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BY DEB FERNS
There are two key words for this article: recruit and diversity — my version of R&D. Definitions of the word recruit include “to restore or increase the health, vigor, or intensity of,” and “to enlist new members.” One definition of the word diversity is “the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization.”
My personal opinion is that the majority of people involved in outdoor activities live fairly fast-paced lives. To actively go out and recruit people to go with you on an outdoor adventure takes time — and first you have to find a group that is willing to hear your offer! Add in potentially recruiting from groups with a background totally different than your norm and the workload increases but it is NOT insurmountable. If you’re reading this and shaking your head, thinking, “Just no time, not my thing,” know that that is a defense mechanism many of us share. As an experiment, stop shaking your head from side to side and instead take 30 seconds to think of civic or religious groups where you might offer to be a speaker on your topic of outdoor expertise.
I actively recruit inexperienced women to the gun range. As the co-founder of Babes with Bullets, women’s action shooting camps held across the United States, I’m asked to speak at a variety of events. Most of these events are for pro-gun groups, like Friends of the NRA, or programs at Cabela’s.
But I also seek out speaking opportunities at group events that might be a bit more anti-gun in nature and often those requests are granted, probably more out of curiosity than anything else. These groups aren’t quite sure what to think of a woman who shot a gun for the first time at age 45, has a master’s degree in business administration, plus a white collar career — someone who was basically a soccer mom for many years. During the first few minutes of our time together, I explain that fortunately I am not a product of some horrific event; rather, I’m determined not to believe everything I see on television or read in a newspaper or online. I don’t get into pro-gun versus anti-gun statistics (BORING) and instead I relate a personal story about my on-going education. The story is short; if I’m not educated about firearms or hunting or fishing, then how can I make a decision about whether it’s right for me?
I reiterate several times that any tool, whether it’s a car, a gun, or a golf club, for that matter, is a learned skill. You have to become educated about it because most likely you didn’t arrive here on Earth already equipped as Annie Oakley. Willingness to share your skill and to help educate people about the outdoors is part of the recruiting effort. Deliberately approaching groups of people who are from a different background than your own adds an element of diversity to your recruiting efforts. It all takes time but the outcome can be nothing short of startling.
For instance, in looking back at the 2,200-plus alum from Babes with Bullets, I saw areas of the country where women of color came to camp a few years ago. They went back to their hometowns, became NRA handgun instructors and the following year came back to our firearms training camp with four additional women of color. This group of women have sent additional women from a variety of ethnic backgrounds on to camp. The popular phrase of “build it and they will come” has merit to it!
I’m often asked why my recruiting efforts are strong even in non-gun environments. It comes down to being authentic in my passion for our Second Amendment rights. As a mom of two daughters, along with eight years of experience with our camps, I believe that American women from every walk of life can be empowered a bit more if they are properly introduced to firearms. I believe God gives each of us special blessings that we can share and I already know that being born a woman in America is one of those blessings.
Here is my challenge to you: Prepare a short bullet point presentation on your area of expertise and offer it at least twice this year to a different club or group. From your short interfacing with new groups and clubs, you will — over time (nothing happens instantly) — get new people to go outdoors with you. Can you make that one event special for someone new or different to your normal group? That’s how diversity begins; one new outdoor enthusiast at a time! ♦
—Deb Ferns is co-founder of the women’s action shooting camps, Babes with Bullets, held across the country. She also writes a column, “Outside My Comfort Zone,” and is the executive producer of the Babes with Bullets webisodes hosted at OutdoorChannel.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.