I had a great time discussing "Monty and Rose," the film we made about endangered Great Lakes piping plovers, on Fox 32's "Good Day Chicago" on Jan. 20. You can watch the appearance here.
By Ellie Raidt
It is well known worldwide that we are in the midst of an environmental apocalypse. Our planet cannot adapt to the way we are developing. With increasing population and demand for new technologies, material goods, food, and entertainment, it is difficult for our environment and ecosystem to stay stable. Our home is choking on our excessive level of fossil fuel and drowning in our rising seas. This is not only a risk for humanity, but a burden for the youth of the world to clean up after those before them who left this mess.
For years, the newest generations have been making it clear to the leaders of the world that they need to work harder toward the end goal of a clean Earth. Youth are making their voices heard and are not afraid to step up and speak up to those in power. For example, young women like Varshini Prakash, who led a 150-student protest outside then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's office. Also Xiye Bastida, who is one of the many leaders of the youth climate movement. Young men like Benji Backer, who, despite being conservative, submitted his testimony to Congress stating that environmental wellness should be world governments’ No. 1 priority, as it impacts every single person. Also Vic Barrett, who is a part of the Alliance for Climate Education, one of the most important movements in the world today. Lastly, the renowned Greta Thunberg, who at only 16 years old has spoken to United Nations leaders about how they have betrayed the young people of the world by leaving a mess of a planet.
In August of 2018, Thunberg began the soon worldwide school strike by sitting on the steps of the Swedish Parliament every Friday in a silent, solitary protest. Thirteen months later, this led to a worldwide strike of about 7.6 million participants throughout 185 countries, the largest climate strike in history. Millions marched the streets with signs reading clever statements on single-use plastics and fossil fuels, grabbing the attention of pedestrians, city-goers, and most importantly, the world’s political leaders. In December Thunberg was named Time’s Person of the Year.
These people are making it clear that they are willing to stand for the one thing that every person has in common: our planet and home. It is still unclear exactly how the United Nations will act upon the requests being made from millions of people across the globe, if at all. One thing is clear: the Climate Crisis is making headlines and being acknowledged, which is more than what we have had in far too long. If politicians do not act when millions of people are on the streets rather than at school or work, then there is likely nothing that will impact their judgment.
If humans are going to reach the year 3000, the world needs to stop talking and start acting. Carbon emissions must be cut to zero, agriculture must become entirely sustainable, and green energy must be implemented as part of daily life. The Climate Crisis is a mountain that is seemingly impossible to summit, but with people like Greta, Benji, Varshini, Vic, Xiye, and the almost 8 million activists standing up for our home, there is hope for a green future.
Ellie Raidt is a first-year high school student who previously wrote a piece for The Fact Sheet.
The recent Chicago coyote attacks led me to start thinking about an encounter I had with one a few years ago when my daughter was about six months old. She was strapped to my chest in a Baby Bjorn and we were walking in Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, a brief escape from home on a crisp fall day. In those early days as a parent, it was a joy simply to get outside, but it was especially nice to introduce Sonja to our closest natural area.
There was a coyote ahead of us on a path near the central meadow on the point, about 50 yards from us. I suppose my tendency could have been to turn around right away when we saw it, but I stood for a while so we could both get a look at it. This passed for a type of adventure amid a lot of sleepless nights, diaper changes and bottle feedings. The coyote eventually turned away and walked in the opposite direction. Maybe I’m naive, but I never felt in danger - it’s also been a fun story to tell as Sonja gets older. The coyote attacks have led to perhaps sensationalistic media coverage - a producer or editor’s delight. This preys on our fears, though, and leads to an even deeper disconnect between people and nature, just as there is a wonderful re–wilding taking place in our cities.
Of course, my heart goes out to the child who was attacked - I have been in the woods enough to know that there are genuine concerns. But this shouldn’t lead us to lock ourselves in our homes and further withdraw from the outdoors. If anything, we need to head back out into nature with all of our senses attuned and a deeper awareness of the world around us. And indeed, that is what being in nature is all about.
