Conference Call Minutes April 18, 2018

  • Conference Call Minutes April 18, 2018

  • Mary Lynne Beckley

    Member
    May 16, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    The coalition of southern urban forestry councils met via conference call on Thursday, April 18, 2018 at 10:00 AM EST with Mary Lynne Beckley, GUFC, as lead at the beginning. Jill Smith, TUFC, became lead when Mary Lynne left to attend a memorial service for an industry leader. Present on the call were urban forest council representatives from Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, Virginia, Kentucky and Northern Kentucky. Minutes of conference calls are posted on the Southern Urban Forestry Council page on AmericanGrove.org. If you are not a member, go to AmericanGrove.org, click on “sign up” and enter your e-mail address and password. Click on State Groves at the top of the page and go to page 3 of the list to find an icon for councils. Click on “Join Us!” Once you join, you can see the minutes. Mary Lynne thanked USFS for funding AmericanGrove.org.

     

    Paid Staff vs. Volunteers, Use of InternsVirginia has a volunteer board and one paid staff member, paid by hourly wage under contract, to work 18-22 hours a week with tasks mainly involving the website and bookkeeping. Georgia has a hands-on volunteer board with one full-time staff member and a contract bookkeeper who works once a month for a few hours. Tennessee has one staff member, whose hours range from part- to full-time as needed. An accountant handles their filings and payroll. The Board is getting more active. Getting an intern was explored, but there is concern that this would gobble up staff time, so it has not been pursued further. Texas has an all-volunteer board with no staff members, employees or interns. Their treasurer handles filings. Arkansas has an active board and one staff member, whose hours range from part-time to nearly full-time as needed. Kentucky has an advisory board with no paid staff. Northern Kentucky is non-profit and have gone through several staff members in the past. One full-time paid staff member worked for two years and one part-time staff member worked for one year. Both staff members were different types of people, and neither was a good fit for the council. Northern Kentucky is a volunteer organization that aspires to keep up its goals. It has been reorganized and is developing a Board of Directors, using the membership as a voting body to appoint board members. They want to keep up momentum through the reconstruction, part of which involves a larger annual conference, and take on paid membership and new programs. Hiring staff would mean administrative overhead. They want to stay on point with a strategic plan. Various councils’ websites have been reviewed, and it appears all have similar goals in general.

    Tennessee pays its Executive Director an hourly wage, which is paid for by memberships and conferences. They have arboreta certification for sponsors and conference members. Money has been lost each year and expenses had to be pulled from savings. There are occasional grant funds where they can reinvent themselves. Staff was hired as Secretary, but as responsibilities increased, the job title became Executive Director. The job was never reposted. Jill offered to share a list of her job duties. Duties have not been updated to include duties such as managing the newsletter and website, since she wrote it last fall. Arkansas and Northern Kentucky asked her to send a copy. Northern Kentucky had a contract for staff, but it was a failed attempt. The contract enabled them to close the positions.

    Tennessee said AmeriCorps VISTA has a one-year position. Since the Executive Director’s hours fluctuate, it could be a lot to manage to keep the person busy. Kentucky said it is familiar with VISTA. The success of the intern depends on the individual. Many of them are straight out of college or a grad program and have limited experience. There have been two VISTAs – one hit the ground running and was older and more experienced. VISTA could be an option depending on the pool of candidates. Northern Kentucky said overseeing Vista would take time to bring the person up to speed and be a point person. Tennessee mentioned possibly sharing the Vista with State Forestry to learn and support both programs.

    The Importance of a Good Website – examples of council websitesNorthern Kentucky reviewed other councils’ websites to get ideas on how to improve their flow. They do not have a person dedicated to spending time on the website. The Northern Kentucky platform is easy to use, and multiple people can be authorized to use it – http://www.nkyurbanforestry.org/. Tennessee said with WordPress, each person can have their own account. Their Executive Director, President and web host have access. It is easy to learn. Texas uses Squarespace. They have two websites, one of which was hosted by a company that no longer exists. The current one is   http://www.txufc.org, a one-page website their president was able to build in one day with templates, using drag and drop graphics and text, which immediately gave it a professional look. There is not a lot of programming, and it looks new and clean. Tennessee’s website, http://www.tufc.com, underwent a huge, two-month-long reconstruction last winter and now has over 40 pages for better resources. It upped their professionalism and helped people to connect with who they are and what they are doing. Kentucky is an urban forestry advisory board and cannot have a website. Arkansas reconstructed their website over a year ago – http://www.arkansastrees.org. Kentucky does not use Facebook; their advisory board serves to provide urban forestry input to the state. There is no regular grant program any more, and they are not very active. Kentucky is made up of different groups, and each has its own website. The advisory board comes together on state forest issues and collaboration.

    Programs attached to websiteArkansas uses Eventbrite, which they connect with a link to their website for event registrations, with 90% of attendees registering online. Membership fees can also be paid through the website. Tennessee uses http://www.regonline.com, which charges the council $4 fee per person plus 2-1/2% registration fees. Eventbrite fees are similar. Tennessee has recently added at the bottom of their website a no-fee program from http://www.rewardvolunteers.coop, which is used by volunteers to record their hours by logging in. It is posted on the website under Educational Programs/Connection. They also keep the link on the newsletter and Facebook. A monthly report is generated to them, and there is a log-in portal on the website where tracking is provided. Volunteers record their hours within seven days. There is a drawing every month for a $2500 give-away to non-profits, and individual prizes are award to volunteers. Creating an account is very easy, and the log-in portal is easy to use. Events can also be posted there. Tennessee plans to buy Microsoft Office through Techsoup – check out http://www.techsoup.org where partners pay for free/reduced software for non-profits. Arkansas pays $100/month for web hosting. Tennessee pays $77/month. Texas pays $300/year for hosting through GoDaddy and Squarespace, and support is provided. You can sell merchandise, blog, and/or post a calendar of events. More can be added than what is currently on the website. Another website their president set up on Squarespace is http://www.retreet.org/ . Northern Kentucky has a handful of administrators who post on Facebook, which is linked to their website. They post almost daily. If you have trusted partners, you can make them editors, not administrators. It creates more traffic, and you can always take away editorship. No one is using Twitter or Instagram. Tennessee has a past president in Extension who posts in addition to herself.  It is hard to come up with content that is appropriate.

    NewslettersArkansas provides quarterly e-newsletters quarterly to members, mayors targeted for Tree Cities and those who request them, as well as posts them to their website. The few members who do not have email addresses are mailed a newsletter. Tennessee’s monthly newsletter is an e-newsletter only, which is sent to about 1700 people and posted to the website. MailChimp is used for distribution, which gives feedback on how many recipients open it. The industry standard is 15%, and theirs is 20-30%. MailChimp also gives them reports. The Executive Director took her laptop to ISA Southern conference, where people could enter their email addresses to sign up to receive the e-newsletter. They use the free version of MailChimp, which allows sending to up to 2,000 addresses without fee.

    Impact of Calls – Conference calls are held on the third Wednesday of every other month, which would be June 20, August 15, October 17, and December 19 at 10:00 AM EST. Mary Lynne will send an email to request topics. When topics are decided upon, a volunteer will be needed to facilitate the next call.

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