Over the last year, Maine Audubon’s Board and leadership has been reflecting on how we can build a more sizable and durable network of wildlife conservationists. We cannot attain our vision unless we engage a far greater number of people in our mission. To develop a clearer idea of how we might solicit broader support, we conducted a statewide web survey that included Maine Audubon members as well as the general public.
One key finding was that we haven’t been effective in building awareness of our work among non-members. The difference in awareness was dramatic—a factor of nearly seven to one. We cannot now assume most Mainers even know enough about our work to decide whether they agree with our mission.
To prevent “preaching to the choir” we realize we need to reach a larger audience and engage a broader cross section of Maine’s community. The survey demonstrated that diversification of our membership is a key element for increasing our reach to the 99.6 percent of Maine’s population that are not Maine Audubon members. While both members and nonmembers expressed enthusiasm for participation in outdoor activities, Maine Audubon members are more likely to self-identify as birders, by a factor of three to one. We must sustain that strong tie, but in order to build a more sizable and durable community of people for wildlife, we must also reach out more effectively to people who appreciate wildlife in other ways.
And the issue of wildlife conservation and climate change offers particular engagement challenges, according to the survey. While 82 percent of members prioritized programs addressing climate change impacts on wildlife, only 42 percent of non-members agreed. Unfortunately, this finding is consistent with the broader picture of the environmental movement. Many people feel climate change is a problem on a scale too large to address with practical measures.
From action alerts that mobilize advocates to Stream Smart workshops that empower people to improve local habitat, Maine Audubon can engage people in addressing specific threats at a scale they can understand. These programs are proven winners, but won’t do the job unless they reach a much larger audience. I’d welcome suggestions as to how Maine Audubon can do that. Send me an email and tell me what you think.
Charles Gauvin started at Maine Audubon in 2014. Gauvin brings more than 25 years of experience in conservation leadership, much of it as the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited, the nation’s leading river and fish conservation organization.Gauvin most recently served as Chief Development Officer at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC. He collaborated with Carnegie scholars worldwide to develop program strategies and support in the United States, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Asia and South Asia.