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BY LISA BALLARD
OWAA is a special organization. Like other professional trade groups, we’re a collection of colleagues who go to conferences to network, gather information vital to our work and improve our craft. OWAA also provides us with this magazine, a website, webinars, the Excellence in Craft contest, Bodie McDowell scholarships, discounted goods and services from OWAA’s supporters, legal guidance and many other benefits to help us succeed as outdoor communicators.
But perhaps the greatest thing OWAA offers is friendship, something that is not so commonly found in other professional organizations with such a broad constituency as OWAA.
Our 800 members include magazine writers, newspaper reporters, photographers, videographers, radio broadcasters, artists, bloggers, educators, television hosts and public relations liaisons. I could fill this page listing all we do. And we do it in all 50 states and Canada. Some of us are urban dwellers. Others live in rural outposts.
We don’t cover the same things. Some of us are specialists in a particular outdoor sport. Others cover outdoor recreation in general. Some review gear. Others cover conservation issues and policy.
But we do share one thing in common. We all love the outdoors. Getting outside clears our heads and strengthens our souls. Shared adventures with our family and friends bind us together. It’s exercise, recreation and lifestyle all rolled into one. And it’s our livelihood. Lucky us.
In early January, your OWAA Board of Directors gathered at the ‘Tween Waters Inn and Resort in Captiva, Florida, for its winter meeting. It was the first time in years the board met in person rather than by video or telephone conference call for the winter meeting.
OWAA’s budget cannot bear the travel expenses of getting the board to a common location, so each member paid for their plane ticket and the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau generously arranged the rest. We could not have done it without Lee County’s assistance and the willingness of each board member to pay their own travel expenses, but it all worked out. Lucky us — and lucky you. The agenda for the winter board meeting was full beyond what we could have reasonably covered by conference call and a few topics were sensitive, making it important for us to speak in person where we could read nuanced facial expressions and body language.
Here are a few of the many topics on the agenda:
- A positive financial report showed OWAA in the black for 2015, and a balanced budget for 2016 with long overdue raises for OWAA’s staff.
- A successful fundraising effort in 2015, with an ongoing plan for regular annual contributions to OWAA’s restricted endowment. Though we didn’t make the full matching gift of $10,000, we still realized donations of more than $8,000, a welcome boost to operations. Thank you to everyone who participated.
- Tom Keer created new eye-catching member recruiting materials. He plans to create a similar brochure targeted at potential supporters in the near future. You can find it at https://owaa.org/file/individual-membership-brochure 2016.pdf. Please give it to your colleagues.
- The board supported two proposed bylaws changes. One is meant to bring the board nominating process more in line with our current member numbers, by reducing the number of candidates needed each year to run for the board. The other combines a couple of committees. You can read about them on page 15 and then vote on them in the election which opens April 1.
- A review of the Billings, Montana, conference program shows it is shaping up to be a spectacular line-up in an amazing location. Writer Tim Cahill, a founder of Outside magazine, will give the keynote address. Phil Bloom, the conference program chair, lined up impressive sessions and speakers, and the pre- and post-conference trips are going to be world-class bucket-list toppers.
- Bill Powell has been guiding us through protecting OWAA’s trademarks in light of an ongoing infringement case.
- Finding ways to improve the Excellence in Craft Contests and whether to create other contests is a never-ending discussion for the board.
I’m also happy to report that our executive director, Tom Sadler, signed a twoyear renewal agreement during the winter board meeting, giving OWAA stability at the top. Lucky OWAA. After we’d been sequestered for eight hours in the board meeting, the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau treated us to a day of “work,” kayaking in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and saltwater fishing. The board meeting was long, but the time passed quickly in the company of the thoughtful, enthusiastic people on the OWAA board, and then we got a taste of an ocean-side Eden.
Your board mirrors OWAA’s membership, both in terms of areas of expertise and geography. It includes an artist from Texas, a television producer from Idaho, a public affairs officer from Indiana, a photographer from Arizona, a radio host from Wyoming, a freelancer from Massachusetts, a newspaper staffer from Missouri and a magazine editor from Montana. These dedicated members are among the best in their fields and our colleagues. Lucky us.
They’re also my friends. Lucky me. ♦
— OWAA President Lisa Ballard, Densmore1@aol.com