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February 2020

As I start my third and final year as your club’s president, I want to focus on something I believe is important to our future.  In my first, and subsequent, message to the board I discussed how they need to identify and develop their successors.   This is better than leaving their position unfilled after one to three years and expecting the Nominating Committee to find a replacement.

Ideally, a Stewardship Committee should be formed composed of former presidents and leaders.  Among their charges would include oversight of the board and an opportunity to guide the club’s direction. Additionally, the Nominating Committee would be part of this committee to review, interview and propose a slate of directors.  Needless to say, we are a long way from being in this situation.

In order to get to this position, we need to engage more members in all levels of club operations.   Each position should have a couple of members, so the work doesn’t become too onerous and provides a ready replacement.  This includes more Section Overseers, Hike Leaders and committee members. 

Most importantly, board members need to engage committee members rather than do the work themselves.  In my case this is clearly “do as I say and not as I do”.  My personal goal is to delegate things that I do to others.

By spreading out workloads the quality of our work increases, and the club gets stronger with more members engaged.  This still allows for those who have the time and inclination to tackle larger projects.  With more members involved at all levels some will rise up, so leadership positions will be filled more naturally.

I have been involved with a few nonprofit organizations and what seems typical is that most members are not that involved with the administration.  My observation is that about 5 to 8% actually assume leadership positions.  In GATC the levels are higher, but projects are not spread as widely as they should.

Upon reflection, and a discussion with former club president Shelley Rose, it occurs to me that we need to first focus on “foundational” matters to keep the club strong and prepare for the future.  If the objective is to involve more members with club operations, then we need to organize the operations for more participants.

We have to address the issue of workload distribution.  The threat of having to spend hundreds of hours on a volunteer job can be off putting to some. Or, it can be attractive to others.  This calls for an alignment of job functions into “bite” size chunks.  When jobs are broken down theoretically more people will get involved.  Then the director/chair just coordinates.

The Membership Committee is responsible for “processing” new members.  I think their duties should include a mentorship where existing members would be assigned to new members to help them navigate the requirements and find a place in the club.  In this same vein members would be groomed for committees and leadership.  With a resource for matching people the committees will fill up with active participants.

I believe there are probably several hundred people who live between metro Atlanta and the border that should be members of the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club.  I think we need to increase the awareness of the club to the general public.  My sense is that most new members find us rather than us finding them.  We could grow membership through increased awareness of the club.

It’s interesting that there are over 6,000 Appalachian Trail license plates in Georgia.  This contributed $60,000.00 last year in grants and should be more this year.  I can’t help but think that many of those people would like to support our club more directly.  We could start a “Friends of GATC” group, so people could support our work through donations.

A marketing plan could be developed to make people aware of how important the work we do is and how to participate.  This could include tabling at events and stores.  Media exposure would be good, perhaps getting a newspaper article on one of our projects.  Social media is probably the most important means to expand.

I also think that we can improve the way we do some things using technology.  We are starting to use online sign up for the monthly workday.  This greatly simplifies what the leader has to do because the registration fills a spreadsheet with all relevant information making it easier to organize and communicate.

I’m excited to work with a new board this year.  There are four new members, which is great.  I am looking forward to getting things done to keep the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club as one of the finest hiking/trail clubs in the world!

See y’all on the trail real soon.