responsibilities, unique to the board, that are necessary to oversee the governance of the organization

FWS Friends Mentor Program, Fall Applications Process

owl flying
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Two times each year Friends groups along with their FWS Partners have an opportunity to apply for the FWS Friends Mentor Program. The Fall Application is now available. Applications will be accepted until October 31, 2022.

What is the Mentor Program? In many ways, it is just what you want/need it to be. Each mentoring relationship is different but, in a nutshell, Friends and their Refuge Management decide on the topics they would like to learn more about or have help with. That is part of the application. It could be training the board, planning a joint project, or, after this long Covid winter, a reboot to get your board and FWS staff excited about working together again, for example.

Once you have submitted the completed application it will be reviewed by the FWS Friends Coordinator, Linda Schnee, and the Regional Friends Coordinators. If your application is selected, you will be assigned a team of experienced and trained mentors, usually one FWS staff and one Friends Board/Staff person who will work with you on fleshing out an agenda, and then will come to your refuge to conduct a 2-day training.

At the end of that training, your group will identify a set of 3 or 4 objectives that you want to accomplish in the next year. Mentors then check in with you on a regular schedule to offer help, guidance, encouragement, and lots of cheers for the good work you are doing.

Sound like something that your group would benefit from? I’ve been on both sides of mentoring, as a Friends mentor and as a board member of a group being mentored and I can tell you from personal experience that this program provides a couple of skilled “consultants,” for a year, free-of-charge to your Friends group and your Refuge. So, what are you waiting for? Get that application going!

Continue ReadingFWS Friends Mentor Program, Fall Applications Process

Good to Great: Building an Effective and Sustainable Friends Board

By Mary Beth Volmer, Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands (WI). Reprint from The Link, Summer 2021

FOPPI members construct an Aldo Leopold bench. Plum and Pilot Islands are part of the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge (WI). Photo by Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands.

In his book Good to Great, author Jim Collins asks you to envision your organization—in our case, Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands (FOPPI)—as a bus. The size doesn’t truly matter. In this analogy, consider the Friends president as the bus driver with the seats filled by the board members. He emphasizes the need to fill the seats with the right people, don’t just fill them with anyone. Will these folks be ready to help push when the bus stalls? Will they provide ideas and inspiration when the bus isn’t running smoothly?

As president of FOPPI, I am overly proud to say that today my bus is filled with the right people who will push the bus through quicksand if they had to. That’s today … tomorrow may be different; folks get sick, they move, they lose their passion. The bus driver (aka me) needs to keep the bus moving — there’s wildlife that needs protecting, habitat that needs restoring, visitors that need to learn about our refuge.

Can I drive an empty bus? Yes, but that would be no fun. I need the camaraderie of others who share my same passion, who care about the refuge as much as I and want to see the light in a child’s eye when they tag their first butterfly or the smile on a woman’s face when she connects her hammer with a nail in our Women in Preservation program. The challenge is finding them, engaging them, and keeping them. We have board term limits, and many of our members renew their post for another three years; but they’re getting tired, and this poses a challenge. If any one of them left, I don’t have the bandwidth to take on what they are doing. We’ve been so busy doing what has needed to be done that we have missed the need to build up a reserve. We’ve been topping off the oil rather than changing it.

So we asked ourselves why, besides the opportunity to vote on key initiatives for our refuge, would someone want to join our board? Through the work that we did with the Friends Partnership Mentoring Program we identified what we felt we are doing right (bylaws, job descriptions, strong financials, etc.), brainstormed ideas, came up with still more questions, and fixed our sights on doing things differently. Following the 5-W strategy, here is a sample of what we came up with:

  • Who is a potential board member?
    • Folks who share our passion, those who volunteer regularly with us, and those who are interested in serving on a nonprofit board of directors.
  • What do we need to do to get a volunteer interested in becoming a board member?
    • Offer perks not available to volunteers, such as behind-the-scenes access and tours.
    • Introduce them to our ‘Volunteer Leader’ program—a role that is similar to a board member, less voting rights. Volunteer leaders are mentored by board members and encouraged to advance to a spot on the board.
  • When do we shamelessly begin our recruiting?
    • Now.
  • Where do we find these folks?
    • The LinkedIn social media platform partners with VolunteerMatch to match folks who are interested in serving on a nonprofit board. We turned the Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands into a business and asked our board and volunteer leaders to connect to it.
  • Why serve on our board of directors?
    • The rare opportunity to work with some of the most passionate folk you are ever to meet who share your interest in conservation, and in our case — historic preservation. 

