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NEGEF Trip Report - John Andrews
Worcester 7-9 November 2002

The NEGEF retreat was fully funded by New England Grassroots Environment Fund to improve its funded organizations, by providing training instead of money. NEGEF went all out to get some great workshop facilitators.

Andy Robinson, who writes books about and led a workshop on nonprofit fundraising, when drafted, suggested several philosophical changes to ETA’s annual appeal letter. He insisted that the envelopes be hand addressed and the letters include personal handwritten notes. And, about fundraising, And said, "Just ask. Don’t think about it; do it. Just ask."

Sheepscot River (Maine) Land Trust showed samples of Geographic Information System (GIS) output from their own 30-inch color plotter. Great stuff: shaded topo maps, mathematically generated areas overlaid with free Web-access pubic domain data. Why not ETA? SRLT recommended that ETA become familiar with the Wells Reserve’s Coastal Mosaic project. It’s a land trust project.

Terri Sweringen, our keynote speaker, told us about how as a young mother of 23 she decided to stop the world’s largest toxic waste incinerator being built in her Ohio neighborhood. While succeeding she learned passive resistance and while practicing was arrested with Marin Sheen. Terri ended her presentation with the following lesson:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a parable. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  – Calvin Coolidge

Other session included: fundraising, ebase, how to get elected to public office, and my favorite: Steve Dickson’s presentation on how to grow a volunteer membership and grow an organization. Why do people volunteer? 48% say because they were asked. What percent of the nation volunteer? 85%, donating an average 4.2 hours per week. Outreach techniques to grow volunteers/members: posters, media, talks to allied organizations, phone calls, personal visits, mailings, community meetings, and house meetings. When recruiting he told us to use the 80/20 rule. Listen 80% of the time. Volunteers are active members. It takes work, but most members can be grown into volunteers.

Steve, who supports 600 local river protection organizations, insisted that successful meetings require six active roles: facilitator, presenter, timekeeper, process observer, host, and note taker. Steve said, no meeting should last more than 90 minutes. With those roles filled, could ETA meetings end successfully at 8:30? Should we try?

I recommend any NEGEF workshop, anywhere, anytime.


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