31 Oct Getting Your Money’s Worth from Rally
I returned yesterday from the Land Trust Alliance’s Annual “Rally” Conference in Denver. It was easily one of the two or three best Rally’s I’ve attended. The venue was terrific. The workshops were engaging and increasingly inclusive of difficult topics such as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and Gender Bias. And Denver turned out its glorious best weather for us.
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation Vice President Anita O’Gara and I conducted a four-hour seminar on Annual Giving strategies that drew a sold-out audience, and I reprised my Development Committee Makeover workshop from last year’s Rally.
For both the seminar and the workshop, I asked participants to indicate whether this was their first Rally by a simple show of hands. In both cases, easily more than half and probably more like three-quarters raised their hands. Many of these participants had also recently taken their current positions. That, combined with the number of open Executive Director and Director of Development positions I learned about over the three days was a reminder that the succession of land trust staff and Board members is an on-going and necessary part of the perpetuity equation.
To everyone who is new to this dynamic national land trust family, I say Welcome! It’s good to have you here. And I offer the following bits and pieces for your first few years of service and your first Rally experience.
- Don’t underestimate the land trust learning curve. I was on staff for a year or so before I truly felt comfortable that I knew how the land conservation business really worked. Board members will have a learning curve that might take even longer.
- Know that you have friends. When you sign up for service as a land trust Board member or staff, you join a conservation family that numbers in the thousands, if not tens of thousands. I’m convinced there is a land conservation gene that will be isolated at some point in the near future – hitch-hiker’s thumb, black hair, land trust. This means that somewhere, someone has asked the same question you are asking. And they will be happy to share their experience with you.
- Take advantage of the systems set up to help. Land Trust Alliance has an on-line Learning Center to which you, as an active land trust Board or staff member, will have completely free access once you set up a user account. The Learning Center includes several topical user groups that operate like listserves for those seeking advice and those providing it.
The University of Indiana manages a listserve for land trusts. Subscribing to it is free and easy. Much of the information is technical, but it’s interesting and easily filtered.
In addition to Rally, many states and several regions host conferences with workshops and seminars designed with information sharing and capacity learning in mind.
- Get the most out of Rally (as well as state conference experiences). Here’s what I tell every first-time Rally attendee:
- Go to the sessions that interest you. Collect the information packets and take copious notes.
- Gather cards from those you meet and note on the card how you met them. This includes the instructors!
- Find one (1), or possibly two, things you can take back from the conference and implement right away. Focus on those few things and let the rest go (for now).
- Stuff all the rest of the information into a folder and put the folder away in the file cabinet. Forget about it (for now).
- Make a formal appointment with yourself for next April. Two or three hours should be enough – go treat yourself to a cup of designer coffee. Use that time to comb through the folder with fresh perspective. You are looking for another one (1), or possibly two, things you can implement right away.
- Finally, remember that some of the more lasting learning moments happen in the corridors and over meals, and not in the classrooms.
Rally next year is in Pittsburgh, and it will be in Raleigh in 2019. Make your plans now to attend.
Please add to these lists. If you have comments about your Rally experience, if you have advice for people new to their Board or staff positions, or if you have advice about how to get your money’s worth from a conference, please share it here.
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