Dear Friend as you are reading this, refuge staff are wrapping up their work under the current fiscal year (FY 2020) and beginning to implement their plans for this next year of work (FY 2021). Most visitor centers remain closed due to COVID-19, yet visitors are flocking to refuges to recreate, bird watch, hunt waterfowl, and get outside. Last year, over 59 million people visited wildlife refuges, and I’m sure that number is up dramatically due to the lockdowns.
As you are reading this, refuge staff are wrapping up their work under the current fiscal year (FY 2020) and beginning to implement their plans for this next year of work (FY 2021). Most visitor centers remain closed due to COVID-19, yet visitors are flocking to refuges to recreate, bird watch, hunt waterfowl, and get outside. Last year, over 59 million people visited wildlife refuges, and I’m sure that number is up dramatically due to the lockdowns.
Here in Washington, DC, Congress will be in recess the entire month of October to campaign in their states and districts before the election on November 3. Not only is this year a presidential election, but all members of Congress are on the ballot and 33 Senators are up for re-election. Please remember to get out and vote either by absentee/mail-in ballot or in person!
This year has seen some enormous successes for wildlife refuges. With your help, and the help of many partners, we got the Great American Outdoors Act passed. This act provides full and dedicated funding for land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund plus Refuge System backlog funding of $475 million over 5 years. This bill is one of the greatest conservation accomplishments in many years, and we appreciate all your help in getting it across the finish line!
Refuge Friends continue to be a critical part of the work we do. Last year, 56 Friends groups donated to the Refuge Association. As you know, a nonprofit is constantly fundraising, so we appreciate your support! We held our first quarterly Friends call on September 16 and are planning our second call in December 2020. Stayed tuned for a date and time! In February, we will be asking Friends groups to submit testimony to Congress on the state of their refuge—we need all of your voices to be heard!
I hope everyone is enjoying the fall weather!
Caroline Brouwer, Vice President of Government Affairs, National Wildlife Refuge Association
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of the Interior released their report on Wednesday, September 23rd, detailing the results of their investigation into the Friends program. The Refuge Association, CORFA, and Friends representatives have read the report, and we are developing a response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and DOI leadership. Because the deadline for The Link was so close, we will be sending out our response to the OIG separately. If you would like to read the OIG report, it can be found here.
Still Time to Make a Difference!
A donor contacts you and asks what plans and funding needs your Friends organization has for the year, considering the coronavirus restrictions. Judging from past gifts, you estimate that this donor has the capacity to give $2,000 - $3,000. Would you be prepared to review your plans for the year, select projects that would appeal to this donor, and present a list of options, along with cost estimates, within the next day or two? If not, you should be!
With nature stores closed, refuge events on hold, fundraisers cancelled, and some members probably unable to renew or make their usual year-end gifts, Friends across the country are wondering where they are going to get the funds to pay their ongoing bills, not to mention supporting projects at their field stations once restrictions begin to be lifted. Even those groups that are relatively unaffected at this point are concerned about the reliability of their usual funding sources as the pandemic continues. This issue of The Link will share ideas and resources that, we hope, will help you pivot, take a new direction if appropriate, and navigate safely through these unprecedented times.
And by the way, my Friends organization had a similar experience to the one related above. We heard from a donor offering support, we were ready, and we received a check. This could happen to you, too!
Budgeting—it’s not always a favorite task but is one that Friends boards are responsible to undertake on a regular basis. Creating a budget and regularly reviewing it allows members, donors, prospects, and grant-makers to review your strategic priorities and gauge the health of your organization.
Successful organizations, including refuge Friends, must be nimble and able to pivot should circumstances require them to adjust to new or unexpected circumstances. We are pleased to share some ideas that are allowing Friends to continue raising funds, pay their bills, and support refuge projects as the pandemic continues.