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How We Take the ABA to the Next Level: A Card, A Shirt, and Your Ideas

JAG plaid pines Below is a picture of my ATM card. Of course, I’ve sloppily cloned out a bunch of numbers from the photo of it, and it’s bleached and nicked from (over)use, but I still wanted you to see it. I should say right up front that this is not the card referred to in the title that I think can help the ABA and birding. That isn’t a credit card or debit card at all. I’ll get to that card soon.

When I moved to Colorado Springs last winter, one of the small but very real pleasures I found in the mountain of hassles that accompany moving was my discovery that my new bank wouldn’t force me to carry the same old boring ATM card. Their website would let me upload my own photo to personalize it (or choose one of their many stock photos).

RUTU card_4450.

So, perhaps feeling a twinge of homesickness and certainly lacking any photos from Colorado yet, I chose this shot I took of a flock of Ruddy Turnstones feeding on horseshoe crab eggs along the shore of Delaware Bay. It’s a picture that just makes me happy.

RUTU flock

I can’t tell you number of opportunities this card has provided me to talk to people about birds and birding. And the fact that I can say it’s my photo really adds to the lift I get when I do so. With one simple change, my ATM card has gone from being something with which I have little personal connection to a co-branding collaboration between me and Wells Fargo. Pretty cool, if you ask me.


How does this relate to the ABA?

Well, one of the perennial ideas that the ABA (and many other organizations) have employed over the years is the idea of an ambassador group. In the ABA’s case, what this has generally meant is that very small numbers of super-wonderful and super-dedicated volunteers have been recruited. And please please please understand that nothing I say here should be construed as criticism of those terrific folks or their tireless efforts. I am nothing but grateful to them. But I am interested in providing them (and lots of other members, I hope) with a more streamlined, elegant, effective, and fun way to promote the ABA and birding in general. To use a buzz word, something more viral.

What has often been done is that expensive, heavy boxes of expensive, heavy publications have been shipped to our ambassadors (did I say how much I appreciate the efforts of those folks? ‘Cause I do!) who would then display them at a table at a local bird event or nature festival.

Now, I love birding festivals. I go to a lot of them and I’ve spent a lot of time in booths at them. I only want festivals to get better and better. But I have to say that from a return on investment standpoint, that old ambassador strategy seemed less than optimal when it came to getting new members. It was however, good for visibility and was often a great way to contact existing members. And we’ll still do that sort of outreach, whenever we can.

Another recruitment tool is the standard membership brochure. You know, with the little, “fill it out and mail it in,” membership application. We have ’em. Everybody has ’em. They’re useful, too. But they also seem to me, in the age of social media, very impersonal and a bit cumbersome.

So here’s what I see as an innovative and I hope, effective approach to ABA outreach. It’s something I’ve had in mind for quite awhile and have discussed with various people, including current ABA ambassadors. But I think it’s time to open it up to you. I’d ask that you look over our ideas. Tell me which ones are good and which are not. What ways would you suggest to make it better?


The Program

  • The key is interacting with people in the field, at the eyepiece. Go where you can help people see more birds and get more out of the birds they’re seeing right where they are. That could be a traditional “birding spot” or not (a city park with a duck pond would be fine, for example). Set up your scope. Hand over your binoculars. Tell the people you meet what birds are around and a quick story or a few cool things about those birds. Here’s a very quick example.


ABA First Lady Liz shares her bins, and a family of Prairie Falcons, with a (former) stranger

  • This program should have very little barrier to entry. If you want to do it, at most you should have to spend a few dollars, possibly splitting the cost with ABA, and that’s it. You’re in.
  • There needs to be an easy way to track and reward your success. If you get us 1 new member, I want us to be able to know and to thank you. If you get us 10 new members, I want to really thank you.
  • I want to know what types of rewards would be meaningful to you. Free membership for yourself, a special hat or shirt, your name at the top of a new listing category? What about for the super achievers? Optics, or travel, or at least discounts thereon? A donation to a club or cause?
  • We might want to come up with a name other than “ambassador.” Field crew, something. I need help here.
  • The ABA would produce two basic items to help you seem more “official,” and maybe give you a teeny confidence boost, if you’re feeling a little shy. At the most basic level, one is a card and the other is a shirt (you’ll see there are some possible variations, but let’s start with card and shirt).