I've been involved in an effort to protect Chicago's endangered piping plovers throughout 2019, as a volunteer, a Board member of Chicago Ornithological Society and as a documentary filmmaker. I addressed the Chicago Park District's Board of Commissioners during their monthly meeting today at their headquarters. Here's what I said.
Good afternoon. My name is Bob Dolgan and I’m a Board member of Chicago Ornithological Society and dad to two young daughters who frequently visit Montrose Beach. I’ve also made a short documentary, “Monty and Rose,” about the federally endangered piping plovers that nested at Montrose Beach this summer—one pair out of only 71 pairs left in the world. The film has played to seven local screenings, five of which have sold out and led to Governor Pritzker declaring November 18, 2019, Piping Plover Day in Illinois.
When Monty and Rose began scratching their nests, it was a stunning moment in Chicago’s natural history. For 64 years, these birds, the gray ghosts of Great Lakes beaches, had been missing from Chicago. Now they had returned, much to the surprise of the entirety of the birding community. We dropped everything to be there and stand guard around their very vulnerable nests. A few days later we learned of the Mamby on the Beach music festival being scheduled for Montrose Beach for the third week of August. It felt as though the rug was pulled out from under us. The festival certainly would be a conflict for the up to two dozen shorebird species that would be stopping on the beach for migration at the same time.
Montrose Beach is a top three birding destination in eastern North America in terms of the number of species observed, 346. It’s the top birding destination in ALL of North America when accounting for its relatively small size. It’s become an even more incredible place because of the longtime efforts of habitat restoration volunteers led by the indomitable Leslie Borns, and because the Park District has invested in it. People come from all over the Midwest and the suburbs to visit Chicago, to visit Montrose, to watch birds. Four weeks ago today, an ancient murrelet, a seabird of the craggy coasts of the Pacific Northwest, showed up at Montrose. One hundred and four birders from across the state arrived on a moment’s notice to observe the bird on a dreary November day. That’s just one example of a lot of people coming into the city to watch birds.
We need to recognize that the dunes, savannas and wetlands on the southern end of Lake Michigan existed long before us. Birds still utilize the patchwork of what’s left. That’s why we’re asking that the Park District create a policy for large events at Montrose, so that we can again be the City in a Garden.
Piping Plover Day draws 2.5 million-plus media impressions, mobilizes volunteers, marks release of documentary
From two beach clean-ups to a bird walk, a happy hour and even a film screening, the first-ever Illinois Piping Plover Day was a smashing success, tallying at least 2.5 million media impressions and bringing together people across the Illinois shore of Lake Michigan. Piping Plover Day—a concept developed and implemented by Turnstone Strategies—was inspired by “Monty” and “Rose,” a pair of endangered piping plovers that took up residence this summer on busy Montrose Beach in Chicago. When a scheduled music festival encroached on their nest, the plovers were propelled to national headlines and became local avian celebrities.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker declared November 18 Piping Plover Day to celebrate the birds, the volunteers that protected them and the release of a documentary on the same day. The announcement drew interest from television, radio and newspaper outlets. With just days to prepare, we quickly organized a suite of activities on a dreary November day. For starters, volunteers gathered at Montrose Beach to collect plastics and other human debris in hopes of protecting shorebird habitat. Volunteers in Waukegan followed that up with a beach cleanup of their own. Meanwhile, a group of birders braved the 30-degree temperatures for a walk at South Shore Nature Sanctuary, a parcel of lakefront property that is threatened by development. In the afternoon, the festivities moved to Spiteful Brewing on the city’s North Side, where a cause marketing promotion included a toast to Monty and Rose and a percentage-of-sales to benefit piping plover conservation.
The special day was capped by a screening of “Monty and Rose,” an independent documentary developed by Turnstone Strategies and funded through the generous support of backers on Kickstarter. The showing drew a sellout crowd to the historic Music Box Theatre, the first of five sold-out showings.
A robust social strategy resulted in at least 100,000 impressions on Twitter and nearly as many on Facebook. The #PloverDay hashtag and custom graphics received tweets and retweets from a number of notable birders and leading Chicago conservation organizations and public agencies. The earned media strategy included print media and a letter to the editor that appeared in the Chicago Tribune.
