Time to Get Outside!

Time to Get Outside!


22 June 2021


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


For several years running, I had the great privilege of helping raise money for Nature Conservancy projects on the Door County Peninsula. We would meet people a small county airport (Cherryland Airport), load them up in a van, and take them on a series of adventures that included a hike of several miles with a local naturalist and a pontoon boat ride up a fresh water estuary looking for the eagle’s nest.

We would stay overnight at a resort that was comfortable while not flashy, enjoy great drinks and food (and tiramisu to die for!), and talk about the day when the entire shoreline from here to there on a map would be under some form of protection. A big vision needing big money support.

And then, about 10:00 the next morning, we would end up back at the Cherryland airport with just enough time left for me to wash and gas up the van, replenish the coolers, and pick up the next group at noon.

Each time I did the trip, I learned a little bit more, understood a little bit more, internalized a little bit more, and I still have a great affinity for those natural spaces. Even today, I could probably tug on the forest moss to show how they were all connected, identify the browse line as a sign that there were too many deer, and explain that the ghostly pale Indian Pipe needs no chlorophyll because it survives by borrowing nutrients from certain fungi, trees, and decaying plant matter.

Each time I did the trip I “owned” the projects a little bit more. I was changing my perspective from third person to first.

And that’s enormously helpful for fundraising.


*   *   *   *   *

It’s time for my annual reminder that you guys need to get outside.

Is there a project you haven’t seen, a trail you haven’t hiked, or a river calling to you to bring your kayak?

Now’s the time – GO!

In the thirty-plus years I’ve been fundraising for conservation projects all over the country, I’ve had dozens of memorable experiences. I could tell you about the bat cave in Texas and the crane migration moving through central Nebraska. I could tell you about fiddler crabs in Florida, and the eleven different species of eagles I saw in Africa. Cathedral forests in Oregon and fully formed streams running out of the rock in west Texas.

Each trip, each experience, each step along the way, I learned a little bit more. Some of it I have remembered in vivid detail and some has faded away. But each place and each wonder has become “mine” in some interesting and important way.

By going there, and by looking and learning, these theoretical third-person narratives became first-person testimonials. Instead of “I learned about,” it has become “I saw, I heard, I smelled, I felt, and when I was there.”

Whether you are an Executive Director, another staff member with fundraising responsibilities, or a Board member, giving yourself permission to make these stories personal by visiting the sites for which you need to raise money will help you a lot. You will become more effective when you talk about them. It will help you imagine taking donors there – so they can “own” them, too.


And it will keep you motivated.


And if you are a Board member, I have a special challenge for you. Ask a staff land steward or local naturalist to take you on a tour of one of the preserves your organization is protecting and show you the conservation values there. Go on an organized field trip if there is one. Then, within four weeks, LEAD a similar field trip to the same location. Knowing you will be leading one will help you listen the first time with a different level of attention and remember different things about the site.

Note that the people going with you on the second trip could be anyone – friends, family, neighbors, work colleagues. The point is to practice, and your trip will have value regardless who comes along. And encourage your fellow Board members to do the same.


The point is – GO!

Now’s the time. Find your story. (Hint: This is the fun part!)

Get these projects out of your head and into your heart.

And if you supervise others, give them permission also. Give everyone the afternoon off one day and show them one of the lesser-known projects. (You get extra points if you take a Board member with you!)


Change their perspectives from third to first-person, too.

It will keep your entire team motivated.


And that’s enormously helpful for fundraising, too.


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.



Photo by World Wildlife courtesy of Stocksnap.io.



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1 Comment
  • Heidi Habeger
    Posted at 09:45h, 22 June

    Great suggestions as always, David! We were just out on the land with 3 of our new board members and had a great walk. I’m going to have our board president share this with the gang and encourage them to take your advice… Heidi