Building Strong Volunteer Partner Organizations: A Success Story

With increased use of our public trails and limitations on agency resources, how can volunteer organizations be more responsive and effective partners? Join us to learn about a successful statewide effort in Colorado—the Colorado Outdoor Stewardship Coalition (COSC) -- that is laying the groundwork for advancing the state’s stewardship movement by building a stronger and more effective infrastructure of volunteer programs across the state.

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Event Details

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December 06, 2018

10:00 AM to 00:00 AM (Pacific Time) {more time zones}

11:00 AM to 01:00 AM (Mountain Time)
12:00 PM to 02:00 AM (Central Time)
01:00 PM to 03:00 AM (Eastern Time)

Cost (RECORDING):

$19 for members (Trail Professional level or higher)
$39 for nonmembers

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Note:

Closed Captioning is available for this webinar.
Learning Credits
are available for this webinar.

Webinar Partners

 

Webinar Outline

Webinar presenters, representing Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, Great Outdoors Colorado (a COSC funder) and the Bureau of Land Management will share their perspectives on why they invested time and money in building a sustainable stewardship framework for Colorado and the direct benefits they expect to see. The workshop will showcase several tangible tools developed as part of the COSC’s recent 18-month statewide stewardship initiative designed to strengthen volunteer organizational capacity and more effectively measure the impact of stewardship work across multiple and diverse trail and other outdoor volunteer organizations. These tools are readily adaptable to any trail type for volunteer organizations who are interested in building stronger organizational systems to strengthen and sustain their volunteer capacity. The Colorado Outdoor Stewardship Coalition (COSC), a collaboration of volunteer stewardship organizations and land managers, promotes stewardship of Colorado’s outdoors, elevating the awareness and engagement of the public in caring for the state’s outdoor spaces. Hosted by Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, the Coalition has been working since 2010 to document and promote the collective impact of outdoor volunteer stewardship.

Learning Objectives

  • Background on the Colorado Outdoor Stewardship Coalition and its focus on building statewide capacity.
  • Benefits of establishing a stewardship coalition and perspectives from a variety of stakeholders.
  • Lessons learned related to establishing and maintaining coalition-based work.
  • Tangible, replicable tools developed by the COSC to build volunteer stewardship capacity and quality on public lands.
  • Information related to current efforts to build a nationwide stewardship coalition to enhance our collective voice and ability to better steward the nation’s trails.

Presenters

Ann Baker Easley, Executive Director, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado

Ann Baker Easley has been the Executive Director of Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) since 2007. Ann, a Colorado native, helps thousands who share her love for the outdoors get involved in outdoor stewardship volunteer efforts across Colorado through VOC. Over the past 23 years, she has led numerous environmental, volunteer, and youth-development oriented nonprofit organizations, with a focus on strengthening their programs and helping them grow to new levels. During that time, she founded or helped start 7 different youth and civilian service corps programs, both in Colorado and nationally. Prior to VOC, she founded the Colorado Youth Corps Association where she served as its Executive Director for 11 years.

At VOC, she is focused on recruiting a new generation of outdoor volunteers and leaders, and expanding VOC’s programs to pioneer a new era of outdoor stewardship. Baker Easley presently serves on the Board of Directors of Conservation Legacy, is a member of the Colorado Non-Profit Association’s Leadership Advisory Committee and was recognized by the Denver Business Journal as one of Denver’s 2017 Thought Leaders. She graduated from Colorado State University with a dual major in Psychology and Social Work and earned a Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan.

 

Dean Winstanley, Director of Statewide Stewardship, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado

Dean Winstanley joined Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) as the Director of Statewide Stewardship in June 2013, bringing significant and relevant experience as a public land manager. He served as the Director of the Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation from 2007 through 2011. Dean currently oversees VOC’s 70 annual public volunteer stewardship projects around the state. Additionally he works to enhance collective statewide volunteer stewardship capacity and collaboration through his work with VOC’s Outdoor Stewardship Institute, field office program and leadership role with the Colorado Outdoor Stewardship Coalition.

Dean is a graduate of Colorado College and completed the Rocky Mountain Leadership Program through the University of Colorado-Denver’s Graduate School of Public Affairs. He has authored a best-selling travel book, The Colorado Guide, currently in its 6th edition.

 

Chris Yuan Farrell, Stewardship and Trails Senior Program Officer, Great Outdoors Colorado

Chris Yuan Farrell is the Stewardship and Trails Senior Program Officer for Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) where he works to preserve, enhance, and restore Colorado’s parks, open spaces, wildlife habitat, rivers, and trails. (GOCO, constitutionally-created in 1992, allocates and grants approximately $70 million in lottery proceeds annually to trails, stewardship and other state and local outdoor priorities). Chris’ decade-long involvement in conservation began as an undergraduate ecology major and researcher at Santa Clara University. As a landscape ecologist with The Nature Conservancy, he published several peer-reviewed articles on various conservation topics. He is a former Doris Duke Conservation Fellow and Colorado Open Lands Conservation Fellow and received a master’s degree in Environmental Management from Yale University.