The Card

  • The card should be larger than a business card but still pretty small. I’m thinking it should be at least 3×5″ but not more than 5×7″. It ought to tuck neatly into a “little Sibley,” a Kaufman guide or similar sized book. Folded over once, it should fit easily into a pocket.
  • The card should clearly communicate the message, “I enjoyed meeting you and birding with you. Here’s how to take some next steps and/or stay in touch.”
  • The card should be beautiful and eye-catching, with at least one photo or other art work. Ideally, users could upload their own photos, or choose from some great shots and art that the ABA would provide free of charge.
  • The card should be thoroughly ABA-branded, with logos, contact info, etc. It might offer some sort of less expensive trial membership, or a special premium or gift for joining.
  • The card should be personally branded, too, with your contact info, to the extent that you want it to be. Want more readers for your blog, more Twitter followers, Facebook friends, and so on? That should be easy. Want none of those things? That’s fine, too. Use the space to put a quotation about birds or birding that you like or anything that makes the card yours.
  • The card should be environmentally friendly in its materials and production.
  • The card should look professional. We shouldn’t be asking you to print if off on your home printer.
  • The card should have your ABA member #, or a bar code, a QR code, or something that lets us know if the person you gave it to actually joined and thus lets us thank and reward you.
  • I am open to the idea of the card giving contact info for other organizations in addition to the ABA, especially local bird clubs. Even bird-related businesses aren’t out of the question, but we’d very likely want the biz to contribute money or other resources to the program. It’s got to be first and foremost you, the ABA member and the ABA itself, but I want the ABA to support and work well with groups that support us and our mission.
  • The card, ideally, should have something useful on it. Something that would make it valuable even if they never got in touch with you or joined the ABA. The ABA Code of Birding Ethics (almost certainly in an abridged form due to space limitations) is one possibility. What else would be useful? Some very basic identification info? Birding tips? What?
  • The card should also be available in an electronic version, easily e-mailed, texted, or passed using Bump or some similar app.
  • Hard copies of the card should be printable in fairly small quantities, without tying up too much ABA staff time. There are many digital presses; e.g., MOO, that do this sort of thing, though I don’t know of one yet that does exactly this. Do you?

The Shirt

  • The shirts (and hat and binocular strap) already exist in a simple, elegant form. You can get an ABA logo shirt at [email protected] right this minute. But I’m thinking of a special shirt (or vest, or banner, or flag). One that you wear or display only when you really want to do outreach (and one you can take off or cover up if you want some privacy for a while).
  • The shirt prominently displays the ABA logo, perhaps in a slightly modified form. But there’s a tropicbird in blue and green and blue, for sure. Almost certainly the words, “American Birding Association,” and almost certainly our URL:
  • Even more prominently, the shirt says, “ASK ME ABOUT BIRDING!!!” I think it does that with those exact words, in big big letters. Think about those old Frankie Goes To Hollywood T-shirts from the 80’s:


  • The major function of the shirt is to identify yourself, at some distance, as a person that wants to help others enjoy birds and birding more.
  • It would be great if the shirt looked good and/or cool. But not to the extent that it obscures the basic message. “I am a birder and I am here to recruit you!” Any suggestions for how to balance wearability with impact are most welcome.

Your Ideas

OK, that’s what I’ve got for right now. I’m sorry for running on so long, but as you can see, I’m trying to put a bunch of thoughts out there and see where you all take them. Now I need you to say what’s right and what’s wrong with these concepts. Help us come up with something really cool.

I appreciate your interest in and support of the ABA and I can’t wait to have this program fully launched. With your help, it’ll be a lot of fun and do a lot of good.


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Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon is the president of the American Birding Association. There's very little about birds, birding, and birders that he doesn't find fascinating, though he's especially interested in birding culture and the many ways we all communicate our passion for birds, including this Blog.
  • These are GREAT ideas. I think the card is an especially powerful and easy-to-use tool.

