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The rare ability to move supporters up their pyramid
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The rare ability to move supporters up their pyramid

It’s all about designing diverse engagement pathways. In 2017 rare wanted to shake things up and see if they could gain more support in their community. “We started by experimenting with spending a summer canvassing door-to-door, asking people in the Waterloo Region and Wellington County to sign a pledge supporting a grassroots effort to protect land in the region” said Laura Klein, the Gosling Engagement Coordinator at rare. The pledge did not ask for any financial contribution or to become a member, it simply asked for a name, street address and email address to sign showing support for rare as a growing land trust. This pledge was the first step that helped to develop a new engagement pathway for the group to gain support in the community. It was critical to keep these new supporters engaged – so they continued to experiment by sending out a hard copy mailing to them that included a bucket list of fun activities to do with rare, including taking a hike on one of the properties, visiting their eagle statue, and participating in an event with a free enclosed voucher. No one responded to this, or used the free event voucher. However, they knew they had almost 1,500 new names and email addresses collected from the pledge, and could still reach these people in other ways.  So the question was, if they were to simply continue to asking these people to volunteer, come for a hike, donate, and attend events – would there still be a missing engagement pathway where they lost people? rare needed to make sure we were cultivating these new supporters in a way that sparked an interest for them specifically and the lack of response to the mailing showed that maybe they needed a lower-bar ask to start off their journey with rare. [caption id="attachment_48020" align="aligncenter" width="683"] Photo by TJarvis[/caption] So, they decided to start trying out more e-campaigns as this was less resource intensive for both rare and the new supporters. This provided the chance to offer opportunities to pledge signers and other supporters receiving the emails to do something good with relative ease, making it a good first step. It was as simple as clicking a button. They took it a step further to ensure it was enticing for these new supporters to donate by offering hard copy greeting cards in exchange for a $10 donation. After doing this, they started to see new donors rolling in, so decided to build on this and as part of their year end campaign offered the opportunity to symbolically adopt a species at rare, and again had an exciting return. Out of all of their online donors, 32% were brand new donors, which is unprecedented! This shows the power of what can happen when you give people the opportunity to contribute in a way that works for them. It was a perfect way to encourage taking a step up the ladder or moving up the pyramid. Buying a greeting card and giving a gift is something that people do regularly, but this pathway allowed it to happen and still be important to rare. They now have a group of new donors that they are looking forward to continuing to cultivate the relationship with using the 5 principles of engagement organizing to move them up their pyramid.

Strengthening the Nature Network at the BC Nature Fall Meet
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Strengthening the Nature Network at the BC Nature Fall Meet

This Fall, members of Nature Canada staff traveled to the West Coast of Canada to meet with nature groups based out of British Columbia that were attending BC Nature’s Fall Meet in Kelowna. The intent of this trip was to strengthen the relationships between Nature Canada and the Nature Network partners, and enabled our Nature Network staff to learn more about Kelowna’s natural history and witness the wilderness and wildlife that these groups are working to protect. It is difficult to single out one experience, interaction or moment as the highlight of this trip. There is incredible value to building and strengthening relationships in person that enable Canada to create a network, and join our voices to speak up for protection of nature from coast, to coast, to coast.   During BC Nature’s Fall Meeting, there were presentations touching upon a variety of topics, highlighting the important work being done to protect the natural spaces in and surrounding Kelowna. This work is crucial to preserving biodiversity and protecting wildlife and wilderness of British Columbia. The importance of this work became tangible during a field trip to Black Mountain/sntsk’il’ntən Regional Park which is home to deer, black bears and coyotes, among other species. This outdoor excursion was lead by the Central Okanagan Naturalists Club, and provided a view of world-renowned, and iconic Canadian landscape, Okanagan Lake. The Nature Network’s goal is to strengthen nature groups across the country through support and increasing their public engagement, and the day following the BC Fall Meeting, they were able to do just that. Teagan, the Nature Network organizer responsible overseeing BC groups, and Nature Network Director Matt Price, held a workshop for 25 BC Nature groups on Engagement Organizing. This workshop aimed to provide insight into best practices for merging traditional campaign practices with modern technologies, and to ease the natural transition between the old and new methods of engagement. The workshop introduced engagement organizing, touched upon building your club’s “pyramid”, presented various recruitment tactics such as social media, and finished with details on how to deepen engagement within your club. This workshop provided important engagement organizing information, but it was especially valuable to create a space for discussion and sharing among the groups. Of the experience, Christina and John Saremba from Burke Mountain Naturalists in Coquitlam BC said that;