Local volunteers are hopeful that Monty and Rose return to Chicago next year. Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a goal of ensuring 150 piping plover pairs in the Great Lakes by 2050. The current total is 71 pairs. The next steps are to develop a longer-lasting communications strategy that raises awareness of the birds, rallies Chicagoans and ensures expansion of the plover population.
Visit www.montyandrose.net to learn more about the documentary and attend a screening.
"Monty and Rose" tells the story of a pair of endangered piping plovers that successfully nested at Chicago's Montrose Beach in the summer of 2019, the first of the species to nest in Chicago in 64 years. Written, produced and directed by Turnstone's Bob Dolgan, the short documentary chronicles these special birds and an unpredictable series of events including a proposed music festival that propelled the birds to national headlines. "Monty and Rose" features interviews with an array of key players in the story, including biologists, birders, volunteers and the advocates who spoke out when the music festival was proposed. "Monty and Rose" is an independent project, funded through the generous support of backers on Kickstarter. Partners in the project include Turnstone Strategies, Wenkus Productions, Free Spirit Media and Eileen Wagner Design. Music is by local indie favorites Congress of Starlings. "Monty and Rose" will be released in November 2019. Learn more and support the film by visiting www.montyandrose.net.
Check out our trailer below!
By Bob Dolgan
September is traditionally the time when nonprofit organizations take a serious look at their plans for year-end fundraising. For many organizations, the last several weeks of the year account for the majority of individual giving. The rise of Giving Tuesday has changed the traditional calendar a bit. So have changes to the tax code — Dec. 31 is more of a symbolic deadline than it was in the past. What hasn’t changed is the importance of communicating with advocates, donors and volunteers — early and often.
Here is a primer on the four P’s of nonprofit marketing, a framework I developed after studying the four P’s that reign in corporate marketing. Nonprofit marketing has some things in common with for-profit marketing. It also has many things unlike for-profit marketing in that its activities are for public benefit rather than for shareholders. So here goes.
People are the advocates, donors, employees, partners and volunteers who support your cause and may be best positioned to support it again. Each of these groups requires a slightly different approach, though relationship-building and communications are at the core. People may be approached through events, phone calls and meetings, or virtually via email or social media. Your interactions with People throughout the year should build to a well-positioned request for support at the end of the year.
Programming refers to the mission of the organization or the services it provides. Having marketers present for programming conversations is highly valuable. When I was with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the rollout of the Producemobile served multiple purposes — it provided fruit and vegetables to food deserts but also served as a unique identifier for the organization and a popular program with members of the media, donors and volunteers. In the end, the organization’s programs are a form of marketing.
Promotion is made up of the organization’s marketing channels, or all the communications that explain services and their impact. Promotion tactics are especially varied, including advertising, blogs, direct mail, emails, newsletters, podcasts, social media, websites and video. The goal of promotion is a high volume of impressions that reach people several times with meaningful information about the organization. It’s important to be consistent with everything from messaging to visual identity.
Purpose is about differentiating an organization’s offerings and creating value that goes beyond the services it provides. Purpose can relate to the organization’s beliefs, how it goes about its work and how it conveys its organizational voice. One significant opportunity under Purpose is storytelling. The way the organization shares its most compelling anecdotes can help it stand out from the crowd. Purpose can be one of the less tangible concepts but also can be one of the most powerful.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act, the view from coal country and a visit to a solar-powered building in Uptown
I went back to some old haunts in Southeast Ohio recently. My friend’s family had owned a cabin in the Appalachian part of the state for years, and I’d been fortunate to spend quite a bit of time there. It was something of a reunion of 40-something friends that brought us to a campground in the area in June, right along the Ohio River.
We did some wonderful hiking, but there often wasn’t much to do but sit and watch barges go by on the river. The barges, as it turns out, were moving coal toward a big power plant on the West Virginia side.
I thought about the amount of energy being used to extract the coal, fuel the barges and power the plant. Then I thought about how mining coal would affect the trees and the hills all around us. Not to mention the carbon-filled air from the coal plant. It seemed there might be some more modern and healthier ways to create electricity.
