MWGO  Board Meeting

September 15, 2008


Kevin Slater, Bo Norris, Gary Roberts, Bryan Courtois, Greg Shute, George Libby, Ted Rodman, Cathy Johnson, Mac Davis, David Butler (via conference call)

The meeting convened at 8:30 a.m.

Grant Proposal Update

Bo reported that the Cox Foundation, whose financial support got us off the ground, would not be receptive to our grant proposal for funding an executive director.  We are in the same position as a lot of small non-profits, and they are on a 9 year plan to invest the funds they have, which means they are  more interested in “big bets vs. small ones.”  Bo felt that the rejection by Cox suggests that we might have to rethink the executive director route, but that in the meantime we should put out the three proposals now on the table and then reconsider where we are in strategic planning , depending on how the proposals fare. We might need to show foundations that we will raise a certain amount of funding ourselves before hiring a director. Bo will take comments on the proposal drafts through the middle of next week.

Action Items:

Board members should study the draft proposal that has been emailed to them and submit comments to Bo no later than Wednesday, Sept. 24.

Mac is to contact Bill Clough of the Betterment Fund to get his reaction to our grant proposal. Kevin and Mac are to work out the details of that call.

Bo's announcement of NRCM's willingness to be our fiscal sponsor, so that we can raise funds triggered some discussion about whether AMC would be a better match for us until we get our own 503C, but the consensus was that we were better off accepting NRCM's sponsorship and moving to change our status.

Kevin thanked Bo for the time and effort he has put into the drafting of the proposals and for his willingness to follow through with the process.  At this time, Bo needed to leave to attend another meeting, and the traditional “check in” of board members took place.

Committee  Updates:

Executive Committee –Kevin

We have been advised that we need two types of insurance: (1) liability insurance to cover events we sponsor; (2) liability insurance for board members. In addition workshop leaders need personal insurance as well as group liability.

LL Bean has turned us down on a pro purchase arrangement, but Kevin intends to follow up through contacts in the organization who might see that our position is truly considered. Cabelas has also been contacted, but their discount is minimal. Cathy suggested that it might be worth using Cabelas as a wedge in negotiations with LL Bean. Bean's has offered to sponsor us at sportsman shows.  Some discussion ensued  on the importance of acquiring the Bean's discount, one position being that we should not base membership benefits on the Bean's discount, that it is our mission and the benefits of belonging that should attract membership.  On the other hand, that discount is very important to working guides, and the reality is that we know of guides who have remained in the MPGA only because of that discount.

 Membership --

There is a need to reconsider out annual membership drive and renewal process. Ted argued convincingly for changing our renewal process to a rolling notification of the due date, depending on the month of enrollment. A simple spreadsheet program would make this possible.

Action Item:

Mac will begin this process with members who renewed in January.  This  change should also be reflected in the Newsletter.

Ted also suggested that we contact as many sporting groups that we can that are associated with colleges and that we make our training workshops open to their members on a space available basis.

There are currently 130 paid up members of the organization.


We have about $14,000-15,000 in our account. In addition to our grant proposals, it was noted that we need to approach individual donors as well.

Advocacy Cathy

Plum Creek -LURC will be meeting next week for final consideration on Plum Creek, and we can make a final comment if we so desire. One encouraging factor is that written comments on the Lily Bay development were running 1700 opposed vs. 10 in favor. Kevin noted that a recent letter from John Lunt (attacking the legal basis tying the conservation easement to the proposal and the unfair trade off on land value) reflected MWGO's initial objections to the plan. Cathy noted that LURC staff has read all of the written responses, but it is unclear how much the commissioners have actually read, making a closing statement by our organization a good idea.

 Action Item:  Kevin will attempt to attend the Bangor meeting.

CLUP -Kevin and Greg were to meet with LURC following our meeting on the Comprehensive Land Use Plan.  Cathy thinks that LURC is moving in the right direction, especially with the emphasis that the draft places on primitive use of the wilderness. The present language  uses the wording “particularly primitive use” of  the wilderness.  Motorized groups are attempting to remove that language in favor of something like “including primitive use.”  It needs to be clear that motorized use of the wilderness is not affected by primitive use, but primitive use is affect by motorized use. The first public meeting on the final draft is in January, so we would want to mobilize the membership to appear at public meetings. Ted suggested that we should have  a CD disk of who we are  and our talking points for a hearing—including our logo for the press.

Conservation and recreation forum  -The next round of the  forum will be Oct. 15  with the Ecological Reserves as the focal point.  The Reserves were established in 2001, 15 throughout the state that protect each type of habitat that we have in the state that are not impacted by people. Existing roads and trails were grandfathered,  if it was not possible to relocate those roads or trials.  George Smith is trying to get that policy changed so that  motorized vehicles are permitted.  At the moment, the only non-motorized recreational areas are to be found in the Ecological Reserves .  (The category Non-motorized recreation  area exists but none have been established—instead the Ecological Reserve have been overlaid with that category.) We should be represented to counter the strong motorized use crowd that will be there.

