Adapting to Future Trends in Volunteerism: Creation of a Volunteer Stewardship Team

Adapting to Future Trends in Volunteerism: Creation of a Volunteer Stewardship Team at Fenner Conservancy (BEG)
Jenny Mensch, Mark Ledebuhr, Fenner Conservancy

Fenner Conservancy (Lansing, MI) is a 501c3 borne of a reality now faced in many places, namely that the city government could no longer support its nature center after over 60 years of operation. The public- private partnership that emerged leveraged public and private dollars to continue access and programming for 26,000 visitors a year and growing! In its first five years, Fenner successfully served youth, held festivals and grew to organizational stability but opportunities for adult engagement were limited. Stewardship was an operational drain for its tiny staff. Further, as city resources stretched thinner, habitat maintenance and grounds improvements fell lower in priority. In spite of this, volunteers increasingly came to us not singly, but in hoards. What to do? Through innovation, training of a selective group, leveraging, and BiHAGs (big, hairy, audacious goals), Fenner transformed these stresses into strengths. This presentation maps out how it was done, right and wrong, and what's in store for the future.

Jenny Mensch, Fenner Conservancy
Jenny received her MS in environmental education at Southern Oregon University in 2012. Prior to that, she completed an undergraduate degree in conservation and environmental science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Jenny is currently the volunteer coordinator at the Fenner Conservancy in Lansing, MI. Raised in northern Illinois, Jenny's passion for the environment developed through years of trips to the scenic Wolf River in Wisconsin. When she is not working, Jenny enjoys biking the Lansing River Trail, knitting and sewing. Jenny is thrilled to share her love for nature and its gifts with the Lansing community.

Mark Ledebuhr, Application Insight, LLC
Mark's career focuses on developing and optimizing pesticide spray application systems, primarily for foliar applications. He also focuses on developing and improving methods for evaluation of spray application. Mark works collaboratively with hardware and chemical manufacturers, universities, state and federal government agencies, and private growers worldwide. Trained as a wildlife biologist at Michigan State University (MSU), he co-founded and built an MSU technology- spinoff company focused on products that improve the application of pesticides, thereby reducing their environmental impacts. After 15 years, he left it to re-focus on methodologies and analytics. He finds the difficulties encountered in invasive species control to be a spectacular challenge and a great opportunity for meaningful improvement! Mark is also the stewardship chair at the Fenner Conservancy in Lansing, MI. Volunteering at stewardship allows him to practice his professional skills from his "day job," keep his botanical skills honed and (best of all!) meet lots of great people.