I mentioned last week that Site Visits are one of the best parts of the year, but regional meetings come in a close second (if not tying for first). As a Regional Coordinator, I hold regional meetings at least once a month to share resources with the VMCs I support, give them a chance to reconnect with each other, and hear more about their challenges and successes. Regional meetings are a great place for the VMCs to bounce ideas off of each other and learn more about professional development and social issues topics. At my regional meeting yesterday (graciously hosted by VM partner, the Banneker-Douglass Museum), we talked about effective goal setting, came up with some goals for the coming year (yes, it is almost 2011), and learned more about the issues facing the Chesapeake Bay. The goals we came up with ranged from applying to graduate school to taking up biking to reengaging in meditation. Sharing these goals with the group will hopefully make them easier to keep; after all, being accountable to seven people is much different than being accountable to just yourself. If you’re one of those people whose New Year’s Resolutions last all the way to 12:01 am, January 1, try sharing them with the friends you ring in the New Year with; they may hold you accountable for those resolutions and, hopefully, will help you towards actually keeping them.
The goals activity we did was a bit of a look back at the beginning of the VM year, when our new AmeriCorps members are asked to write down three goals for professional development, three goals for learning about social issues, and three goals for personal development. Looking through the goals of the VMCs I support, I found that a number of them wanted to learn more about environmental issues, so I structured the second half of the meeting around that idea. I found some great videos from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Bay on the Brink which I shared with the group and we followed that with a discussion of the Bay and the challenges a VMC (or volunteer coordinator in general) might face at an environmental site. The snow falling outside the Banneker-Douglass Museum really helped bring home the fact that winter is a tough time for environmental sites. Although environmental issues don’t go away in the winter, they often fall by the wayside due to the lack of volunteer-friendly, outdoor environmental activities and the prevalence of human needs issues during the harsh winter months. Despite these challenges, the VMCs I work with shared some ways their organizations keep volunteers and community members engaged in environmental issues. One such way is through lecture series: the Annapolis Maritime Museum’s Maritime Lecture Series will start Thursday, January 13, 2011 with a talk on the maritime history of Maryland; the Phillips Wharf Environmental Center’s Winter Wednesday Lecture Series will start January 12, 2011 with a talk on oyster nurturing and restoring the Bay’s oyster fisheries; and Quiet Waters Park will begin a lecture series in March, though dates aren’t set, keep checking their website for details!
Do you work at an environmental nonprofit? How do you keep your audience engaged during the winter? Please share!