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Do What You Love: How to Start a Birdwatching Club

As a passionate birdwatcher, you’ve probably wondered how you can take your love of birding to the next level and start a club that gets others involved. The good news is, it’s definitely possible! Just like any successful group, you’ll need to consider a few things before starting. What are your motives? Who are you hoping to reach? Beginners? Advanced birders? Strategizing and marketing your club are all important. Clearly, as with any new venture, there’s a lot to think about! The following are a few more considerations for you to think about as you start your own birdwatching club. 

Have People Skills

If you’re the type of person that can’t go a day without birding, then starting your own club might truly make sense. Among those who have started Birdwatching Clubs, the most common motive has been a deep personal interest and love of nature, particularly birding. Yet, turning a hobby into a club that engages other people is a huge reason start, but not entirely sufficient to ensure a successful club. Catering to the public in any capacity, means you must also have people skills and a strong service orientation. Keep in mind that while birding will be a common interest among your members, you will have to deal with all kinds of people of different interest levels. You will need to be enthusiastic about serving them regardless of their behavior or what is going on in your life. Additionally, you’ll have to have the stamina and resilience to take over all matters of the club. Overall, you’ll need to evaluate whether you love birding so much that any issues with members, vendors, or outside issues, won’t take away from your passion. You’ll have to evaluate if you are ready to turn your hobby aka your “happy place” into something bigger that will take up more of your time and energy.

Determine Marketing Strategies

Read, research, read, research. When you’re done with that, read and research some more! When starting a birding club, reading up on as much as you can so you can learn about the market is a good idea. Study to know preferences, demographics, and characteristics of the individuals who may be interested in your club. Doing so will help you make vital decisions. You may also want to subscribe to numerous birding magazines, e-newsletters, and articles about birdwatching. Keep an eye out for advertisements providing info about services you may be interested in. You’ll want to attend as many birding competitions and festivals as you can and maybe even consider having a booth at these events. You’ll want to meet with vendors and those in the birding business to network and connect. Consider going to your library to research academic and professional journals to get more information about members of birding organizations or about birders in general. The National Audubon Society and the American Birding Association offer newsletters and publish magazines with information about the latest trends in birding. Be sure to take note of all of those.

Setting Up the Club

Once you have a good idea of the market and what features you want to provide through your club such as professional tours, you’re ready to market your club to reach members. It’s important to understand that the birding market might be grouped into numerous categories such as: commitment or interest, demographics or geographic area, and skill level. You may choose to determine your own mix of marketing tactics. This is where the networking you have done can truly come in handy. Consider offering members items such as binoculars and guides that they can borrow while on your guided tours. You may even plan your tours around birding events and festivals. Perhaps you could network with the festivals to offer discount tickets for your members. There are numerous options, so networking is key.

Birding Responsibly

As the founder of a birding club, part of your job is to help your members understand the importance of birding responsibly. This means taking care of yourself, as well as the environment around you. If you’re going out with the group for a long period of time, be sure to encourage your members to bring water and snacks, as well as to wear  protective and appropriate clothing. Protecting yourself and members from the sun is important, so be sure to bring and offer sunscreen. A wide-brimmed hat may also be appropriate. Long, loose fitting sleeves and pants will help to protect from the sun and biting insects. You’ll also want to be aware of your surroundings by not walking with a camera or binoculars over your eyes. And, it should go without saying, that you should encourage members to take care of the environment by not littering and not taking anything but pictures. It’s important to note that while feeding birds in your back yard is a fun way to see wild birds, feeding any wildlife in national parks is against the law. Encourage your members not to disturb nesting birds, their eggs, or their nests. If you find juvenile birds out of the nest, leave them alone. Nature knows best, and their parents are nearby.

Starting your own Birding Club can be a very exciting, though nerve-wracking, venture. However, if you do your research and truly have birding and people skills, you’ll be well on your way to a growing and flourishing club in no time!