Executive Director’s Update
by Kasey Hovik
It is amazing to me how every year after our Annual Membership Banquet, I come away with so much energy, gratitude, and determination because of the support we receive from our members and supporters. Part of it is that in the process of creating our presentations and looking back over the past year, I am amazed at how much we accomplish as an organization and with a small group of people. Another aspect of preparing for the banquet is we also reflect on the history of Umpqua Watersheds and how many of these same people have served or supported the organization for decades. I am humbled to work alongside our staff, volunteers, and supporters.
For the past couple of years, we have had our Annual Membership Banquet in early May and that really works out well as we gear up for Summer Activities and prepare to submit grants seeking funding to support our projects and our staff. In April we attended the Oregon Nonprofit Leaders Conference in Ashland. It is an incredible opportunity to meet other nonprofit leaders and meet with several foundations which provide grants to support important work throughout Oregon.
The “Meet the Funders” breakout sessions are interesting and fast-paced. Each foundation provides an overview of their Foundation and the different types of grant programs they offer. Nonprofits also get an opportunity to discuss their organizations and their programs. In a sense, it feels like speed-dating because you only get 2-3 minutes to present. I really felt proud of the interest and enthusiasm we received from several funders as well as several other nonprofits we met with during the conference. Umpqua Watersheds was also one of 12 nonprofits (out of 130 organizations across Oregon) to table during the conference. We got a lot of feedback and recognition because of our tabling materials including our brochures about UW and our programs. Two of our strategic outreach programs, KQUA Community Radio Station and the Umpqua Outback Project designed to create Community Space in downtown Roseburg really got a lot of comments and interest. Another really positive development is that Foundations are now funding general operations and not just programs because there is now the recognition that programs can’t be sustainable unless they have staff and not just volunteers to sustain them.
While it is exciting and encouraging to receive positive feedback and support for what we are doing it is also stressful and not without some anxiety when we have so much happening that falls on the shoulders of a few people. An acquaintance from another nonprofit asked me, “What do these outreach projects have to do with your mission”? I responded that for Umpqua Watersheds to be sustainable, to grow and expand our work we must reach more people. We do a marvelous job of working with people who are already passionate about conservation, restoration, wilderness, and education but how do we bring in new people? Both the Umpqua Outback Project and the KQUA Community Radio Project expand our footprint by enabling us to collaborate with other organizations as well as the general public who we would not be engaging were it not for an event on the Umpqua Outback Stage or listening to KQUA or one of our podcasts. It does take a leap of faith, as well as determination but like the line from the movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come!”