The Link — Summer 2021 Newsletter

  • Post category:News
  • Reading time:5 mins read

The Link is a quarterly newsletter produced in coordination between the National Wildlife Refuge Association and Coalition of Refuge Friends & Advocates.


As we enter mid-summer, we are so excited to be focusing this edition of The Link on the sustainability of our organizations! At its very heart, sustainability is all about long-term planning—why does your organization exist and how are you going to accomplish your goals? 

The mission of the Refuge Association is to “protect, promote, and enhance America’s wildlife heritage through strategic programs that serve the System and wildlife beyond its boundaries.” In order to be a sustainable organization so that we can achieve that goal, we rely on fundraising from partners, major donors, grants, foundations, and corporate sponsors. This support allows us to hire expert, professional staff who understand the Refuge System, understand Friends groups and their importance to the Refuge System, and care deeply about the success of these programs and the sustainability of wildlife habitat and public lands. 

We hope you enjoy this edition of The Link and that it helps your Friends group as we continue to work together to build up all of our organizations so that we can support, defend, and protect our nation’s National Wildlife Refuge System.

Caroline Brouwer
National Wildlife Refuge Association
cbrouwer@refugeassociation.org


From the Editor

In mid-April on a beautiful spring day, our Friends of Sherburne NWR treasurer of 14 years passed away suddenly while doing volunteer gardening at a local hospice. Carol was both a Friend and friend, so those of us who had worked closely with her felt her loss keenly. To make matters worse, not only did she handle our Friends banking, prepare monthly financial statements, and manage our budget, but she also served as our Friends membership chair, manager of our member/donor database, organizer of our silent auctions, and willing volunteer for all kinds of other small, but essential, duties. Ironically, at a Zoom meeting just a few days before her death, we had joked that, when it came to Friends like Carol, we were truly vulnerable, or “truck-sensitive” as we termed it. That is, we had good-naturedly warned her to beware of any speeding trucks that might come her way. At least we had let her know how much we appreciated her, but that was small consolation when we learned of her passing.

Into the lurch stepped our immediate past president. After all, someone had to process deposits, pay bills, and handle essential correspondence; however, this could be only a temporary fix. We would need to recruit a qualified treasurer, continue work in progress to select and convert to a “constituent relationship management” (CRM) system, separate the membership duties from the financial work and recruit someone to take these on, etc., etc. The good news was that Carol’s work was up to date and her records were organized and complete. Related processes and procedures were documented and had been recently reviewed. It could’ve been worse. Today we can report that we have used our member network to recruit a new, highly qualified treasurer; we are about to commit to a CRM system provider; we have qualified board members who have agreed to convert and help to maintain our database; and we have other essential tasks covered, at least for the immediate future.  

Friends of Sherburne will survive our loss, but it has illustrated how vulnerable all Friends organizations may be, especially those with all-volunteer leadership and administrative management. With that in mind, for this issue we have invited three Friends organizations to tell us what they have done or are doing to attract, train, retain, and sustain effective leadership and otherwise maintain their organizations as challenges inevitably arise. Their hard work and persistence, combined with the support of their USFWS partners, Friends mentors, or consultants, enabled these Friends to survive and thrive. We invite you to read and be inspired by their stories. I think Carol would appreciate our adding this to her legacy. 

Sue Hix
Editor


Read About Sustaining Your Friends Organization And Its Leadership:

Other Features In This Issues:


Read All Of the Stories!


Credits

The Summer 2021 version of The Link has been a coordinated effort between the National Wildlife Refuge Association and Coalition of Refuge Friends & Advocates. 

To receive the next issue of The Link, complete the form at the bottom of this page https://www.refugeassociation.org/friends. And please add refugeassociation.org to the safe list for your email account.

You’re invited to join the CORFA Facebook group, a place to connect with other amazing members of the Friends community to share information, insights, and experiences concerning nonprofit governance, management, and advocacy. Go to  https://www.facebook.com/groups/coalitionofrefugefriends/ and request to join this private group.

  • Sue Hix (Editor) – Friends of Sherburne NWR
  • Joan Patterson (Co-editor)—Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates 
  • Caroline Brouwer—NWRA VP of Government Affairs 
  • Eden Taylor (designer)— NWRA Communications Associate 
  • Friends Editorial Staff: Cheryl Hart—NWRA Board, Board member of Friends of Tualatin River NWR 
  • Kathy Woodward—Former NWRA Board Member, Board member of Friends of Great Swamp NWR 
  • Jim Stone– NWRA Board, Board member of Friends of the Wichitas

Continue ReadingThe Link — Summer 2021 Newsletter

Survey about Webinars: What Else You Shared!

CORFA logo with a wordcloud

This is the third and final blog on what we learned from our recent survey about webinar topics. Thank you to the 88 people who responded to the survey and for all your thoughtful comments. CORFA is all about Friends helping Friends so if you see a topic listed that you or your Friends group has some experience and expertise with, please let us know at coalitionrefugefriends@gmail.com, we’d love your help.

