Find an organization that tells you they have over 77,000 active members and you will find an organization that people care about. Find an organization that tells you 11,000 of those members have been loyal for over 25-years, you will find an organization that people cannot live without.
11,000 OFAH members have been faithfully paying their membership fees, making donations, buying tickets and merchandise, and waving the OFAH flag since music was sold on cassettes. In fact, many members in the OFAH quarter-century league were sewing on their first OFAH membership crests when the 8-track was new. Such a statement about OFAH membership service and dedication is not meant to be amusing, but rather humbling. One can count on only one hand how many “passions” in their life receive such uninterrupted, undiminishing, unwavering support for an astonishing 25-years, let alone 40 to 50-years; the latter being the case for the most highly esteemed conservationists in the OFAH’s camp.
It’s through the context of membership loyalty that we ask all OFAH supporters – new and experienced – to consider over 25-years of OFAH rally calls:
- When the OFAH vowed to take high court action against the spring bear hunt cancellation, our supporters reached into their wallets with donations for our heritage fund war chest.
- When our bright orange “Remember Bill C-68” stickers were on bumpers on every road, our members picked up their buddies, and then put themselves on eastbound OFAH chartered buses to protest the long gun registry on Parliament’s front lawn.
- When a provincial scale fish hatchery was destined to be moth-balled, OFAH partners and volunteers came to the rescue.
- When the OFAH wanted to take Sydenham Sportsmen’s Association’s youth activities program province-wide, mentors stood behind the creation of the OFAH Get Outdoors Program.
- When town councils were about to vote on discharge of firearms bylaws, Sunday gun hunting, and local fishing restrictions, OFAH members gave up their evenings, and even took shifts off work during the day, to “be there” in council chambers and cheer on their Federation staff in delivering the facts.
- And when the OFAH was paying office building rent, OFAH members, OFAH clubs and OFAH corporate partners, raised the dollars to provide our organization a permanent home. Not one penny from OFAH membership dues went into the construction of the OFAH Ontario Conservation Centre (aka head office).
No one represents the etiquette of give and take better than OFAH members. They count on their Federation to give one-hundred-percent professional and passionate effort, from staff and Board of Director volunteers alike, to achieve high-performance advocacy, conservation leadership, and quality membership services, outreach, and modern-day communications.
It’s all done on the take of hard-earned membership and fundraising dollars. We never take it for granted.
Give and take is always a two-way street, and likewise for the OFAH rally calls. These days, the OFAH hears our supporters loud and clear as they call for help. Volunteers work their ass off on local conservation projects that are funded, in significant part, through local fundraising events. The traditional raffle, turkey shoot or fundraising dinner were always vulnerable to the brink of financial disappointment – either through volunteer burnout, community fundraising fatigue, loss of sponsors, low cash flow after local plant shutdowns, and now, the biggest rug ever pulled from under volunteer fundraising feet, the pandemic.
The rainy-day funds of many local associations are almost spent. The “pivot” to contactless life doesn’t happen overnight, or on the same night that tank-loads of fish need to be fed at a local hatchery. For some volunteers, right now and until at least we’re out of the COVID-19 woods, the “reset” means a reprieve on their generous community service time. For other volunteers, however, there’s never been a better time to raise the bar on their local conservation initiative. Take for example a group of volunteers in the heartbeat of rural Ontario, connecting these days by Zoom to discuss hatchery expansion – not hatchery reduction. They decided to increase production of rainbow trout! What an ambitious and inspiring goal that serves the fishery and directly benefits the angling community. As we’ve seen with outdoor space demand recently, the escape of fishing time has never been more important. When we look back on what the outdoors brings to mental health benefits in a time of crisis, the conservation volunteer will be among the pandemic’s proudest unsung hero.
The time for the OFAH place in pandemic history is also now. Your Federation is prepared to do more to help local conservation initiatives succeed and navigate the pandemic storm. As announced in the April issue of Ontario OUT of DOORS Magazine, a new club funding program is on the way. Thanks to the tens of thousands of supporters, members, and non-members alike, who support the Federation by purchasing things like OFAH lottery tickets, we are in position to pay it forward. OFAH volunteers worked hard to sell lottery tickets previously because they knew the proceeds would be invested back into causes that were important to them. The new club funding program is a recognition that dedicated investment in those projects and volunteers is required regardless of whether they sold tickets or not. Stay tuned for more information as the OFAH will announce the rollout of this new program that can help cross-promote the OFAH brand name with the “I AM Conservation” tenacity of local clubs and volunteers. It’s the kind of commitment every member of the OFAH should expect whether they are renewing a first year of membership right now or renewing their membership in the OFAH quarter-century league
11,000 OFAH members have been faithfully paying their membership fees for over 25-years. Wow. 25-years. Read that again because, with respect to others in the voluntary membership business, 25-years of membership loyalty is not likely something you will ever read anywhere else.
According to “future of associations” experts, the era of long-time membership loyalty as the OFAH now knows it, is already lost. Membership is no longer a forever-ship, especially for millennials and their own kids who may have zero interest in “belonging” but endless desire to support a cause in many other ways.
Whether support comes from donations or membership or both, the OFAH sees a bright future. The OFAH sees volunteers that need our support today to plant our seeds of conservation for tomorrow. The OFAH sees young people, including new Canadians, who during the pandemic, experienced fishing for the first time. We see those anglers returning to the lakes that were stocked this year by volunteers, and we see them catching their first rainbow trout. The OFAH sees those anglers in the year 2046 renewing their OFAH support as part of the quarter-century club, reminiscing about how fishing got them through COVID-19, and how the OFAH shaped their fascination for the outdoors. We see them telling their future to get involved in conservation too. We see future generations that understand support for the OFAH is always give and take.
Today, the new local conservation funding is another way the OFAH proudly gives.
NOTE: This OFAH blog was written as special feature for the Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular Outdoors Annual Magazine. The Salmon Spectacular is an epic community-supported conservation achievement presented by the hard-working members of the award-winning Sydenham Sportsmen’s Association (SSA). The Salmon Spectacular is scheduled for August 27 to September 5. It’s a volunteer-run event that raises money for volunteer-led fishing stocking on Lake Huron. Great work SSA members and sponsors!
Check out the entire digital version of the Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular Outdoors Annual Magazine by clicking the image below.