Outside of the office, Chris is an avid mountain biker and serves on the board of directors of Groundwork Denver, working to improve Denver’s green spaces and promote the health and well-being of Coloradans.

 

Jack Placchi, Travel Management and Trails Coordinator for the Colorado State Office, Bureau of Land Management

Jack Placchi is the Travel Management and Trails Coordinator for the Colorado State Office of the Bureau of Land Management. Jack began his career in 1976 working for the US Forest Service on a number of forest districts in California and Colorado until 1997, serving in a variety of roles from wildland firefighter to recreation project manager. He then served as the statewide Off Highway Vehicle Program Manager for Colorado State Parks until 2002 when he began his current position with Bureau of Land Management. His career includes over 35 years of managing complicated dispersed recreation, trails, wilderness, volunteer, OHV, and travel management programs. He has collaborated with diverse user groups, agencies, organizations and local governments to plan and implement programs and projects locally and nationally.

 

Webinar Resources

Presenting organization website links:

BLM – Colorado: https://www.blm.gov/colorado

Great Outdoors Colorado: http://www.goco.org/

Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado: https://www.voc.org/

Presenters’ emails and contact information:

Ann Baker Easley – ; 303-715-1010; Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, 600 South Marion Parkway, Denver, CO 80209

Chris Yuan Farrell – ; 303-226-4511; Great Outdoors Colorado, 1900 Grant St Suite 725, Denver CO 80203

Jack Placchi – ; 303-239-3832; 2850 Youngfield St., Lakewood, CO 80215

Dean Winstanley – ; 303-715-1010; Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, 600 South Marion Parkway, Denver CO 80209

Great Outdoors Colorado stewardship grants:

http://www.goco.org/stewardship

Colorado Outdoor Stewardship Coalition (COSC) website and key COSC resources:

COSC website: https://www.voc.org/colorado-outdoor-stewardship-coalition

Annual Volunteer Impact Reports (2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014): https://www.voc.org/library#COSCpublicationsandreports

2014 Caring for Colorado Public Lands Report (Gap & Capacity): Executive Summary at http://www.voc.org/sites/default/files/attachments/Caring_for_CO_Lands_COSC_Executive_Summary_FINAL_0.pdf. Full report at http://www.voc.org/sites/default/files/attachments/Caring_for_CO_Lands_COSC_Final_Report_0.pdf.

Statewide Stewardship Initiative (SSI) tools website: http://www.outdoorstewardship.org/.

Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) Resources:

Stepping Up Stewardship: A Toolkit for Outdoor Volunteerism: https://www.voc.org/toolkit-outdoor-stewardship

Outdoor Stewardship Institute: https://www.voc.org/leadership-training

Other Colorado stewardship-related resources:

The Colorado Outdoor Partnership (CO-OP): https://copartnership.org/

The Colorado Outdoor Industry Office: https://choosecolorado.com/programs-initiatives/outdoor-recreation-industry-office/

The Colorado Tourism Office’s Voluntourism site: https://www.colorado.com/activities/voluntourism

Bicycle Colorado: www.bicyclecolorado.org

Colorado Canyons Association: www.coloradocanyonsassociation.org

Colorado Fourteeners Initiative: https://www.14ers.org/

Colorado Mountain Club: www.cmc.org

Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition: www.cohvco.org

Colorado Outfitters Association: www.coloradooutfitters.org

Colorado Parks and Wildlife: www.cpw.state.co.us

Colorado River Outfitters Association: www.croa.org

Colorado Youth Corps Association: www.cyca.org

Conservation Lands Foundation: www.conservationlands.org

International Mountain Bicycling Association: www.imba.com

Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers: http://rfov.org/

Rocky Mountain Field Institute: https://www.rmfi.org/

Stay The Trail: www.staythetrail.org

USDA Forest Service, Region 2: www.fs.usda.gov/r2

Wildland Restoration Volunteers: www.wlrv.org

Questions and Answers from Webinar

Marla asks: How is the Colorado Outdoor Stewardship Coalition set up and how is it funded? It seems to me it would be very difficult to sustain funding for such a collaboration.

ANSWER: For more information about the Colorado Outdoor Stewardship Coalition (COSC), be sure to review the resource links document that was provided after the webinar on December 6. The COSC, which has functioned since 2011, is a loose affiliation of organizations who were inspired to work collaboratively following a very successful statewide gathering of the stewardship community in fall 2010. In December 2010, the organizations that eventually continued to function as the COSC signed and delivered a letter to Colorado’s new Governor. This letter, called the Governor’s Stewardship Challenge, encouraged the governor to support mobilizing a million Coloradans to give back to our public lands through stewardship.