The graphic above depicts some of the most common topics that Friends mentioned in the tell us more section of the survey. These topics are listed in order of the number of times they were mentioned. What we hear is the Friends are looking for information on:

  • Fundraising with specific requests for training on capital campaigns and bequests as well as virtual fundraising.
  • Board and Volunteer recruitment along with community outreach. The survey tells us that we have work to do to build the boards and organizations that represent our communities and reach out to all members of those communities and welcome them to our refuges/hatcheries.
  • Strengthening partnerships with the refuge was mentioned several times. One goal of our webinars is to provide opportunities to learn more about our partners’ program, don’t forget there are other resources as well. The FWS Friends Mentoring program is targeted at strengthening partnerships. The next round of applications for Mentoring is expected right after Labor Day and we will be doing a webinar on mentoring and the application process closer to that date.
  • Finance, earlier this year two webinars were presented. You can access the recordings of those and all the webinars we’ve presented in the Resource Center tab on this website.
  • Stores, online stores, and inventory were also mentioned. Are you aware that CORFA has a Facebook group for retail that is very responsive to questions. We have also talked about starting some informal discussion groups one of which could center around topics related to stores. We’re looking for volunteers to help with this effort.
  • Collaboration with other Friends groups, we don’t get together often enough at the regional or national level. We are cooking up some ideas for Friends gatherings—probably virtual for now.
  • And finally what time of day should the webinars be offered? People who work during the day are not able to attend live. We are at a loss as to when we could present the webinars so that everyone who wants to participate live, can do that. Our refuge and hatcheries Friends groups span 9 time zones and the International Dateline. If you have suggestions, let us know.

While we try to provide a wide range of training specific to Friends groups, again, we are not the only resource. Someone asked for training on wildlife and environment. Someone else was concerned about hunting on refuges. That is not in our wheelhouse but there are many workshops and trainings available through FWS’s National Conservation Training Center, most of which can be paid for by FWS scholarships. Talk to your Regional Friends Coordinator about training in the topics you are interested in.

We are searching for Friends groups with expertise in all of these topics. If you are interested in sharing your experiences and expertise please contact us at coalitionrefugefriends@gmail.com.

You gave us so much valuable information and we are trying to make good use of it to provide you with the training you want and need. Thank you!

Be sure to join the CORFA Facebook group and NWRA Friends contacts (E-Newsletter and Advocacy and Webinar invitations)

Continue ReadingSurvey about Webinars: What Else You Shared!

DID YOU TAKE PART IN THE CORFA/NWRA FRIENDS SURVEY?

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

Continue ReadingDID YOU TAKE PART IN THE CORFA/NWRA FRIENDS SURVEY?

Discussion of Document Collection & Friends Policy

  • Post category:USFWS Policies
  • Reading time:2 mins read
fog rising from a wetland

The National Wildlife Refuge Association and Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates hosted a discussion with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on the Federal Register notice about collecting information from Friends groups and updating of the Friends policy on January 5, 2021.

One component of updating the USFWS’ Friends Policy is ensuring that the USFWS has approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to collect information from Friends groups. While the updated policy will describe what information the USFWS may collect, this process ensures we have the approval to do so. The two processes are occurring simultaneously.

Obtaining OMB approval is a public process that requires input from those affected by the information collection. The proposed information collection was announced in a Federal Register notice and comments were accepted through January 8, 2021.

USFWS discussed:

  • Why the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval is needed,
  • What types of information collections are proposed,
  • The overall process,
  • How to comment on the proposal,
  • History of the Friends policy (how we got to where we are),
  • Broad changes addressed in the draft policy, and
  • How USFWS will distribute the draft policy and how to comment

Here is a recording of the webinar and supporting materials. 

We thank Linda Schnee, National Friends Coordinator and Maggie O’Connell, Branch Chief for Visitor Services of National Wildlife Refuge System for participating in the call.

Continue ReadingDiscussion of Document Collection & Friends Policy

Of Dollars and Cents: How to Manage the Finances of Friends Organizations

  • Post category:Management
  • Reading time:1 mins read
dollar and cent sign

As a Friend board member are you ready to protect your organization’s assets? Every member of the board has the fiduciary responsibility to treat the nonprofit organization’s assets and other resources with the same care with which they would treat their own resources. This is part of a board member’s legal Duty of Care.

Willem Stoeller’s webinar on financial management and record-keeping for Friends organizations, with annual revenues of less than $50,000, takes the mystery out of this subject. Below you will find the recording and supporting documents:

This is a must see presentation for every board member and we want to thank Willem and Keith Palevsky for creating it.

Continue ReadingOf Dollars and Cents: How to Manage the Finances of Friends Organizations