    If this is launched, I think it would be a good idea to simultaneously spruce up the Membership info on the ABA website to make the navigation a little smoother and the messaging more effective. For someone who is coming to the ABA site after having received a field card from an ABA member, this landing is the first impression of the ABA (actually second since the field card exchange is the first.)

    The current Membership button leads to a very short paragraph with a vague description of the benefits of belonging. This could be expanded into a more specific list.

    The Join Now button goes directly to an online membership form where the second item already asks for a decision on whether to subscribe to North American Birds. For most prospective new members, this won’t yet have been explained and may cause some to just close the browser and think, well maybe I’ll join later. Absolutely we need to prompt more to consider joining (via cards, shirt, etc.) but the fulfillment process needs to be as enjoyable and easy as possible. Think of Amazon’s One-Click as the standard for ease of online ordering.

    I look forward to seeing all the other ideas and suggestions.

  • As a nonmember (former member for many years), I think the card is a good idea. Im not sure about putting the ethics code on there, as it gets reprinted a lot anyways and you really dont want to come off as The Bird Police if you are out recruiting people. That said, I don’t have any bright ideas either.

    Field recruiters is an interesting concept…I would like to point out though that almost any type of recruiter is inherently annoying and this could paint the ABA in a negative light for many people.

    What about recruiting people online?

  • Hi Seagullsteve,

    Your caution about recruiters is an excellent one. Nobody I know wants to be aggressively hustled for memberships and donations. I’m appalled at the strong-arm tactics some groups use. I remember one hair-raising encounter on the streets of Berkeley with a guy from an organization whose work I generally support. He nearly had my then 19-year-old stepson cowed into signing up for monthly, recurring donation which he clearly couldn’t afford. I realize this tactic might work for some folks, but it made me LESS likely to want to support that group since then.

    I think the key is to emphasize what we can give to people we meet, not so much what we can get get from them. If you’re outside and can give someone a great experience with a bird or birds, I believe many of them will just naturally want to know more and some of those will join us.

    Over the years, when I’ve been approached for help with bird i.d., or even when I’ve just shared a neat bird with ostensibly non-birding strangers, I find that people are overwhelmingly grateful, if sometimes a bit bemused. I basically never get a bad reaction.

    I would say that the card might be appropriate anywhere. A loud, bold shirt might be best saved for situations like a place where you know people are trying to interact with birds in some way, but might not know who to ask, or perhaps a busy urban environment, where bold statements are expected and needed to cut through the numerous stimuli.

    To me, it’s important that this be looked at as an opportunity to do service to the birding community and spread the word and improve our image. New ABA members are, in that sense, a secondary goal and benefit.

    Thanks for pointing this issue out. I think I had it so clear in my own mind that I didn’t articulate it well in the post. I was taking it for granted.

  • Thanks, Carl! Your enthusiasm and insight is always appreciated. I agree (and I know David Hartley does, too) that we’ve got to get our web site spruced up in a number of ways. It’s a huge need.

    One thing these cards might do, rather than plunking folks right down on the home page, is have a special URL that sends them somewhere designed to help them find things that will be useful and interesting.

    Once we get the online membership directory going, it might not be bad to just have them go straight to the profile of the person that gave them the card. There they could reinforce the personal connection they already made, rather than plunging into a deeper part of the pool.

  • I loved ALL of this. And agree that strong-arming in a city park to join the ABA is counterproductive. “Jeez, those bird people are annoying and weird!”

    I would wear the HELL out of a shirt.
    “Field Volunteer”. Or:
    “Ask me what I’m looking at!”

    Shoot, Jeff. Where do I sign up???

  • I think you could make effective use of QR codes on a card. Take folks to a membership page, more info about birding page, possibly an alternative site about the local birding organization since you’ll be customizing the cards.

    Not to say the old tried and true messaging on a card couldn’t work, but if you’re trying to innovate, at least use the latest technology!

  • I have a Townsend’s Warbler on my Wells fargo card. It is a conversation starter.
    I like all your ideas Jeff!

