Dear trail lovers in the Fraser Valley,
Our AGM is upon us (this Sunday – Feb 25th!) and I felt compelled to pen (type) an open letter to our membership and trail lovers everywhere. I was having a digital conversation with a fellow member of a trail association board regarding succession planning – handing over the reins once the time has come. It was interesting because MTB Trail Associations all over the Province (and really non-profit organizations as a whole) have a huge challenge with succession planning. Her question amounted to “How do I get someone to fill my big shoes? I’ve been doing this for 8 years – 3 as President. Do I create a vacuum by stepping down and hope that someone capable steps up?” This is a concern for many leaders of organizations like ours – us included. Our President has indicated he will be stepping down from that role this year so we are faced with that same challenge in about a week.
My advice to that person that was asking, was to pen an open letter to her membership and say exactly that – she is looking for good people to step up, learn the ropes and after a transition year, fill her big shoes. Quite often we at the trail association’s suffer in silence rather than tell it like it is. We often fear looking like amateurs. Fact is, we are. We had great success with doing just that for our SaveSumas campaign (update on that to come soon) and had many good fresh faces step up to galvanize the community to work towards the common goal – protect the trails. After giving that advice, and looking at our upcoming AGM, I realized that I needed to practice what I preach – so here is my open letter filling you in on our leadership situation and hopefully compelling a few of you to step up and carry the torch.
We @ FVMBA have undertaken a Strategic Planning process during 2017 that has produced a couple documents on where we want to go and the high-level steps needed to get there. We’re super excited to release the main report and present the highlights at the AGM. The plan we have developed is a 3-year one and now comes the heavy-lifting required – execution. Our board has taken the input from our membership and the goals are simple – Advocate for the trails, support our Builders, and build Community. It’s what I’ve been calling the ABC’s for a little while now.
Our board does have a committed group that plan to stay on and see through the execution of this plan, but we are a small group and have plenty of room for more help. Another big task we took on this year – we have published the draft of our new Bylaws that will be voted on at the AGM, and with that update comes room for 11 directors on our board. We have the usual suspects in there (President & Vice, Secretary & Treasurer – the Executive of the board) but we also have plans for some more custom-tailored Director roles to help move our unique regional trail association towards our updated goal – Thriving Trails & Communities.
We are now going forward with three Regional Directors – North, East and West. These roles are similar to the previous “Area Reps”, but have more formalized board duties and less operational demands. The operational slack is taken up by another new role of Trail Rep – one for each area that needs it. If we’re successful in 2018, we’ll have half a dozen Trail Reps – or more! This role (Trail Rep) is no longer required to attend the board meetings, or tend to the administrative work. Their primary goal is to get the resources they are provided (tools, funding, volunteers) back into the trails.
The geography covered by these Regional Directors are North: Mission & Maple Ridge ; West: Langley & Abbotsford ; and East: Chilliwack & Hope. Langley? you say. Hope…? Here’s a little teaser for you for the AGM. The Langley Mountain Bike Association will be closing up shop this year and folding their advocacy efforts under the umbrella of the FVMBA. This developed as the LMBA has achieved many goals since formation – advocating for creation of many bike skills parks in both the Township and City of Langley being the primary goal. Their current board has engaged with us to hand over the reigns of the ABC’s for Langley. As such, we’re looking to add a Director at Large from Langley to our board this year.
Hope is a neat story too. If you haven’t ridden their bike skills park – you should. It is worth the trip. It is the anchor of their small, but growing MTB scene in Hope and combining that with some exciting developments for MTB access to trails in Manning Park that one of our members will be talking about at the AGM, we see that Hope is another area that we can help serve with our collective umbrella. We’re not looking to “expand the empire” here – we just see that the organization that has taken shape from our planning exercises can be leveraged to the benefit of these additional mountain bike communities.
