Birder's Guide

MAY 2015

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 14 of 35

13 May 2015 | Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community 3 Invest in Your Website and Social Media, and Use Lots of Photos One of the hardest parts of launching an organization has been building aware- ness and effective communication. We've invested many hours in making our web- site informative and easy to navigate. Our primary communication tool has been a monthly eNewsletter to roughly 1,000 email addresses. Facebook and Twitter also help us spread the word. Whenever pos- sible, we submit our feld trip schedules to various free online event listings offered by media outlets. Following every feld trip, we post photos and a trip report on our website and Facebook page; we then send a web link to the participating families. Whenever possible, our trip photos fea- ture the faces of engaged and enthusiastic young birders and parents—not the backs of their heads! 4 Develop Partnerships Most state ornithological societies, local bird clubs, conservation educators, and na- ture centers are eager to work with young birders. They will welcome your offer to co-sponsor young birder feld trips. It's important to be fexible to ft into exist- ing event calendars, but your partner or- ganizations will help you spread the word with their networks. Some organizations will consider providing fnancial sponsor- ship of your programs if you can defne the need and speak to the potential outcomes. Parents frequently mention how much fun their children have interacting with peers grandparents, and friends. Although we require adult accompaniment on feld trips only for young birders under age 12, it's rare that adults don't join in the fun. We haven't calculated the miles driven by parents to and from our feld trips, but one of our trips to northeast Iowa (on a cold and snowy November weekend) included four families, each of whom drove more than 200 miles round-trip to take part! While we try to make our feld activities fun and valuable for young birders, our communications, online registration, and scheduling need to be parent-friendly. Parents sign up on the website and drive their young bird- ers to our meeting points. Without their interest and dedication, our feld trips wouldn't be possible. So far, 27 different volunteers have ded- icated time and enthusiasm as trip lead- ers for Iowa Young Birders; one volunteer has been on 13 feld trips. We select our volunteer leaders primarily for their abil- ity to encourage and connect with young birders. Our board established a policy at its frst meeting requiring a state criminal background check for every volunteer. Every frst-time volunteer receives an Iowa Young Birders hat and as much rec- ognition and thanks as we can offer. Our volunteers tell us how much they enjoy spending time with and mentoring these future birders! And our parents mention how much they appreciate having strong role models and encouragement for their young birders. ciety, Audubon group, nature center, or other bird-related organization. This ap- proach can take advantage of existing re- sources such as staffng, visibility, mailing lists and websites, volunteers, and even non-proft tax-exempt status. Ultimately, we chose to create an independent non- proft organization, which helped us fo- cus entirely on the needs and interests of young birders. This model also lets us seek charitable gifts and grants with a fo- cus on youth education. • What age group are you targeting? Many young birder organizations target ages 12–18 because it's easier to develop pro- gramming for a narrower age group; this was our initial plan. However, during the frst meeting of our board of direc- tors, several board members asked me how set we were on this age range be- cause they were hoping to bring younger grandchildren on feld trips. Lowering our age group to 8 years and up turned out to be the right choice for Iowa Young Birders. As mentioned above, our aver- age age on feld trips has been 10.5, and half of our participants have been under that initial target of age 12. After three years, we see a group of emerging teen- age young leaders here in Iowa. One of our strategic goals is to include them in planning our future programming. 2 Pay Attention to Parents and to Your Volunteers Any discussion of young birders must acknowledge the vital role of parents, Getting a case of "warbler neck" during Iowa/Illinois Young Birder Weekend at Mississippi Palisades State Park, Illinois, in June 2014. Photo © Tim Frakes The author steadies a scope during a feld trip to Squaw Creek County Park, Iowa, in July 2013. Photo © Linda Bendorf

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