Bloggers and students and membership, oh my!

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Recently, I spent a couple hours attending a Missoula Nonprofit Network presentation about fundraising for nonprofits in the new economy. Of the many inspiring and motivational ideas gleaned, what struck me dead in the heart was a comment made by a student attendee during a discussion about raising awareness of community nonprofits’ political and economic impact. The group started to talk about raising awareness via the media. Making a blanket statement on behalf of the next generation — those just coming out of college and younger — he said, “We don’t need the media, we are the media.”
Part of OWAA’s mission statement is to foster the next generation of outdoor communicators. So how do we do that when many young people think they don’t need traditional media to spread their message? How do we then welcome them into our organization as members?
I believe part of the sentiment expressed by the young man at the meeting was in response to the popularity of blogs, the availability of everyday citizens to post videos and reports on services like Vimeo and YouTube, and even contribute iReports to news outlets like CNN. The manner in which people have been receiving and sharing information throughout the past decade has morphed considerably from the time when Tom Brokaw told you all you needed to know on the nightly news. Information is coming our way from more sources than ever before.
OWAA’s Board of Directors will take a close look at how to incorporate bloggers into the fold of OWAA membership during their upcoming meeting at the July 2011 OWAA Annual Conference. Matt Miller has been given the charge as committee chair to investigate and formulate draft criteria for the inclusion of this group of communicators. We want to make sure bloggers who are included as members are professionals, not your fly-by-nighters who opened a Blogger account last night and clacked out an essay about their latest hike. Many of our members already maintain blogs — either as a side project in addition to freelancing, or as part of their day jobs at organizations and newspapers. It’s a natural progression to start recognizing some of the excellent writing and photography contributed to the world of outdoor communications by way of blogs. We can’t ignore the fact that some of these blogs attract an impressive following.
But simply including bloggers into our membership criteria is not enough to get the next generation interested in OWAA. At the winter board meeting, Jason Jenkins introduced an idea that has taken shape this spring: to start college student chapters of OWAA at universities around the country. To show the next generation, while they’re still in college, the value of professional association. The benefits that come from not embracing the “go-it-alone” attitude and building those personal relationships that come with membership in organizations like OWAA and the list of other local and regional groups. The first meeting of the inaugural OWAA college student chapter at the University of Missouri was held on April 21. See Jenkin’s report on page 8.
If you have input on how to test the waters to make sure a blogger is a professional, please share those ideas with us. Or if you’re interested in getting a student chapter going at your local university or alma mater, please let us know that too and we’ll help you along the way. And don’t forget to come to Salt Lake City and share your ideas and input at the membership meeting on Sunday, July 10.♦
— Robin Giner, OWAA Executive Director

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