Introduction: How to Start Your Own Group to Empower Girls!
Start by asking yourself these questions;
- Do you have time and energy to volunteer?
- Do you have a desire to mentor youth in your community?
- Are you particularly interested in offering girls experiences where they can feel strong, capable and confident?
- What opportunities in your childhood helped you learn how to be more self assured and empowered?
For three women named Aurora, Amy and Diana... we all experienced deep self discovery backpacking on The Lost Coast of Northern California.
We want to share our love of the wilderness in a fun and supportive, all female setting.
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Step 1: Create a Team
Get together with your peers and friends and start brainstorming!
Determine what role you each play.
Amy, Aurora and Diana make up our board.
Amy is a proud business owner and a strong participant in her community. Her volunteering spans over two consecutive decades between Humboldt Women for Shelter, Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Rotary Club of Arcata Sunrise and Six Rivers Planned Parenthood.
She has extensive training in the fields of domestic violence, substance abuse, anger management, suicide prevention and pregnancy planning and prevention.
Amy has held the positions of child development specialist, support group facilitator and educator.
Amy is our Secretary and Treasurer.
Aurora became an Emergency Medical Technician at 18 and went on to become a firefighter the next year.
She worked for Cal Fire on an engine company, a helitack crew, and as a fire apparatus Engineer.
Over the past 15 years Aurora has also volunteered with multiple Fire Departments as well as with the Southern Humboldt County Technical Rescue Team.
She is currently an Assistant Chief with the Briceland Volunteer Fire Department.
Aurora is our Board President.
Diana spent a large part of her childhood with her Indian grandmother, on the Lost Coast, learning many of the native teachings including; wild edibles, tracking, awareness and many other life skills.
She has been a licensed contractor, heavy equip. operator, and fire fighter; including captain of the BLM engine in the King Range.
In the last twenty years she has been on many missing person and search and rescue cases on the Lost Coast.
She is a great storyteller and has a unique way to pass on the wisdom of the natural surroundings we have the pleasure to live in.
Step 2: Identify Your Goals and Intentions
- Who will your participants be?
- What age, demographic, etc?
- What makes your camp different?
- Why is this a good idea?
- What are your goals for each participant?
- How will you achieve these?
- What skills do you have to make this possible?
Our camps will be open to girls aged 12-18.
Anyone is welcome to apply. Grants will be available for those unable to provide their own gear or registration fee.
We are offering a camp not currently available in our area. Specifically we will focus on the following;
- Learning to see, smell & listen to the natural surroundings we live in by learning to use our Owl Vision.
- Simple tracking; identify the trees & bushes as well as birds & animals that we encounter.
- Identifying hazards such as poison oak, etc.
- Introducing the directions & where we are as we move through the wilderness.
- Using the sun for a solar clock.
- Learning to walk like a fox; barefoot, slow and attentive to our surroundings.
- Building a fire with flint & practicing basic wilderness survival skills.
- Introducing wild foods.
- Using solitude & quietness as a learning tool.
- Walking blindfolded to the sounds of the drum
- Journaling of each day
- Sharing stories around the campfire
- Starting and ending each day with a song.
Our goals are detailed in our Mission Statement on the next step.
Step 3: Create a Mission Statement
This should be short and to the point. This is simply a sentence stating your purpose and focus.
This mission statement should be true for your organization today as well as the future.
Here is ours;
Our goal is to give young girls the opportunity to develop a deeper connection to themselves and the wilderness around them using The Lost Coast as our classroom.
We also have 5 bullet points that show HOW we will accomplish our mission statement.
· Have fun!
· Experience backpacking
· Build confidence and trust intuition
· Learn wilderness survival skills
· Create lasting friendships
Step 4: Decide on a Name
- Think of key words that describe your camp
- Research the names you are thinking to make sure they aren't already taken.
- This is especially helpful when securing domain names and social media accounts.
- Do you want your name to double as an acronym? Get creative!
We started out with "The Lost Coast" in our name but realized another local camp had a similar name.
