A culture of discipline

~ Brady Robinson, Access Fund Executive Director

BrNow halfway through 2012, I’ve been reflecting on our vision and where the Access Fund is headed as a national organization. A few years ago, we embarked on a strategic planning process. Strategic planning can be tough, but it is a lot easier when you are clear about what the organization is trying to achieve in the world. One outcome of our early sessions was our identity statement (warning, it’s a little dense):

We advance our mission of keeping climbing areas open and conserving the climbing environment and seek to maintain access to open climbing areas, open appropriate closed sites, and ensure all sites are properly stewarded by serving climbers, activists, local organizations, and land managers in the United States through policy advocacy, local support and mobilization, stewardship and conservation, land acquisitions and protection, and education.

We asked ourselves where we should put our energy and resources to make the greatest impact. As a relatively small organization with a national scope, we are reliant on individual climbers, dedicated volunteers, and affiliate organizations to advance our mission. Making volunteers and affiliates more effective has a multiplier effect, so that’s a great place for us to focus our attention. Next we thought about what we, as the national organization, are uniquely situated to do to make these volunteers and affiliates more effective. And here is what we’ve come up with so far.

Give local groups the horsepower to purchase and/or conserve threatened climbing areas. The Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign (AFLCC) was born to give local groups and volunteers the expertise and capital they need to rapidly protect at-risk climbing locations through direct acquisitions, leases, easements, and other tactics. Private land conservation techniques are vast and complex, and few banks are interested in loaning money to climbers’ groups to buy climbing areas. With seven projects completed and many more in the works, this program has supercharged the acquisition and protection of privately held climbing areas in the United States.

Put boots on the ground to help local volunteers create sustainable climbing stewardship plans. Started in the fall of 2011, the Access Fund Conservation Team is a crew of two professional trail builders who travel the country for 10 months a year in a Jeep Patriot, assessing climbing area conservation needs, working with locals to address those needs, and providing training on planning and stewardship best practices to keep those areas healthy. This program helps make climbers and land managers more effective at taking care of the places we love.

Give local climbing organizations more local support. When we asked local climbing organizations (LCOs) what they wanted from the Access Fund, many of them replied, “We just need more help!” And not just on the national level. They need help approaching land owners, meeting with land managers, researching land ownership, educating local and state governments on climbing issues …the list goes on. Many LCOs are desperate for more bodies doing more work. In response, the Access Fund has grown our program staff to provide more direct support on local issues. And this summer, we opened our first regional office in Chattanooga, TN, to support the work of local groups—from the Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition (RRGCC) to the Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC). As we grow, we intend to extend our regional footprint, putting more staff and expertise near those areas most in need.

Take some of the financial and administrative burden off the local groups, allowing them to focus on local issues. The vast majority of LCOs don’t have paid staff, membership services, databases, and other infrastructure that help make nonprofits work. But the Access Fund has all of those things, and we are in the process of rolling out a number of services, including LCO joint memberships that leverage existing Access Fund capacities to free up LCOs to focus on what they do best: addressing local access and conservation concerns.

As we strive to be the greatest organization that we can be, we continue to take a disciplined approach to evaluating all of our programs to make sure they are working to make local groups and volunteers more effective. The grassroots network of climbing activism is alive, growing, and getting more organized by the day. And your support helps make all of that possible.

Thanks and see you out there!

Blog Comments

I stumbled on your site completely by accident but I applaud and support what you are trying to do. It would be nice to see a similar scheme set up in the UK

Posted by: Sloansie | August 19, 2012 at 02:50 AM

Join The Conversation