the remaining topics are areas that we have already provided webinars on, specifically, ADVOCACY & LOBBYING and FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT.
The remaining topics were Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI), Organizational Planning, Technology, Volunteer Management, and Sales/Retail. While these topics did not receive as many “High” or “Medium” interest votes as the ones mentioned above, none of the suggested topics received fewer than 54% “High”/”Medium” votes. It looks like we have our work cut out for us. If you have ideas for a webinar in one of the categories listed or know of a Friends member/supporter who might be a good presenter on one of these topics, please reach out to Cheryl Hart or Joan Patterson. Thanks for your hel
Just 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
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.
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.
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.