This core group of stakeholders continued to meet voluntarily, working for several years on research documents and a few legislative events to raise the awareness of Colorado’s stewardship needs. The COSC is not a 501c3 and does not yet have any bylaws. Members over the years have contributed staff time and some additional resources to enable work by the COSC to continue. For the first few years – 2011 through 2014, attempts were made to solicit voluntary contributions from organizations, based on their organizational budgets, but this was not very effective. COSC, using Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) as its fiscal agent, applied for and received a $100,000 grant to contract a research study which produced the 2014 Caring for Colorado’s Public Lands Report. COSC also received some private foundation funding and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) funds in 2014-15 for a facilitated series of meetings to determine strategies for the COSC to pursue. As covered in the webinar, more recently the COSC has received funds from Great Outdoors Colorado for the SSI Report in 2017-18 and for a COSC workplan through June 2019.

VOC is the lead organization with COSC and has dedicated significant uncompensated time and resources to the COSC. A small annual contribution from our federal partners – USFS and the BLM – has helped cover some of VOC’s costs.

Adequate, ongoing funding for COSC has continued to be challenging and has impacted decisions about what COSC’s ongoing role and structure could/should be to best help the advancement of stewardship in Colorado. We hope to have more clarity around this by next summer.

William asks: Regarding funding for the COSC, do you have any suggestions/lessons learned for others about the best way to fund such a collaborative?

ANSWER: See our answer above for information about what we have done to fund the COSC over the past 8 years. It has been easiest to pursue funding for collaborative efforts that have an immediate deliverable such as a report or study than it is to fund the administration of the collaborative that have real and impactful costs. Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado has provided these as in-kind, but we are not able to continue to do that at the scale required for sustainable COSC activities. We are interested to hear from others about successful strategies they have tried or have heard about!

Matthew asks: The Best Practices guide developed by the SSI and some of the other efforts you mentioned that seem to be trying to require a certain level of standards and compliance for organizations doing volunteer work. Can you talk more about some of the challenges you are/will be facing to “herd the cats”?

ANSWER: The COSC itself does not have any authority to require compliance with best practices or other standards. Ultimately, incentives for individuals and organizations to adopts new practices will need to come from land managers and other funders. The 2014 Caring for Colorado’s Public Lands Report found that land managers who worked with volunteers or who were considering working with volunteers wanted to see better training and demonstrated competence from the volunteers/OSOs. Funders like GOCO that are expressing interest in funding stewardship are also interested in seeing more uniformity and standardization of volunteer work – better information about the quality of volunteer organizations and projects they are investing in. So, intentional requirements by land managers and funders could help “herd the cats”.

Kay asks: Can you talk about some of the challenges that you have in getting organizations to join and collaborate in your Colorado COSC coalition?

ANSWER: Obviously, organizations need to understand how they can benefit from joining the COSC. In its first five operational years, we maintained and increased involvement largely because we identified TANGIBLE things that the coalition could produce including:

  1. 1. Annual Volunteer Impact Reports for 4 separate years;
  2. 2. Identifying gaps & capacity of outdoor stewardship organizations (OSOs) and land mangers through our 2014 Caring for Colorado Public Lands Report;
  3. 3. A series of annual legislative receptions;
  4. 4. Production of the GOCO-funded Statewide Stewardship Initiative Report;
  5. 5. Ongoing assistance to GOCO in its development of their Stewardship grant program.

All these discrete projects have helped keep the COSC participants thinking about the bigger picture, longer-term benefits that the coalition can provide for all stakeholders.

Anthony asks: Your descriptions of your efforts, as well as the tools you have developed, sound somewhat focused on non-governmental organizations. Is this true? If not, what are some of the reasons why this should be or is a priority for busy land managers?

ANSWER: There are many reasons. Overall, the efforts in Colorado to build our stewardship movement through leadership and skills training, as well as more on the ground stewardship work, have been supported as strongly by land managers as the non-governmental stakeholders. Key land managers at the federal, state and local levels have remained very active and engaged in our coalition work.

The Statewide Stewardship (SSI) Report that we completed earlier this year, developed several tools to intentionally help to build the OSO community. The key deliverables – OSO database and asset map, and the Best Practices Guide – will also benefit the land managers looking for qualifies OSOs in their region or who want to use the Best Practices guide internally to build their own “Friends” group or to share with an existing OSO partner who could benefit from the guide.

With just a few exceptions, at least in Colorado, land managers are seeing significant increased use of their lands at the same time they are being asked to manage these lands with fewer resources. Partnering with organizations with capable volunteer stewards (or building their own agency programs) is increasingly seen as a critical land mangement strategy.

For cash-strapped land managers, accomplishing priority work can be cost effective and a very effective way to engage the public to learn about and support their public lands.

