How to Organize a Birding or Nature Festival
Nancy S. Millar See more about Nancy Millar
Selling The Concept To Your City, Board
A vital first step is to garner the financial and emotional support of key individuals and organizations in your community. Any one person or group can institute a birding festival- with the support of the community. Sell key players in the community on the economic impact such a festival can have, and your battle is half won.
Selling the concept of a nature festival to your city’s chamber of commerce, convention and visitors’ bureau or top governmental leaders will be an easier task today than it was even three or four years ago. There is a wealth of information available that proves the significant economic benefit of nature festivals. With the growing interest throughout the continent in nature tourism, there are few people involved in the economic progress of an area who have not heard stories about successes in other communities from such events.
Sell the Economics
The key to garnering the vital support of your city, board, and others who will provide volunteers and critical resources, is selling them on the financial value of the project. This is of paramount importance! Sell them on the economic impact of the hundreds or thousands of tourists who will be pouring into your community. Sell them on short term and long term benefits.
Do your homework. Research the impact of nature tourism and birding in general. Gather information on other festivals. Talk to local national wildlife refuges, state parks, local conservation organizations, the state departments of commerce and parks and wildlife, your local tourism arm. Find the facts and present them in a concise and organized way to the decision-makers in your community. If you can have an ally or two in the group already poised to support you, all the better. Bring in an expert if it will help.
As strange as it may seem, the more bells and whistles in your presentation, the more seriously you are apt to be taken.
Solicit Support from your City
- Prepare not only national and statewide economic information on birding and wildlife watching in general and nature festivals in particular, but on the potential economic impact locally.
- Base your projections on conservative estimates, and figure local retail sales tax, number of hotel room nights you expect to be sold, and anything else you can think of. There is still a faction out there that only snickers at the thought of birding having any significant impact in any way. Prove those people wrong with a top-notch presentation of your idea!
- ASK FOR VOLUNTEERS. Having board members on your festival committee will go a long way in establishing the credibility of the project. Volunteers often tend to react more positively to other volunteers than to staff members alone.
- Do your research. Attend a festival or two to learn what to do and what not to do. You will learn a lot.
After you have the support, or at least the approval, of some key vital partners, ask for what you need. Do you need a building in which to hold the festival? Ask for it! Usually you would need to speak to your mayor or city manager, who can approve the use of public buildings -hopefully, for free. After all, this project will be a tremendous benefit to your community: it will bring in money and positive publicity. You may also want to consider schools, private buildings, or refuges or parks.
Involve key community leaders for credibility and financial support. Find a local expert. Speak to leaders individually if necessary. Start with those already sensitive to the issues.
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