    And I like the Ask me about birding shirt or what Susan said too.

    And my brain is a bit on overload – we are redoing our kitchen and getting old oak floors done next week. Have to meet the timeline for Monday!

  • Derek

    I hate to be the party-pooper of sorts here. But I have mixed feelings on this idea. I am a first-time member who joined mostly because (through birding acquaintances) I believed Mr. Gordon was the right person to lead a change for the better at the ABA. I still do. But I would like to see other simpler changes come to fruition (like the aforementioned website updates, membership directory, needed changes to the checklist committee by-laws, etc.) before delving into yet another adventure. I worry that embarking on another path would spread the ABA’s personnel efforts away from matters that should be addressed sooner. I think this program idea could and would be a strong addition to the ABA. But, I honestly do worry about its implementation.

    For instance, I look at the ABA’s Bird of the Year program. I was excited when the program was first announced. But, stopping short of saying it has been a disaster, I have been underwhelmed with its existence. Perhaps, I am unfairly biased because I didn’t like the choice of birds nor the fact that there was no member input in selection. But even given that, there were so many opportunities to have it succeed beyond its current state. Membership Kestrel photo contest with prizes offered as above in lieu of those for the program … no. ABA volunteer lead outreach program to schools to build kestrel boxes and/or put them up … no. Encouragement to census kestrel populations and enter that data into ebird … no. Or at the very least encouragement for every ABA birder to add kestrel to his/her county/state/year/life list … no. So I have concerns that this program will suffer similarly.

    That said, if chosen for implementation with the right timing and a more well-thought out approach, it could succeed.
    “The Program” – I am uneasy with the rewards idea for members. Any time I see/hear something like this I am always skeptical of the salesmen. Are the “ambassadors” doing this because they really love birds and believe in the ABA, or are they looking for their 25th new member sign-up to get a set of steak knives? I appreciate the idea of rewards, but giving the shirt/cards seems adequate reward. If you want potential members to not be pressured into joining, I think this has to go.
    – Take the money the ABA would have set aside for rewards and devote it to adevertising in local papers or social media for the event itself.
    – Keep the event itself simple, but coordinated nationwide. Combine this with something like International Bird Migration Day and a Big Sit. Or if the ABA wants to distance itself from those two entities pick a day in spring and/or fall and call it ABA Migration Birdathon or something less clunky. The idea is the same though. On the same day across the ABA area, ABA volunteers head out all day to drive up new membership and do stationary bird counts. ABA can publish the highest counts in the annual list report, in addition to shirts and cards, for honorarium given to its volunteers. Potential members get 24 hours to come out and see what the whole thing is about. The ABA advertises the event on its website, blog affiliates, social media, and local papers/radio/tv/whatever.
    “The Card” – I would think twice about the larger size of the cards. Business cards get put in purses and wallets. Flyers get thrown away almost instantly. If you want to maintain the “professional” look … it can’t be something that has to be folded to fit in a pocket. Just my opinion.
    – The front should be the ABA’s choice … logos, membership link/discount, program name, whatever. I wouldn’t put the membership discount offer (if there is one) directly on the card as that cheapens it in my opinion. Perhaps instead just a “special” URL link which then provides the membership discount.
    – The back should contain the volunteers/co-sponsor info. But it can’t contain the members number as that is what is used to access various “member-only” areas of the website. Perhaps something more like “John Q. Birder. ABA member since xxxx”. Then whatever contact info the member wants to give out under a heading of “For more birding questions or fun contact me here: email/phone/etc.” Or again, something less dumb.
    – Maybe on the ABA’s front side something simple like bird feeding tips, a local list of good birding spots, or ABA birding tips. Lots of info will just make it cluttered and anything ID related will be too much info.
    – Agree the app that “bumps” the card info to the person’s mobile device would be a neat addition, but I have no idea on feasibility.
    “The Shirt” – No real suggestions on this. Whatever info is printed on the ABA’s front of the card could also be duplicated on the back of the shirt. If they are T-shirts they could have a birding checklist of the day’s birds … but that would seem too complicated for all the various locations of the Program. Another alternative would be an ABA map with all the various Program locations as push pins or flags or something. That might give potential members a sense of how many other “bird-nuts” are out there just like them.

