Market research shows that there are two main reasons people join a group or organization. One, someone who is already involved invites them, or, two, they want to give back to a cause that has directly affected them.
When I was a girl in elementary school, I joined the Girl Scouts because someone invited me. My childhood involvement in that organization contributed a great deal to the person I am today, helping me build skills, confidence and leadership ability. I joined again when my girls were little, this time as an adult volunteer to give back to the organization that nurtured me and to give my daughters and their friends some of the opportunities that my Girl Scout leaders gave me.
For my birthday this year, I am presenting myself with the gift of a lifetime membership. This time I join as an alumna. This time my contribution is primarily a financial contribution, rather than a time commitment. And what will my membership get me? Oh, they might send me a certificate. Maybe even a pin. But I didn't join to get something. I joined to support a cause I believe in: an organization that empowers girls and women to become leaders.
At Audubon, we've been having many conversations lately about the concept of membership, asking hard questions about what our members want, why they join, and distinguishing the difference between a National Audubon Society membership and a local membership in Friends of the Nature Center.
"There's a difference?" you ask. Why, yes, there is.
Your Friends of the Nature Center membership is much different from membership in National Audubon Society. Dues to National Audubon Society support their mission "to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the Earth's biological diversity."
Friend of the Nature Center membership dues supports our local mission "to connect people to nature and promote environmentally responsible practices through education" and specifically these local facilities and activities: two sanctuaries and a nature center building with exhibits, meeting space, a gift shop, educational animals; programs for all ages, schools and Scouts; research and conservation projects, a bi-monthly newsletter, free public access to 5-plus miles of hiking trails, and free public access to exhibits on Sundays from 1 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.
Both are noble missions supporting great organizations, but there is a huge difference in the results you personally see.
To encourage more people to consider a local membership, we have recently voted to reward our Friends of the Nature Center with benefits recognizing their local support. Beginning immediately, Friends at the levels of Individual ($40), Senior Individual ($25), and Senior Family ($35) enjoy: free building admission Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (winter hours vary), discounted pricing for programs and events, early-bird registration, and a 10 percent discount in the Nature Store and on facilities rentals.
In addition to all of the above, Friends at the Family ($50) membership level can enjoy day camp and birthday parties.
Bump it up to a premium level and you can enjoy all of the above, plus 15 percent discount on rentals for Sustaining ($100) and Contributing ($300) members, or 20 percent discount on rentals for Supporting ($500) and Benefactor ($1,000) members.
Nonprofit and governmental service agencies that use Audubon programs or facilities in furtherance of their missions are eligible to become Organizational Friends of the Nature Center for $125. Benefits to staff and agency participants include free admission to the building, Friends rates for public programs, and 15 percent discount on rentals.
Membership is not the only means of supporting an organization whose cause resonates with you. Your volunteer efforts and participation in programs is always appreciated.
If you are interested in joining one of our diverse volunteer teams be it buildings and grounds, gardens, office management, or education, please contact Katie Finch, a naturalist and volunteer coordinator.
If you are interested in taking a class, or attending a fun event, please stop by to pick up a newsletter, or visit our program listing online at jasprograms.wordpress.com. Some of the upcoming offerings include workshops in which you create beautiful items for yourself or to give as a gift. In the Silk Scarf Workshop, learn how to use leaves and other objects from nature along with special sun-sensitive paint to create wearable artwork.
On the day after Thanksgiving, learn how to make old things into new things in a workshop entitled "Don't Buy It; Make It!" The first Saturday in December is our annual Homemade Holidays event where you can learn to make your own wreaths and other decorations. Dec. 8 brings an interesting talk on the history of crochet and craft activism, followed by a workshop in which you can learn how to turn grocery bags into useful crocheted baskets and bags.
If you are more interested in getting outside and learning about the creatures that share this planet, consider Owl Day or one of our Hike with a Naturalist programs during the holiday break in December.
Space does not permit me to list every single opportunity you have to join us at Audubon, so please check out our newsletter and website. And do join us.
The Audubon Center & Sanctuary is located at 1600 Riverside Road, a quarter-mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown and Warren, Pa. The trails are open from dawn to dusk daily, and the building is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily except Sundays when we open at 1 p.m. You can learn more by visiting, calling 569-2345 or clicking jamestownaudubon.org.
Jennifer Schlick is program director at Jamestown Audubon.