So, we have our 4 Exec Directors and 3 Regional Directors. That leaves 4 more… Through the planning process, we have come up with ideas for those roles – Director of Community & Communications, Director of Events & Programs, Director of Trail Advocacy and a couple other potential ones. But we also don’t want to dictate how you can contribute. In the past, our Board mainly consisted of builders. We’re seeing a natural transition to an organization that works for and supports the builders, among other goals. To do that effectively with the current realities of creating & maintaining legal trails and playing the politics required to move the trails and our sport forward, we’re seeking people with a variety of skills to fill these spots. I’m a big fan of Stealing Like an Artist, so here is NSMBA’s list of qualities they sought for their board. Substitute “North Vancouver” with “Fraser Valley” and “NSMBA” with “FVMBA” and you see what we’re after. We’d also like to tip our hat to the support we’ve been getting from the crew at NSMBA and other Trail Associations through the freshly-minted IMBA BC Council. They are continually giving tips, and tangible materials (our bylaws started with NSMBA’s new bylaws which they spent considerable time and money developing) to support our efforts to “pull the MTB rope”. IMBA BC will be on-hand at our AGM to talk with anyone interested about what they are up to. The conversation mentioned at the start of this letter was a function of IMBA’s BC Council.
This is where you come in. You have thought for a while that you’d like to help out, but you’re not a builder and wouldn’t want to seem like you are coming in to boss them around as the new kid on the block. Or else, you are thinking “man, I don’t like the sounds of all that work that Ernie does”. I can tell you that no matter what your skills are, and no matter what you are worried about having to do, we can use your help. Our Board needs people that can email like nobody’s business, do up sweet spreadsheets to make an economic case for trail development in your community, create programs and events that build the MTB community in the Fraser Valley. We have one half-time (and amazing) staff person now, and plans to add a new half-time role in 2018 to do Operational work that our Board has historically had to do. We have come to realize that in order to reach the goals we set out, we need to grow our capacity as an organization to attend all the meetings, complete all the paperwork, deliver all the support and execute all the programs that we think will benefit the collective. Our Board going forward will have much more input on creating the strategy and less demand of them to ‘drive the FVMBA bus’.
That strategy has been drafted, but also requires refinement. Our plans include better ways to engage our membership and supporters to find out what they want us to be working on. We started that with local meetings, but will expand the efforts to ensure that we are working for our membership (which has grown a great deal of late – stoked!!!) to achieve the goals in our Strategic Plan.
So – with that long-winded message comes a simple request:
Please join our ranks and indicate your interest to join the Board here.
We are looking for 5-6 more qualified and quality individuals to carry the torch over the next 1-2-5 years. This year, we’ll have a vacancy in the Executive Role of Secretary. If we have more than 11 good people stand up (including current directors that plan to carry on) then we are going to hold one gong-show of an election! It’ll be fun in it’s own right, but we’re prepared for that because we are eager to have the Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Community step up and show how they can pull the rope when asked. It sounds like a big job but I can say that it can be really rewarding (sometimes a little frustrating), and above all, you’ll be giving to your Mountain Bike community in ways that only you can.
After I drafted this message, I listened to this podcast. The series Brent puts together is must-listen for advocates and the mountain bike community in general, but his guest Ernest put it really well at the start when speaking about how he got involved in advocacy:
All of a sudden it dawns on you. You know, somebody built this trail… I think I should help. And then starts the, OK, how about I throw some money at it. OK, how about I go to a work day. And then after a while, it’s like you know what, that’s not enough I really do need to give back. And that’s when I got involved working with trail liaisons and then becoming the Advocacy Director and then eventually becoming the President of this wonderful organization.
– Ernest Rodriguez – President of MORE
His reason for getting involved really resonated with me because I got involved for a similar reason. If you are continually impressed with the trails that our amazing builders create and want to give back more and how you are best qualified to give, please toss your name in the ring for 2018.
If you have questions about any or all of this, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be happy to give you the honest answers to anything you want to know.
Regards and see you @ the AGM.
Director – #Northside