Each of the nine Conserving the Future implementation teams is working on concepts and products that will interest anyone concerned about the growth and health of the Refuge System. But none speaks more directly to Refuge Friends than the Community Partnerships team. Organized into five sub–teams, the team is beginning to work on:

  • An action–oriented strategic plan to increase the number and effectiveness of volunteers, Friends organizations and community partnerships. The plan will benefit from a survey of refuge managers that painted a picture of the challenges and strengths of current programs.

  • An expansive handbook to help managers give the support needed to grow and retain our cadre of volunteers and Friends. Incorporating information from such books as “Soaring to New Heights” and “A Guidebook for Working with Volunteers,” the handbook is outlined to cover almost anything you can conceptualize–from fundraising and communications to words of wisdom from other Friends groups.

  • Developing a single, “get involved” Web portal with more robust information about what the Refuge System offers so people can find just the right work to make a difference for conservation.

  • A super–charged Friends mentor program that will help with fundraising, capacity building and membership recruitment, but also offer emergency support when needed.

Over the past decades, the Refuge System has worked hard to support Friends organizations by offering a mini–grant program, handbooks, the annual Friends Academy and a National Friends Conference in 2002. We‘re proud of the help we‘ve given. But we know we can—and must—do more.

While the growth in the number of Friends organizations has leveled off at about 230, Refuge Friends are still the best ambassadors we have in hundreds of communities across the country. When we wrote recommendations 11 and 12 in Conserving the Future, we said that we have to do more.

Developing a more self–directed and self–perpetuating volunteer program is one step. Another is tapping into the generation of skilled and motivated people who are moving into retirement, people who have been lovingly called part of the “silver tsunami.” Who better to help us develop a school partnership than a retired teacher, we thought.

Those concepts are reflected in the Community Partnerships team‘s work plan. But the plan is not complete until you look at it. Follow the team‘s progress online at http://americaswildlife.org/. While you are online, join the social network, where draft products will be posted.

Conserving the Future embodies your ideas and passion. Its implementation is the path to our future.