Pep Talk

Pep Talk


4 May 2021


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


Wisconsin Spring is something to behold. A week ago, on the dog walk, the sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky, and the day had struggled to crest 50 degrees. I was defiantly wearing shorts and sandals (it’s the last week in April, for Cripes sake!). But my hands and feet were cold. The wind in my face still bit into my cheeks.

And then, suddenly, May. Over 80. The plants leap out of the ground, knowing they have – what? – maybe four months to do their thing. The bur oak we planted from acorn ten years ago added an inch of new growth in three days. The finches dance in front of the juniper shrubs.

And the bite in my cheeks is replaced by sweat on my brow.


Can you feel it? Where you are? There is another Spring in the air. Another warmth on the face. Another long winter turning a corner.

It’s time to leap, grow, dance, and sweat.

It’s time.


This is what I’m seeing:

  • Biden’s 30 by 30 proclamation is and will drive new levels of federal investment in land conservation.
  • People in every state have spent the last year learning to appreciate the opportunities they have to get outside. The parking lots for parks and natural area preserves are jammed.
  • The human tragedy related to climate change is being felt everywhere – fires, floods, hurricanes, drought. Well contamination. Low air quality. Climate change awareness has never been higher, and acceptance is not far behind. Many are motivated to do something.
  • Land trusts across the country are reporting record recruitment – more new members responding to appeals and finding them online than ever before. More people attending virtual events. More people asking what they can do.
  • Without being able to travel, many people have saved. Many have and are struggling, and I’m not insensitive to that. But those who have been fortunate enough to stay both employed and healthy have more disposable income than they have had in a while.
  • The markets are strong, inflation is low, and money is cheap. Can you say development pressure?


Put all this together and you can understand how a new wave of human migration has begun in earnest. When you can work from anywhere, why not work from someplace beautiful? Landowners are literally naming their price, properties stay on the market for ten minutes or so, and another one bites the dust all around us.

If there was ever a time to throw caution to the wind, now might be it.

Now is not a time for risk aversion.

Now is not a time for timid.

Now is a time for realizing that in the arc of history, there may not be another chance like this.

Now is a time for feeling the warmth.

Now is a time for getting to work and recruiting help.


What the hell is he talking about?

I’m talking about remembering that we are not limited by the amount of money available in our communities. Or by a lack of neighbors willing to help. We are limited by our own vision, by our ability to communicate that vision effectively, and by our willingness to invite people to help – to give.

I’m talking about getting outside ourselves – letting Nature heal and inspire and warm. It has been a long winter. And then getting back to work.

I’m talking about intensifying our landowner outreach everywhere. There are many who would rather see their land protected, but are facing and will face unprecedented pressure to sell to higher bidders. We need to be there in that ten minutes when their land is on the market.

I’m talking about raising our visibility by any and every means necessary. Social media – sure – but not only social media.

  • Double the number of newsletters you publish. Frequency is more important here than weight – make them smaller if you need to. Put newsletters in doctors’ offices and libraries and brochure racks.
  • Hand out window clings.
  • Talk to people in parking lots. Walk trails in “uniform.” Hand out brochures and smiles.
  • Mail to people who live within walking distance of a preserve, and then in concentric circles around that.
  • Host small events on the land.
  • Tell everyone that your mission is their mission. Tell them that their engagement is important. Tell them that Spring is here.


I’m talking about hiring fundraising staff, and landowner outreach staff, and communications staff, and volunteer coordination staff. I’m talking about recruiting volunteers too. Help everyone participate, engage, own. Think engagement and inclusion.

I’m talking about investing in planned giving.

I’m talking about prioritizing land acquisition over stewardship endowment.

I’m talking about acting – now. While it’s Spring.

While it’s still warm.


It’s time to leap, grow, dance, and sweat.

Can you feel it?


Cheers, and Have a great week!




PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.


PPS: It doesn’t fit in this pep talk post, but I want to at least acknowledge the passing of fundraising icon Simone Joyaux. She died last weekend of a massive stroke. She wrote Firing Lousy Board Members, among other books, and that probably tells you enough about her style and influence. All her books are easy to recommend. I would also point to her resources page, which is chock full of practical and inspiration writing. She will be missed by many. Hug your loved ones today. Life is short.


Photo by JHenning courtesy of Pixaby.



Share this!
  • David Lillard
    Posted at 13:48h, 04 May

    Thanks, David! And, sad news about Simone.

  • Carol Abrahamzon
    Posted at 09:36h, 04 May

    Wow, you got me jazzed up David!