I hope that these ideas get you thinking. Consider board sustainability akin to the preventive maintenance that you would perform on your bus. Don’t wait for the oil light to come on!

2022 Updates on Board Recruitment & Structure:

  • FOPPI didn’t receive any responses from our LinkedIn recruiting.
  • FOPPI DID fill two open positions using Facebook Jobs.
  • They also realized that they didn’t need as many seats on the bus. The reality is that folks are busy and attending meetings can be a challenge. So, they created ‘Volunteer Leader’ roles. These folks provide valuable input, lead discussions, but don’t vote.
  • The board members that have fiscal responsibility to FOPPI members and donors include: Treasurer, Historic Preservation, Fundraising, Governance, Merchandising.
Continue ReadingGood to Great: Building an Effective and Sustainable Friends Board

FWS Friends Mentor Program, Spring Applications Process

owl flying
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Two times each year Friends groups along with their FWS Partners have an opportunity to apply for the FWS Friends Mentor Program. The Spring Announcement and Application has just been posted. Applications will be accepted until March 31, 2022.

What is the Mentor Program? In many ways, it is just what you want/need it to be. Each mentoring relationship is different but, in a nutshell, Friends and their Refuge Management decide on the topics they would like to learn more about or have help with. That is part of the application. It could be training the board, planning a joint project, or, after this long Covid winter, a reboot to get your board and FWS staff excited about working together again, for example.

Once you have submitted the completed application it will be reviewed by the FWS Friends Coordinator, Linda Schnee, and the Regional Friends Coordinators. If your application is selected, you will be assigned a team of experienced and trained mentors, usually one FWS staff and one Friends Board/Staff person who will work with you on fleshing out an agenda, and then will come to your refuge to conduct a 2-day training.

At the end of that training, your group will identify a set of 3 or 4 objectives that you want to accomplish in the next year. Mentors then check in with you on a regular schedule to offer help, guidance, encouragement, and lots of cheers for the good work you are doing.

Sound like something that your group would benefit from? I’ve been on both sides of mentoring, as a Friends mentor and as a board member of a group being mentored and I can tell you from personal experience that this program provides a couple of skilled “consultants,” for a year, free-of-charge to your Friends group and your Refuge. So, what are you waiting for? Get that application going!

Continue ReadingFWS Friends Mentor Program, Spring Applications Process

Start Improving Your Cybersecurity To Safeguard Your Mission

hummingbird by purple flowers

The FBI reported a 69% increase in cybercrime in 2020. And the focus of cybercriminals has shifted to small and medium businesses, including nonprofits because they tend to have fewer resources available to implement safeguards and user training. Your small nonprofit can no longer hide behind a “we’re too small” defense.

Cybersecurity is an important component of the Duty of Care you have as a nonprofit to protect your assets and the information of those who support you. This webinar will update your current understanding of the cyber landscape and walk you through essential steps to begin securing your organization’s digital and electronic assets.

Inventory and planning tools will be included to help you with the process of establishing a plan and improving your organization’s defenses right away.

Presenter: Linda Kilgore, CORFA Board member, NTEN Certified Nonprofit Technology Professional, Retired Senior IT Analyst for the State of Oregon

Recording and supporting materials

Continue ReadingStart Improving Your Cybersecurity To Safeguard Your Mission

WHO RESPONDED TO THE CORFA WEBINAR SURVEY?

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.

pie chart showing number of board members

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.

Continue ReadingWHO RESPONDED TO THE CORFA WEBINAR SURVEY?