Lessons on Inspiration from a Hiker

Posted by on Jul 29, 2014 in Communication, Donor Cultivation, Featured, Plans and Budgets, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Lessons on Inspiration from a Hiker

Lessons on Inspiration from a Hiker

In May, I was in Pennsylvania for the Pennsylvania Land Conservation Conference. I took an extra day to visit relatives in Bethlehem (it happened that my visit coincided with a cousin’s birthday). One of the story lines I needed to catch up on was: “Did you know that (cousin) Dan’s son Ryan is blogging every day from his through-hike of the Appalachian Trail? He’s about 400 miles into it on his way from Georgia to Maine.”

My first thought was “Whoa, Ryan’s blogging every day? That’s amazing! I can barely manage once a week.”

“Hey, he’s 22.”

“Well that explains it!”

Since then, I’ve been following Ryan’s progress through some 14 states and 2,180 miles. (http://www.2180miles.com/trail-blog) He finished Saturday in a dramatic climb of Mt. Katahdin in Maine – dramatic because his dad made the climb with him, because he was ill and exhausted, and because he had been hiking for nearly four months.

This is some young man. Seven years ago at 15, he and his Dad rode a tandem bike 3,000 miles across the country. He thinks BIG, and he’s not afraid of taking risks (within reason). Consequently, he inspires others. The blog attracted hundreds of followers each day – not because he asked them to come read it, but because people are attracted to BIG visions. They came because his BIG vision inspired them (and me!) to pay attention.

There’s a lesson here for land trusts. Instead of being limited by how few people we know or who support our current work, maybe we are getting the level of support our current vision will attract. Maybe if we put a bigger vision on the table, it would attract bigger interest, bigger support.

I’m reminded of a land trust I met recently that complained about cultivating major gift prospects. “We just don’t have that kind of money in our community.” It took me about 15 minutes to find news of that same community’s library successfully completing the fundraising for a $2,000,000 upgrade and addition. They had put a bigger vision on the table.

I’m personally inspired by local efforts here in Wisconsin to acquire and construct an 1,100-mile footpath across the state following the extent of the glaciation 10,000 years ago – the Ice Age Trail. It’s about halfway complete. (Still, imagine Benton Mackaye in 1921 talking about the idea of a national trail <the Appalachian> for the first time. The audaciousness of that vision!)

What would an inspiring vision for your organization look like? How are you talking about it now? Is it big enough to attract others?

And by the way, Congratulations Ryan!

Cheers!

-da

Photo credit: Sprague Lake Sunrise, Walt Kaesler.