    Anyway, those are just my thoughts. I believe in the ABA and Jeff, though I may not agree with everything they do. I just want the ABA to be the best organization it can; THE pillar of American birding. As such I would just like some of the small, relatively easy to fix cracks in the foundation repaired or addressed before they start adding new levels on the roof. But moreover, I get that in the end, and perhaps even above other aspects of birding itself, this all comes down to money. New members equal more money. And the ABA needs new members.

    Good birding,

  • I think you just did, Susan!

    Thanks for all the energy and vitality to bring to any party, birding or otherwise. And I’m totally open to any shirt design ideas you might have.

  • Derek,

    I don’t take it as party-pooping at all. It’s thoughtful, valid criticism. Your concern really shows in the effort you put into your comments.

    I recognize that in some respects the ABA is still pretty tattered. We’re low on cash, and incredibly low on staff (though the staff we have are awesome). Our membership, though it’s shown signs of turning around and beginning to grow after a very consistent 10 year decline, is half what it was at our peak.

    What I’m trying to do here is to find ways to empower the membership to do fun creative things that advance our cause. I do recognize the danger inherent in throwing out too many ideas and not having enough follow up. That’s why I’m trying to come up with stuff that we can put out there and let you make your own mark on.

    I consider the Bird of the Year program a success for its first year, but a modest one. You’re right, a whole lot more should have been done with it. That said, there is some great kestrel-related content coming in future issues of Birding magazine and we are still figuring out what we want to do with Louise Zemaitis’ beautiful original artwork of the kestrel at Tikal that kicked the whole thing off. There is also a T-shirt in production (the design was completed months ago) that has gotten massively delayed at the printers.

    I’m most excited by the favorable response we have had from members. There are those who have sent in or otherwise posted photos of their stickers deployed in the field. Robert Mortensen of the Birding is Fun blog ( even came up with The Great Kestrel Count 2011, which he’s promoting (and we will, too) over Labor Day Weekend. Check it out!:

    But your ideas for other things we could have done and might do going forward are great. And as for member input, a big reason we went with the American Kestrel was that it had won the contest (well, placed 2nd after “no change”) when the members were asked about a new logo bird a couple years ago.

    I did start a thread a couple weeks back on our Facebook group page soliciting thoughts about what next year’s bird should be and asking for other input about the program. I’ll do that on the blog, too. So I think there’s still time to push the kestrel further and time to make 2012’s BOY program considerably better.

    Anyhow, as you conclude, raising member numbers (and getting the members we do have more involved) is the key for us right now. I truly appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts.



  • Derek


    Thanks for taking the time to reply. You always do, and that devotion and care is a great asset to the ABA. I will save my comments on the Bird of the Year issue for your blog posting on that when it surfaces so as to not hijack this worthwhile discussion. I will say that some of the concerns that I presented on that one are simply related to a leadership/direction/planning problem (even including the delayed t-shirt, what to do with the artwork, etc.) that if not addressed at the beginning of this much more logistics intensive project would absolutely doom it. As for the art work, why not auction it off where the ABA keeps half the proceeds and the other half gets donated to Kestrel Conservation. Or offer it as a prize for something. Anyway, I digress.

    I wish you luck in your quest for new members. If this project gets off the ground I will volunteer my time if possible. The uptick in membership has to be a great confidence boost to this administration. At the same time, I urge you and the ABA not to lose sight of keeping current ABA members and demanding excellence from the organization. Perhaps in addition to whatever Facebook group/page you have, you can have a President’s Corner forum/blog on the ABA’s actual website where you can pose questions like you asked to the facebook audience, and in turn where ABA members can voice current concerns/suggestions for the direction of ABA. The main blog posts would get relegated from the front page too quickly. A non-facebook forum would also be more open to members.


    PS: In regard to this program idea, on the card given to prospective members there should also be a temporary link/password to the current issue of Birding (complete and on-line … whenever that happens). I think the publications are absolutely one of the strongest selling points to join.

