I’m willing to guess that many of the people who follow along with this blog are not really aware of the American Birding Association. It’s supposed to be the binding organization of birders across North America, but in the last decade, it seems more like a once great bird club that is slowly fading away. Here’s how the ABA describes itself:
The ABA is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides leadership to birders by increasing their knowledge, skills, and enjoyment of birding. We are the only organization in North America that specifically caters to recreational birders. We also contribute to bird and bird habitat conservation through our varied programs.
I like some of the staff at ABA and 20% of the profits from my online shop goes to their programs for young people–I think they programs for kids are great and had I been aware of them when I was a kid, I would have wanted to go.
Last week,I received a note that the ABA was looking to hire another President. When I read it, I thought, “Again?” The ABA had just dumped one president because the organization was bleeding members and failing and hired a new guy who was supposed to be the great white hope of the organization. As soon as the ABA job opening came out, rumors about why the latest president was fired had words like “mismanagement” and “embezzlement” surrounding them.
T0 me, the ABA seems like a failing hive. The queen failed and the hive started loosing workers, they tried to create a new workforce, but only produced drones who do nothing to help build up the hive. A requeening was attempted and failed…should another queen be introduced?
Some, like Kenn Kaufman have loyalty to the ABA because he was there in the halcyon days of the 1970s when it was exciting, coming together and growing–birders finally had a chance to connect on a country wide basis. I do not have this loyalty. I wasn’t even aware of it until the mid 1990s. I enjoyed some of the publications and I enjoyed the festivals when I could afford to go (or go on someone’s behalf like Swarovski). But I had no way of knowing about it as a kid growing up in Indiana.
But now many question if it’s too late for the organization–should it die? Or should we try to requeen this hive and save it.
There’s lots of discussion about why the ABA is failing.
Can’t compete with the Internet: ABA brought birders together before there was the Internet. Now that there are blogs, forums, state list sites, Facebook, Twitter, etc–people are more interested in their local patch, rather than a big organization that talks about gulls on the west coast than grosbeaks in the backyard. It was slow to embrace the Internet and has really grown in the last year, thanks to a few forward thinking staff.
Birders Don’t Get Along: There are different types of birders and they can’t get along well enough to even partner up for conservation efforts (Duck Stamp, anyone). Hardcore birders want the ABA to be id and listing and I would wager that though a vocal group, they are the smallest percentage of birders in the US. Casual birders are intimidated and sometimes bored by the finer points of ID but they are a much larger group and would greatly increase membership and cash flow. Currently, the ABA can’t seem to find a way to please both.
Offerings Priced Out Of The Market: The trips and workshops offered by the ABA are too cost prohibitive for the average person and suffer from competition from all the other bird festivals out there. I think the bird festival business model needs to be overhauled, many bird festivals are faltering not only because of the economy but because many festival organizers don’t quite know how to price things and market them in a sustainable way.
The Board of Directors: Some say the whole board should resign because their actions of the last two years led to its fast failure. I don’t know too many of the board members–which is weird, I get around, I travel all over the country and meet a lot of birders, but not many on the ABA board. I think it might be interesting to add some fresher and younger blood on the board. Perhaps someone Mike Bergin from 10,000 Birds who was one of the first bird bloggers, has been ahead on the bird blogging curve and using the website as means of raising money for conservation and keeping the bird community informed rather than someone who is a Hollywood actress who happens to be a birder. I’d also be in favor of getting someone who was a higher up at Ducks Unlimited on the board to help build an organization that cannot only bring birders together but turn it into a voice to be listened to at Congress and raise money for habitat.
Ever since I’ve been aware of the ABA, people have been asking, “Can this organizaiton be saved?”
Is it better to get a new president or let this hive die and start a whole new organization?