By Nancy Bedell, Education Chair, November 20, 2017
As a local chapter of Wild Ones I think we sometimes forget that we are members of a national organization of over 4,000 members , 51 chapters in 13 states with its home office in the state where the organization originated in 1979 in Wisconsin thirty eight years ago. I was pleased to attend the national annual meeting last August with my husband, Alan in southern Wisconsin. I am presenting this short report to update you on national’s situation.
With pride our local chapter represents a primarily volunteer organization with few full time staff whose national office is located in northeast Appleton Wisconsin on a beautiful site offering varied landscapes to explore. Our national staff and volunteer board members provide leadership to Wild Ones chapters, provide liability insurance for all members during meetings and hikes, directors’ insurance for board members, manage a nationwide school grant program which awarded $4,900 in grants last year and a national name, Wild Ones. which is becoming more recognized and respected. Wild Ones’ mission is: “We lead the natural landscaping movement as we explore, teach and change the practice of gardening in our communities and around the country to using native plants.”
The past year has been one of financial difficulties for national. The long-time leadership had problems managing the finances and took a large loan which it became increasingly impossible to repay. The board last year required pulling back in many areas: reducing dues reimbursement to chapters for half of 2016 and all of 2017, cutting office staff and office expenses, cost-sharing with members who now pay shipping and handing on products from national, charging redit card expenses to customers and raising the membership fee $3 from $37 to $40. The outcome has been that the $34,000 remaining debt to a local Foundation will be repaid in the next year and the remainder forgiven.
National leadership has prioritized emphasizing member needs going forward, which includes improving the website, which our chapter uses as our provider, reducing local expenses. A local IT firm will support national office software and membership database and have the membership database rewritten to improve our public website needs. A permanent executive director search is underway, replacing the acting executive director, Pam Wilcox, who has provided substantial assistance this year in three ways: she kept “the lights on.” she provided input into improving our finances and provided us with a realistic staff proposal of 2.5 staff, consisting of an executive director, a membership and IT person and one half time support staff person.
National has designed a new national brochure, although we have designed and use our own local one, and a new rain garden brochure which we can print at our expense. The treasurer of the board has spent countless hours rethinking our budget process and categories to conform with the IRS 1099 form required for our national annual tax report. Thus some budget categories have been changed again. Elaine Krizenesky has been hired as the membership and IT staffer. She attended the annual meeting and although newly hired had already gotten well up-to-speed and enthused about our organization and our mission. The other two staff positions have yet to be filled.
Wild Ones’ local chapters are extremely autonomous, allowing us to pursue such unusual projects our River City Wild Ones’s public gardens’ repurposed to natives, projects no other chapter attempts. We believe our Native Plant and Education Garden on Cherry St., Marywood Prairie on E. Fulton on the Dominican Sisters site, Roselle Park garden in Ada Township and library and township gardens, provide educational opportunities for our community to see natives in public spaces, appreciate the pollinators they attract, and help visitors to choose native plants for their own yards.
Join us to keep these impressive gardens beautiful and changing. Sign up for a committee to work with us on education, fundraising, communications , gardens or programs next year. We can be proud of our chapter’s many accomplishments in our ten years as a Wild Ones chapter as well as the accomplishments national has supported and allowed us to pursue. Your membership and involvement will insure our chapter continues strong into the future.
This is a very short report on how national impacts our local chapter. You will find much more detail in our Wild Ones ”Journal” from national which arrives to members by email quarterly, or on the national website: wildones.org.