We found The Engaging Organizations workshop to be interactive and engaging. The workshop provided us with a practical framework for enhancing the growth and building the succession of volunteers. Moreover, we gained valuable insights to how non-profit naturalist groups can improve engagement from the community and within our organization. We highly recommend this workshop to other non-profit groups.

NatureKids BC Harnesses the Power of Volunteers
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NatureKids BC Harnesses the Power of Volunteers

How do you pull off nature programming in a couple dozen cities on a modest budget? You harness the power of volunteer leaders. NatureKids BC has blazed a trail by flipping the script. Most organizations use volunteers to support staff, but NatureKids BC uses staff to support volunteers. “They are the bread and butter of what we do. They are what make things happen,” says Christina Chowaniec, who works with volunteer leaders at NatureKids BC.   The organization runs nature programming for kids and their families via its local clubs, numbering about 25 around BC. Each club is led by a pair of volunteer leaders, usually parents of younger kids. The clubs put on “explorer days” for families where they visit local nature areas and do fun activities together, sometimes with the help of local naturalists. Club leaders have a lot of responsibility, and also a lot of autonomy. “They get to run things as they see fit,” says Christina. They are given an email account, a nature club manual, promotional materials, insurance coverage for events, and some assistance for events and regular check ins, but the rest is up to them. They recruit local participants and stage the events. Christina likes to give orientations to new leaders over Skype so that they can see one another face to face. Club leaders also have their own Facebook group where they share best practices, and the organization puts on a couple of webinars each year to train on things like photography – how to capture great pictures of events. Each club is supposed to have two volunteer leaders to share the responsibility and also to ensure some continuity over time. Leaders do leave, particularly if they are parents and their kids are ageing out, and Nature Kids BC does ask them to recruit their own replacements if at all possible. It’s not all smooth sailing all the time. Leader recruitment and retention is an ongoing challenge, and moving into towns without clubs can be difficult if leaders aren’t emerging organically. So far, word of mouth has been the biggest way that new leaders enter the picture. Overall, NatureKids BC is a great success story of an organization putting volunteer leaders front and centre in the delivery of its mission.

Creating A Nature Network: From Coast, to Coast, to Coast
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Creating A Nature Network: From Coast, to Coast, to Coast

Canada is famous for its incredible natural landscapes and the multitude of wild species that call it home. From coast to coast to coast, our country boasts millions of plant and animal species that are admired by Canadians in all provinces and territories, and attracts nature lovers from around the world. Unfortunately, nature in Canada is under threat. Over 50 percent of wildlife species are in decline, and the health of our iconic landscapes is no better. To help protect our natural environments and wildlife species, we need to foster our passion, and unite our voices for what we all have in common, nature in Canada. Blue Jay Photo by Bill McMullen. At Nature Canada, we are excited to launch our newest program, the Nature Network. This program intends to create a network that unites nature organizations from across the country while also providing the necessary support to these organizations with their public engagement work. In creating this network, we intend to reinforce the incredible work that nature groups across the country are already doing every day. By creating a network of organizations that are able to successfully engage the public the nature community will be able to create impactful and lasting change for wildlife areas, and species, in Canada. We have created a toolkit for nature groups to support their engagement practices as well as a small grants fund (by invitation) for those groups related to Important Bird Areas. The complimentary tools available include a guide to engagement organizing practices, a quarterly e-newsletter featuring stories of nature groups trying various engagement tactics, webinars, and in-depth coaching. This program aims to unite advocates to defend important areas and species, and will be spearheaded by Nature Canada’s two Nature Network Organizers, Hannah Dean and Teagan Yaremchuk.

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