Time to Get Outside!

Time to Get Outside!


4 June 2024


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


There’s a spot in Nebraska on the Platte River where a large percentage of the continent’s sandhill cranes gather (stopover) every March on their migratory way from the Gulf of Mexico to their northern breeding grounds. If you creep into a blind before sunrise, you can see upwards of 75,000 individuals within your field of vision. They chatter and squawk about how tired they are and how their feet hurt and where the best fields might be to fatten up again for the final push in the next few weeks. And then shortly before sunrise, they leave – all of them – suddenly, with great flapping and a confused roar of wings, beaks, and skinny legs.

There’s a spot in Wisconsin, about a mile off the road, where an easy walk into the forest will take you to a small glade. And there, about this time of year, you can find delicate pale-white wildflowers poking up through the leaf litter. Emily Dickenson called the Ghost Plant or Indian Pipe her “preferred flower of life.”

There’s an island in Scotland that you can get to only at low tide, and even then only by wading.

There’s a waterfall in Georgia …

There’s a cave in central Texas …

There’s a lake high up in the Cascade Mountain Range in Oregon …


There are two things to know about each of these spots: Each of them is protected. And each of them is mine. They are embedded in my heart, and I carry them wherever I go.

Each was in my head, too, at some point – theoretical, intellectual. The same way I know that there are pyramids in Egypt.

And now having read this, they are in your heads, too. (Stephen King calls this telepathy. A thought or an experience is in a writer’s head, and it moves, sometimes over vast distances and time, and reappears in a reader’s head. I love that thought.)

But my places are not in your heart, yet. You don’t own them like I do. You can only own them by being there.


*   *   *   *   *

It’s time for my annual reminder that you guys need to get outside. If national statistics still apply to fundraisers, many of you – maybe even most of you – will be reading this within your first several years on the job. And if you are a Board member, consider that this should be part of your orientation.

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

Think about this: you understand conservation easement monitoring, right? At least intellectually? This summer, make it a point to tag along on a monitoring visit with a land steward. So that you understand conservation easements in a different way – in your heart. Own them.

Make your plans now. 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. 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 – embedded in my heart.

By going there, and by looking and learning, these theoretical third-person “head” narratives became first-person “heart” 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.


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.

If you supervise others, give them permission. 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.


Getting yourself outside is enormously helpful for fundraising.

My son once told me that he wanted to share something with me because it helped make it real for him. I knew immediately what he meant.

You need to do the same thing and for the same reason. And then you can do it for donors.


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: Every year about this time, I write about how Board members and fundraisers need to give themselves permission to get outside. Most of this post was originally published last year – and the year before that. And next year, too.


PPPS: There’s a canyon on the Metolius River in central Oregon, beyond the reach of cell and internet service, where the aerial conflicts between the osprey and the bald eagles over territory and food are spectacular and legendary. That’s where I was this weekend, instead of composing an original blog post. (The fish were biting, too.)


Photo by Travis Brown courtesy Pixabay



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  • Becky Abel
    Posted at 17:55h, 06 June Reply

    This is a wonderful post, and you SHOULD re-post it every year.

  • Bob
    Posted at 09:34h, 04 June Reply

    As a lawyer, I’ve handled at least 50 protected land acquisitions and am cursed by focusing on paper, reams and reams of paper. In all these years, I’ve only gone to one parcel, and there I was unable find the access to the basement.

    (Andy, the acquisition guy, found it under the linoleum in the kitchen.)

    But walking and hiking on protected lands — ah, that is pure joy. And an almost every day activity. Two miles worth of Central Park today. 🙂

    Since becoming a trustee at the The Land Conservancy, I’ll make it a practice to follow Carol’s example in future.

  • Carol Abrahamzon
    Posted at 07:55h, 04 June Reply

    Every year I take part in the monitoring training and request to monitor a CE property of one of our major donors or bequesters. Getting out on their land with them is invaluable!

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