Rally Reflections

Rally Reflections

The setting was terrific, the weather was gorgeous, and the sessions were consistently above-average. I’m talking about the Land Trust Alliance Rally, of course. This year, in Providence, Rhode Island.

How was your Rally? Did you come away energized? Overwhelmed? Poor?

I particularly enjoyed this year’s speaker – Andy Goodman. He spoke at length about the necessity of good story-telling, he talked about the elements of a good story, and he listed the six stories every land trust should be able to tell:

  • The nature of the challenge
  • How we got started
  • Emblematic successes
  • The values story
  • How we are striving to improve
  • Where we are going – Our Vision

Are you working on your stories?

If you’re like me, you probably got as much or more from the downtime as you did from the sessions. It serves as processing time as well as relationship-building time, and many people feel as I do that the downtime alone is worth the price of admission.

Coincidentally, Nonprofit With Balls blogger Vu makes the case for downtime (actually the case for Happy Hour, truth be told) in his weekly post this week. He lists three tangible benefits:

  • The “Strength of Weak Ties,” from Stanford professor Mark Granovetter, is the idea that our more novel ideas and concepts are nurtured not by our “strong ties,” meaning family and close friends, but rather from our “weak ties” – acquaintances, co-workers, and colleagues from land trusts across the country that we don’t normally see outside of Rally.
  • The Magic of Unforced Collaborations is the idea that some of our best collaborating is born from time we spend together with a beer and without an agenda.
  • The Urgency of Community is perhaps the easiest to feel at Rally, where we discover both the benefits and the enormous responsibilities that come along with belonging to a larger conservation community.

I’ve compared much of the Rally experience to drinking from a fire hose. A lot comes at you very fast in a compressed period of time. As a survival tool, I’ve suggested that you choose just 2 or 3 ideas that you can implement right away that will make a difference. Then take all your notes, papers, handouts, and so on from the sessions you attended and put them in a file and hide them away. Focus on just the 2 or 3 ideas that you pulled out for the next few months.

Then, make an appointment with yourself – preferably out of the office and away from the telephone – for maybe next March or April. Take the Rally file out. Reread all your notes and relive all the impressions and “weak tie” events. Pull out another 2 or 3 ideas that will make a difference, and get to work again.

But bring this idea of downtime or Happy Hour back with you as well. Spend some time each week, without an agenda with your coworkers, your board members, your donors, your volunteers, and even your peers from other organizations.

Me? I’m going back to work on my stories.

See you at Happy Hour,



Photo credit: Hannah Stonehouse Hudson.

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