  • Awesome! I love all the ideas from the ABA leaders and from the members. Good stuff.

    I am very interested in the card and t-shirt ideas as I feel I could use both effectively while I am out birding.

    Every day at lunch I take a bird walk along a paved trail along the Jordan River in Salt Lake. This trail is frequented by walkers, joggers, cyclists, etc. People stop me all the time asking me what I’m seeing, but the most fun is when people get cautious as they approach not wanting to disturb whatever it is I’m looking at or photographing. Rather than being ticked off for their intrusion, I wave them in closer and tell them about the cool bird before me and have them take a look. People are always gracious and fascinated. I’ve often thought that I wish I had a card to give them so they could check out my birding blog. Well, now I could offer a card with ABA info and my blog info!

    I agree with Derek that it should be business card size for carrying convenience. Bigger than normal business cards kinda drive me nuts and I tend to toss them. Even if the card disappears in their wallet for a few weeks, they will find it later and recall our meeting in the field.

    Jeff, Thanks for posting the link to The Great Kestrel Count 2011. I look forward to hearing stories from other birders celebrating the ABA bird of the year.

  • John

    If possible, put a QR code _on_ the t-shirt. It might increase the curiosity factor, bringing in more people to talk and/or scan the code. But you might have to put it on a jacket depending on when and where you’re birding.

  • Kathleen Geist

    Oh yeah, I’d wear the shirt for sure. I have an eye-catching shirt from San Pedro National Conservation area that always gets people asking questions (“Are you a birder? Where do you go? What do you see?”)

    Cards might be tougher, because they’d have to be personalized and then mailed- unless you set up the website so that members could log in, personalize the cards, then print them at home.

  • One thing that occurs to me is that a common question I get is, “How can I connect with other birders?”

    I wonder if it would be good to encourage ABA members who do this to go out in pairs (at least). Number one–especially for men, you won’t seem like the creepy with the scope and number two–it shows that there is camaraderie. New birders desperately want to connect.

  • Hi Birdchick,

    Up to a point, I say the more the merrier. I know it’s a lot more fun for me to go and hang out with friends and then try to get some other folks to join us, than it is to attempt that alone. When you’re solo, people can be a bit more suspicious of you and what you’re up to. So I am in complete agreement with that suggestion.

    I would like, though, to get us all thinking about reaching out to others as something that we can do almost anytime, anywhere, spontaneously. Just the same way it’s hard for committed birders to stop sifting the air for sounds or glimpses of birds, I’d like to move our community in the direction of more or less constantly scanning for opportunities to introduce people to birds.

    But you can bet that if I’m going to go out to a park for a couple hours and really do this sort of work, I’m going to want to make a party out of it.

  • This interactive way to reach out to prospective ABA members sounds like a great idea. I haven’t been a member of the ABA until Jeff became president and I must admit part of my reasoning of joining was because of him. But also I joined because I like the changes that I began to see online, like this blog for example. Also I started seeing the ABA logo on other blogs that I visit and that increased exposure made me keep thinking of joining until finally I did.

    Exposure is a great way to increase membership. A Field Crew with shirts would give you some much needed exposure. I think interacting with people in the field is essential and the idea of an “Ask me about birding” shirt would work in the field without coming off too recruiter like. By giving people an invitation to ask you questions you already have a way to introduce them to the ABA. I would definitely wear one of these in my free time.

    “The Card” is a good way for people to be reminded of the interaction in the field. I agree with some of the folks above that it should be small (wallet size). If it’s something you can stick in your wallet or pocket, you may be more likely to look it over later. The QR code is essential. This is a great way to take people directly to the website. And I like the idea that Derek had about offering up a link to the current issue of Birding online. This publication is a selling point for becoming a member and could be the incentive for keeping the card and checking out the organization online.

