Wow, Janice What a great model! and proof that people are looking for ways to
get outside with with other families. Reminds of the movie Field of Dreams - built it and they will come. Thank you for the inspiration!
The Anchorage Outdoor Family Network started in October 2010 and is now 307 families strong. Our two weekly stapple events are Taiga Trekkers family hikes and Skedaddle, an outdoor playgroup. With lots of other events thrown in the mix. We are a co-op of sorts and ask members to organize at least one outing/event per year to maintain membership. We use the meetup site to organize events. This site is great because it allows members to organize events. Our success has us currently working on becoming an official non-profit and broadening our scope to become the Alaska Outdoor Family Network with Anchorage and other communities chapters.
I love it Harmony!
You'll have to keep us posted on your status of becoming a non-profit. Something we've toyed with as well, but I'm intimidated by all of the legal and paperwork aspects of it. We may just look for fiscal sponsorship instead and go that route for a while. Not sure yet. I'll be eager to learn about what you learn along the way! Keep up the great work!
I have a totally different model based on how much I can personally handle. When Janice and Wendy and Harmony talk about 300-600 families, I get excited about your reach and influence! Amazing! However, it makes my palms get sweaty thinking about organizing events so BIG.
I'm more comfortable writing about my family outdoor experiences and hope to set an example for the 14,000 unique visitors/month to my family blog guiding people to parks in our area. However, I do run a small monthly Nature Play Club with our family and 3 other families. It makes it very easy to plan, change locations, and give everyone a voice. We rarely miss an outing and the families have become ambassadors and suggested to their friends and families to start other clubs. I also know of many MOMS Clubs in the area who have "nature playgroups" and I interact with their leaders on my blog.
So, just to provide another perspective, leaders can make their efforts as big or small as is personally comfortable.
Michele, We don't ever have 300 people ever showing up at events. That would be overwhelming! The most we've had at any one event is about 50 and that is kiddos and parents combined. Our meetup page has 300+ members, many of which have yet to make an outing but use us as a resource to get ideas of things to do with their families when their schedules permit. There's a core of families with kids around the ages of our (the organizers') kids that meet up weekly, even that number fluctuates drastically with weather and seasons. While we function off the co-op model hoping all members plan at least 1 event per year, that is not what happens in reality. Though many have donated their help in other ways like designing our logo, helping us with the tax forms associated with being a non-profit and having their family businesses sponsor us. That said we chose the co-op model so that all the weight is not on our shoulders and many of our dedicated members help distribute the load. Our hiking group and outdoor playgroups can run themselves now. We just pick the location and post it, and if we the outing host can't make it due to a sick kid or whatever, the group continues on without us. Many of our events are piggy backing on other events in the community. If someone sees something interesting happening at the Eagle River Nature Center for example they will post it with all the pertinent info. As the title of our group entails we are more than anything a network and a resource.
Michele, you make a good point -- there is no one best type of family nature club and any "leader" needs to do what is best for them and their family. Ultimately, we all reach many people in one way or another and that's what the point is, really. I think we likely all have a lot in common, especially when it comes to why we're doing what we're doing. It's good for us, it's good for our families and it's good for our communities. That's true whether we're reaching one family or 500 or 14,000. You are blessed as a being a good writer and you're using your talent to inspire and motivate thousands, literally!
Harmony also makes a good point. We never have that many folks show up for one outing. The most we've had at one was about 80, but we had a live animal presentation before the hike at that one. We probably average 45-50 kids and parents (and I use that term to include aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.) together on our "big" weekend adventures. The average is closer to 10 - 20 for our "Nearby Nature Clubs" that meet weekly, during the week (more or less a playgroup that hikes and adventures).
Anyone else want to share their model here? I'm always so inspired by what others are doing!
Janice and Harmony -- Okay, so 10-20 is what consistently happens at my nature club. But it's nice that you have a forum for suggesting outings that people can take on their own. Thanks for describing "how" you both do it in such detail. That helps.
You are right about numbers -- reaching ONE family is awesome! I get a great feeling when I hear back from even one reader. So even if someone wants to take their not-so-nature-savvy friend with a family out into nature, that constitutes a nature club in my opinion. Kind of a nature buddy system!