We also had "girls" in our name but decided to take it out. Although our main focus is taking girls backpacking, we do plan on offering day trips with boys and girls, and backpacking trips for women.
We decided a broader name would encompass all of our plans.
Step 5: Create a Logo
- Sketch your ideas on paper
- Contact a graphic designer to turn your ideas into a professional format
- A logo can explain what your group does and evoke emotions even without words!
- It is important you LOVE your logo. After all, logos are often used on letterhead, tshirts, hats, stickers, patches, etc.
Our logo has great significance for us. Important elements include the landscape of The Lost Coast including the mountains, the sand, the sea and wildflowers. There is a plant called the Compass Rose that thrives along this trail, so it is surrounding our logo. The compass itself is a crucial tool that can help us find our way and even tell the time. The North star can also help guide us, as well as the moonlight.
Step 6: Establish Your Structure
Are you going to be your own Non Profit?
If you so you will need to file for 501c3 status so you can accept tax deductible donations and apply for grants, etc.
This will require;
- The organization to be established as a trust, a corporation, or an association.
- Ensuring your organization has an exempt purpose
- Applying for an EIN- employment identification number
- Creating financial statements for the current year and proposed budget for the next 2 years
- Submitting an application and fee to the IRS
The alternative is to approach an existing Non Profit to be your fiscal sponsors.
That is what we did and what we will focus on in the next step
Step 7: Establish Partnerships
How to find a sponsor;
- Look or Non Profits in your area with similar intentions and great reputations
- Contact them with your idea and request a meeting
- Present your idea to their board
- If they agree, create a document that defines your relationship
- You can immediately start receiving donations by using your sponsors non profit status
- You can rely on their board to assist with tasks such as bookkeeping
- You will most likely pay a percentage of your donations to your sponsors. This can be negotiated in your agreement. (We feel this % is well worth it!)
- You can support each other and cross promote through fundraisers and social media.
- You don't have to do your own taxes!
- You may lose some of your autonomy. Just be clear in your agreement what role each organization plays.
- You don't want to compete for the same grants and donations as your sponsor. So you may have to communicate before your request donations and/or take turns.
- Checks will have to be written directly to your sponsor and ear marked for your group.
Our Fiscal Sponsor is The Lost Coast Interpretive Center. They are a mere few miles from where our trips will take place. They have over 15 years of experience as a non profit. They already have reputable partners including the Bureau of Land Management. They are enthusiastic about our idea and willing to start a relationship!
Step 8: Start Promoting Your Idea!
Create a Wesite
- Secure your domain name on a site such as Godaddy.com
- Consider hiring a graphic designer to assist with web development. Or use a Program like Wix to create your own page
Join Social Media
- Start a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google Plus accounts
- Invite your friends to "like" your pages and follow you.
- Interesting, frequent posts will hold people's attention!
It is never too early to spread the word about your idea but you do want to be ready for an enthusiastic response!
We have received over 50 inquiries from people who wanted to attend a camp, volunteer, donate, host a fundraiser or interview us.
We reply to every person and let them know we will keep in touch as our planning progresses.
Step 9: Get Down to the Nitty Gritty
- A budget
- Short term and long term goals
- Time line
- Criteria for staff and participants
- Waivers for liability issues
How will you raise funds? Options could include;
- Securing major sponsors
- Selling merchandise
- Grant writing
- Campaigns such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo
(This photo is of our very first donation from Caffe Dolce, located near The Lost Coast!)
Step 10: Keep Your Momentum Going!
We have been at this for two months and we already have accomplished the previous 9 steps.
We all have full time jobs, families, hobbies and obligations. We also have a commitment and desire to finish what we started!
We continue to meet twice a month for a board meeting and hike.
We send a representative to our sponsor's board meetings once a month.
We have applied for our first grant and sent out dozens of donation requests.
We plan to start day hikes in 2015 and backpacking trips in Spring 2016.
We post on social media every 1-2 days. We currently have 776 followers!
We continue to inspire one another and look towards the future!
Cheers and good luck to you and your ideas!