Fieldnotes from the DD… Organic growth, or Jerry McGuire joins the Sierra Club

Bob Sommer-4webBy Bob Sommer, Chapter Director of Development

A lot of changes are underway right now in the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club.  Planet Kansas will soon be coming out in a new format.  The Chapter is tackling an ever-widening set of challenges to keep our state’s environment healthy.  And yes, I’m new too.  Or at least I’m taking on a new challenge as the Kansas Chapter’s Director of Development.

But I’m hardly new to the Club or the Chapter.  I served for four years on the Chapter’s ExCom and was also privileged to serve as its Political Chair.  Along with a dedicated Political Committee we slogged our way through two daunting elections.

I’ve also had a seat on the Kanza Group’s ExCom for over five years and served as the Kanza Group Chair for the past two-and-a-half years.  I’ve made many new friends among Club members, not only all over the state, but around the country too.  I’ve been to rallies, gone on outings, attended countless meetings, and if there’s such a thing as more than countless, dialed into even more conference calls.

Traditionally the Development Director’s role in the Chapter has been to raise money.  That’s always a challenge, and with so many issues and activities to undertake, there’s never going to be enough money.

Right now, your Chapter is underwriting grants for Kansas educators who teach climate science; it’s helping minority residents in our cities make their homes energy efficient.  It was a major sponsor of the Occupy Koch Town rallies to bring attention to the threat of tar-sands oil delivered by the Keystone XL pipeline.  The Kansas Chapter has recently engaged in state and federal court cases to prevent another coal plant from being built and to preserve our wetlands.  The Chapter is continually challenging business leaders and legislators who believe burning ever-more fossil fuels is the only way to achieve economic growth.

The list goes on.  There’s much to do.

While our budgets have grown, the need always outpaces income—and I don’t have to tell you how well funded fossil-fuel supporters are.
But to meet these challenges I believe we need a different model of growth than our opponents.  We’re not a business.  We’re a club.
As environmentalists, perhaps we should model our future success on the natural world.

Perhaps we should develop a model of organic growth.

A virtuous cycle that spirals ever outward, growing and widening just as rain forests and glaciers once did, just as our universe does.
Organic growth means more than simply trying to increase donations to the Chapter and Groups.

Quite simply it means more activism.  It means invigorating our members to take on leadership roles.  It means more gatherings, more interaction, more events, more personal contact between leaders and members, more participation throughout the state.

The Kansas Chapter is 4,500 members strong.  If more of our members get active with planning meetings, going on outings, attending conferences, participating in committees, everything else will follow.  Their friends and families will join.  If we build it, the fundraising part will come.

Think of this as a sort of Jerry McGuire approach—instead of show me the money, right now I’d say, “Show me the members!”

“Field Notes from the DD…” will be a regular feature of the new Planet Kansas.  To reach Bob, email or call 816-898-1100.

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