Guides Licensing - Kevin reported that there does not seem to be much interest  in looking at the existing process, as every meeting scheduled to look at the process has been canceled. The exam board, however, is very concerned about cram courses that are letting folks pass the test who should not be guiding.

Guide Hall of fame –Art Wheaton  from a family of long time guides is one of  the driving forces behind the idea.  While there are many details to be worked out, it would be an opportunity for us to do a joint venture with the Grand Lake guides.

Sustainability of WMGO – at this point Ted  made a presentation designed to help the board take a hard look at where we are as an organization in terms of our founding goals and where we have come in three years. Ted suggested that  positioning and imaging are critical if we are to grow as an organization. He handed out an  analysis  summary  that pointed out challenges facing the board in two key areas:

  1. Financial resources

--one grant in 3 years

--average cash flow $10,000 year

--flat membership growth

--no earned income

  1. Organizational image, sustainability

--lack effective communications materials and WEB site

--need business location (even if virtual)

--not communicating to members/supporters effectively

--organization not growing

--weak member benefits

Ted suggests we consider the following actions:

  1. Reaffirm mission, goals/objectives ASAP
  2. Raise money for Executive Director position and plan implementation ($100,000)
  3. Produce Business Plan, Marketing/Communications Plan, DEVELOPMENT PLAN

In the substantial freewheeling discussion that followed a number of ideas were raised that are noted below:

We need a  letterhead that makes us look professional (listing board and advisory board members) and business cards for key board members. Ted had brought sample possibilities that the board approved.

Action Item:  Ted is to have printed new stationary with updated board information

We need a permanent location that does not change, and we need a communication point.

Newsletter –Ted  presented a newsletter concept and suggested a name for both print and web  versions,   “Wilderness Guide.”  His format was eye-catching and could be expanded later to an annual , then seasonal (3 times a year) magazine, should the market opportunities warrant. Ted feels this would offer significant opportunities for expanding member benefits, particularly marketing their servie,, and promoting our mission and activities to a broader public.

There should be an editorial section—a report from the field, and fun stuff like Guides Rules (never tell where you caught something).  The discussion turned to the immediate challenge of getting a newsletter out by Thanksgiving.

Action Item:  Ted Rodman will do the layout and Mac with the help of member Bonnie Pooley will do the editing of content.

It was decided to include the following:
---letter from the presidents
----advocacy article
--profile of a member guide AND SPORTING CAMP
----rendezvous report
---promotion of membership
----house adds promotion (membership)
-- a feature article on  who we are with 3 categories of membership featured

Action Item:  Ted to approach Cobb's camp for profile of a member camp

Action Item:  Kevin to write a skill article on some aspect of winter camping (e.g. ice safety)

Action Item: Gary to submit a natural history article

Website – a key way to grow membership is to show that our website is a marketing tool.  Folks can search by area, interest, activity and guides . It needs to be simple for people to find what they want.

Marketing for our members has to be a key benefit for joining, especially marketing individual guides and sporting camps. We need to be able to change the text from anywhere and rebuild the architecture of the site.  Ted felt that we should design the site and find a good resource for implementing that design.

Action Item: Mac is to call Ken Pooley about taking on the project.

Education --  Ted noted our founding goals and the reality of flat membership and no money being earned. This led to a discussion of   guide training  seminars, workshops,  and apprenticeships  that would earn money. A guide school became an idea that was kicked around, reaching college students (fund raise for scholarships for them  to attend workshops) with  internships with guides or sporting camps. We need to form partnerships, joint ventures. Brainstorming on how a guide school might work followed.

Growing the membership –brainstorming:

--a targeted mailing to camp owners with  a letter written  by a camp owner

Action Item: Greg will  contact Eric first or contact owner of Weatherby’s—Jeff MacEvoy.

--getting camp owners to get their guides to join or to join for them

--to have brochures at sporting camps for guests

--Common Ground Fair—code brochures to see if we  get new members from handing them out

-----need to draft letters of invitation to 8 or ten guides who would join

Action Item: all board members should send contact information about targeted guides to Ted  who has volunteered to send out letters


Action Item:  Mac is to contact David Butler to see if additional patches and decals of both types have been re-ordered and to have David send the contract information on the supplier to Bryan

In conclusion to this discussion, Ted noted that, as we are now presenting ourselves, there is no compelling reason for foundations to give to us.  We need a business plan, and we need to take clear  public stands and effectively communicate ou  positions on these issues .  We need to be more aggressive about fundraising, make sure the board manages time frames and responsibilities for     getting proposals out, and making sure our case proposals look good.   We also need to get 501c-3 status as soon as possible.  There is a need to enhance the organization's goals and mission goals and mission, beyond just the advocacy  work, which we have done well so far. If we sell our mission to a broader “friends of the organization” market, the organization will grow.

The next meeting is scheduled to be a conference call on October 20th.

Action Item:  Greg will send out information on calling in.

The November meeting is scheduled for the 17th at  the NRCM offices in Augusta.

The meeting adjourned at noon.

Maine Wilderness Guides Organization, Augusta, Maine

126 Western Avenue #155
Augusta, Maine 04330