    I also like the idea that the card could have other contact information on it. For example, I would love to have my nature center partner with the ABA so that we could distribute this information at our wetlands. I have over 400,000 visitors each year at my park alone and over 20 docents that give guided walks every day. If we were partners (with both our information on the cards), I could have the cards passed out on these walks and during birding classes that we offer. Most of my audience in our classes are beginner birders and they are the perfect target for new memberships. I know that not all naturalists at nature centers are experts on birds or even ABA members but they are on the frontline and through partnerhsips with these organizations you could make them more bird knowledgeable. From my experience there is always one “bird” person at every nature center/park and these people are untapped resources for getting information out about the ABA.

    I’m looking forward to what direction the ABA goes with this concept.

  • Ann Nightingale

    Okay, here’s a “wild and crazy” idea. The movie “The Big Year” is causing a lot of buzz about birding. I was trying to think about how our local bird-related societies could capitalize on the interest that might be generated among non-birders who go for the actors rather than the content. I am thinking about asking our local theaters if we can have a brochure rack or display in the area during the show. Then I thought… hmmmm…. might be an idea to share with the ABA. There will be some people who come out of the movie thinking “That looks like fun!” or “I never realized there were so many kinds of birds!” or “How does someone get started in birding? or “How do I connect with other birders?” If they can pick up information on their way out, we might be able to keep the joy flowing!

  • Ann Nightingale

    BTW, I like the idea of the cards and the concept of the shirts is a good one, but could have some challenges. Shirts get covered up by jackets in this part of the world. I wonder if it might be possible to also produce something to fit onto the leather patch of a binocular bra, er, I mean harness, or a patch for a backpack or jacket along the same lines.

  • Jeff…go viral.
    I have been mentioning this before on the ABA Facebook group that you could gain a lot of people by providing an ID service for beginner birders. Nobody is really doing it – or doing it well.

    We are doing a thing here in Lima – to try to get people into birding for our 1st Avistar Peru – birding festival that will be held Nov 2-6. We are simply producing a Lima bird-watching field guide online for free download. Among all the volunteers the work is not cumbersome. I figure, that if we were to print a book with distribution and printing, the cost would become prohibitive for most people in Lima. We may in the best of cases sell 500-1000 books.
    However, if it is free online – we could aim for 30.000 downloads. Even if I don’t consider the business aspect of the project, because my company targets foreign visitors that come to Peru, it would potentially create a local birder market, that my company and other birding services could gain from.
    Our book will have many tips to the beginner birder that starts getting interested in birds because of a point and shoot camera, rather than binoculars.

    So what does that have to do with the ABA. Well, maybe some sort of super content in a free publication that can be produced online with a multi-author crowd of volunteers for potential new members.

    Make it cover: Birdfeeding, Birding with a point and shoot camera – and do set up those channels for instant bird ID on ABA pages on Facebook, Twitter and the ABA webpage, your first binocular, the next level – join birding excursions…and finally – sign up here….

    Make this publication the prime source for people that want to learn more about birding. Aim for a million downloads and 1% conversion…what would that do to your membership I wonder? 100,000 ABA members?

    Since it is a free publication (make it Creative Commons) for a good cause. People will share this everywhere. You would probably even get help from Sierra Club and National Audubon to spread the material.

    Maybe even the launch of The Big Year could spread the publication if you get it ready. There is no reason why you could not. There are plenty of ambassadors already connected that could help.

    It has been argued that ABA ought to convert the already identified birders as members, and of course that is one way of doing it, but they are already birders – and are obviously doing well without ABA (if they are not members)….however, the big crowd are the newbies who would like to become more advanced birders.

    In the end, what is the more desirable goal? What will have the biggest impact on conserving birds and bird habitat? To make more already converted birders members and improve ABA’s finances – or to be the motor of converting more Americans into birders and this way also gain more members.

    Two final questions: How many members does ABA have? How many members does ABA need?

    Saludos from Peru

    Gunnar Engblom

  • Should add, that especially the card idea would naturally be a great way to spread the online publication. Make the publication the landing page for new visitors of the ABA website and Facebook page.

  • TB2

    You could get a lot of information on a card the size of a double business card. Fold it over and it’s the standard biz card size, only thicker. I wouldn’t overlook having a pdf or template available for volunteers to print out at home. The latest home-based computer printers have rather nice quality, and the cards can be made on-demand.

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