Catherine asks: If you had to start again at ground zero, where would you start?

ANSWER: It’s hard to know what we may have done differently. Real change takes time and collaborative work is a difficult process even under the best circumstances. Form follows function and much of our work at this point is now related to how relevant and applicable the COSC’s efforts will be in moving the stewardship conversation and activities forward in a meaningful and useful way. We want to be cognizant of good process as we undertake these efforts and as such, we find ourselves in the place where we probably need to be. Still asking questions, still trying to figure out how best to work together, still committed to making a difference in the state of Colorado and its long-term stewardship of our public lands.

Ryan Chupa asks: How do you identify and prioritize projects to pursue with each volunteer base?

ANSWER: From VOC’s perspective, we work closely with our land management partners to identify a variety of projects that we can commit to taking on that meet our VOC objectives. These include everything from easy, accessible gardening projects with our city park partners, to multi-day technical trail construction & maintenance on our high peaks in partnership with the USFS. In the end, all the work we take on has been identified as high priority by our land mangement partners.

If you would like more information about how to plan volunteer projects, recruit volunteers or other successful volunteerism approaches, please go to VOC’s Stepping Up Stewardship online resources at: https://www.voc.org/toolkit-outdoor-stewardship.

Brett Feldman asks: Can you provide some context as to why you chuckled when you said you have a "lofty goal" of increasing diversity to your volunteer efforts?

ANSWER: Chris YF says…I only chuckled because we’ve been talking about this for many years and in earnest over the past three, with no real consensus as to how to pursue a meaningful strategy. We’re still working to diversify our own organizations, namely staff and board make-up, across a number of spectrums; going that next step to address volunteer diversity is something we need to approach head-on and with deliberate intention and much more concerted time and effort than we’ve been able to contribute to date.

Malin Clyde asks: Is the "Caring for Colorado Public Lands" report publicly available?

ANSWER: Yes. Both the full report and the Executive Summary of this 2014 report are available online at: Caring for Colorado's Public Lands Reports

Colorado has emerged a leader in citizen science (a lot happening at CSU). I wondered if citizen science groups are connected to any of your coalitions. It's volunteerism for the outdoors, but research rather than stewardship.

ANSWER: Speaking about the COSC, we have some members who are involved in citizen science activities, but they are mostly the land mangement agencies. We would like to involve more organizations with significant citizen science experience and expertise. If you have ideas of Colorado-based organizations we should be reaching out to, please share them with us.

Charles Ashby asks: What do you all do to keep the volunteers/stewards after you get them. We get a lot to come out for one or two times, but will not commit for any extended amount of time.

ANSWER: There are quite several strategies & techniques to help retain volunteers. I would suggest you start by looking at the various guides to help with volunteer engagement, available through the Stepping Up Stewardship Toolkit on VOC’s website.

Kathryn Gorman asks: How do you deal with volunteer paperwork and liability in a coalition? Do volunteers need to sign separate paperwork/waivers for each organization they work with? Or is there 'blanket' paperwork they can complete to work with any organization in the coalition?

ANSWER: The coalition hosted a risk assessment workshop a few years ago that was provided by an attorney who specializes in recreation liability. We have also continued to highlight the need for OSOs to really focus on risk mangement as an organizational priority. Risk assessment is one of the topics covered in the Best Practices Guide developed through the SSI Report and that can be found at http://www.outdoorstewardship.org/.

Marla Connelly asks: The logo/ego at the door hit home. We have recently (3 years ago) formed an alliance of non-profit/municipal groups to work together toward a common purpose (in theory). Partially, there is a fundamental difference of desired approaches to solve the primary problems. It's been rough but over the last few months, I think it may be entering its death. How have you addressed any ego/logo problems between groups? Any good examples that worked?

ANSWER: We would be rich, soaking up the sun on some beach, and not doing webinars if we had the answer to your question, Marla. Much lies in new models of leadership that encourage leading through influence versus power. Having self-awareness and cultivating our own reflective qualities is always helpful. We cannot do that, however, for others but modeling that behavior is a good place to start. It also helps to have clear and consistent purposes in the meetings so those involved can come prepared knowing they may need to give up something to gain more in other ways. Being able to listen to gain clarification and understanding is critical and basic ground rules when the group is operating can be useful to develop and then to hold others accountable. For example, we have tried to employ among ourselves the “ WAIT principle - “Why Am I Talking?” No matter what, it’s all good work and important to try even if we are not always successful. Good luck.

Closed Captioning

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American Trails is proud to be a certified provider of the following learning credits and continuing education opportunities:

  • American Institute of Certified Planners Continuing Maintenance (AICP CM)
  • Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System (LA CES PDH)
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Learning credits are included in the registration fee. Free webinars require a $15 fee for learning credits.

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