Becoming Nature Groupie: What's the Effect?
On January third of this year, UNH Cooperative Extension changed the name of the Stewardship Network: New England initiative to Nature Groupie. We made the change to welcome a larger and broader audience to outdoor, nature-based volunteering for the entire conservation community in New England.
So, how’s it going so far?
All measures show steady gains of participation in Nature Groupie by new volunteers. Since January, we’ve seen growth in Facebook, Instagram and Twitter followers, and our first quarter saw a 50% increase in volunteer opportunities posted to the calendar. We’ve added over 170 subscribers in the first quarter of the year, consistent with previous years, and our outreach efforts reach new people every week.
Traffic to the Nature Groupie website has increased, and in March we saw the largest spike in website visitors for any month since we started in 2014. We also see an increasing percentage of new, as opposed to returning, website visitors, an indication that we’re welcoming new people to the Nature Groupie community.
Broadening our audience of volunteers has a direct impact on our collective ability to recruit new volunteers. Jason Hill of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies wrote to us about his recruitment for Mountain Birdwatch through Nature Groupie: “The e-newsletter already worked... we've attracted five new participants through Nature Groupie now--yay!”
The Nature Conservancy's Northern New Hampshire Land Steward, Michael Crawford, posted a training opportunity for volunteers interested in wildland firefighting. 29 volunteers signed up for the introductory course, helping to prepare new firefighters for controlled burns and local and national fire response. Michael shared, “Thank you so much for advertising our training. I have no doubt the reason we received the outstanding response is because of Nature Groupie.”
We’ll be visiting events where outdoor enthusiasts gather in the coming year to share the Nature Groupie message and materials with new audiences, giving us a chance to recruit new volunteers and create excitement about outdoor volunteering. If the 2018 UNH Career Fair is any indication, Nature Groupie will help welcome new people. One student, after spotting the Nature Groupie gear worn by staff, shared with us, “I love the outdoors! I go hiking in the White Mountains all the time. Can I buy a patch?”