Back in Chicago, there’s been another thing I’ve observed recently: a buzz around electricity without coal. I’ve met several people in the past year who are working in the industry or even starting energy companies themselves. It’s given me some room for optimism. Here’s some evidence of less reliance on coal in the place I call home, along with the recent closures of nearby coal-fired plants. There’s some national data showing a trend here.
That’s what brought me to a town hall-style event at the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) in my neighborhood of Uptown a few weeks ago. ICA has a noble mission, committed to equity and the environment, located in a “green rise” building powered by solar panels. The event was to discuss a bill, the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), with some lofty goals: 100% renewable energy in Illinois by 2050 and 40 million solar panels and 2,500 wind turbines by 2030. The bill has provisions around jobs, too, including investing in former power plant workers and disadvantaged communities.
The people at the town hall included families and a cross-section of Uptown residents. They came with common-sense concerns about energy and the economy. A lot of people felt like alternative energy was expensive, something that was out of reach and only available to the wealthy. Event organizers explained how that wasn’t necessarily the case.
I’m not entirely sure why CEJA wasn’t approved in the last session of the General Assembly. The bill makes quite a bit of sense and will not drain resources in a time when state finances are suffering. The hope is that it will pass in November and then be signed into law.
A meeting room in Uptown is a far cry from the banks of the Ohio River and coal country. But maybe an effort to further wean us from fossil fuel can start here in Chicago and Illinois. That could be hard to imagine for those in Ohio and West Virginia, who rely on coal for so much, but perhaps there is a path forward that works for everyone—and for our own health and well-being.
ICA has a nice write-up about the Uptown event here. ICA is organizing two more similar listening events, in South Shore on Aug. 28 and in Bronzeville in October.
Click here to learn more about CEJA and to get involved.
I'm pleased to introduce a Kickstarter to fund a short documentary on Monty and Rose, the two endangered piping plovers that are nesting at Montrose Beach and are the first piping plovers to nest in Chicago in at least 64 years. I am using the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform to complete the filming and editing of the project. As of now, we have a clip reel featuring Monty, Rose and the birds of Montrose Point, as well as an interview with Chicago Ornithological Society President Carl Giometti.
There has been quite a bit in the news lately about a concert planned for Montrose Beach in August. The goal here is to lift the narrative above the concert and create something lasting for the birds of Montrose Point, which is perhaps a top-five birding locale in the nation.
Click here to support the Kickstarter now through Aug. 5, 2019.
“I Dont wanna be here”
These were the words of a tweet by then-Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe in 2017. The tweet was sublime in its simplicity, if not in punctuation. In five words, Bledsoe conveyed his desire to be traded. You didn’t need to know the back story, or much else about the situation. It was time to move on from an oft-clueless Phoenix franchise. Within days, the Suns traded Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks. The team later signed Bledsoe to a long-term contract and then had the best record in the NBA this season. It started with that tweet.
This got me thinking about Twitter and what I’ve learned while using the platform. Here are a few thoughts, with a nod to what I’ll call the Bledsoe Effect.
Twitter is a highly adaptable platform. Bledsoe is going to have a different approach than someone looking for news or someone interested in mountain climbing or someone tweeting on behalf of a corporation, government agency or organization. Take for instance my favorite pastime of birding (a term interchangeably used with birdwatching). Photos of birds are often of most interest to my followers and draw the highest engagement levels. Toss in an interesting caption about Horned Grebes as a sign of spring and you might get a mini-Bledsoe effect and receive a nice response.
Twitter rewards consistency. Sure, everyone wants to fire off a random tweet occasionally. The beauty of the platform is that even a somewhat-thoughtless tweet typically goes away quickly. But if you are looking for engagement, it’s better to stay in your lane and become a presence within similar-minded tweeps. Then match the words in your Twitter profile to your lane so your interests are clear to your followers.
Twitter has the best analytics function in the business. Sometimes a low number of engagements belies what’s in your analytics. Take a look at detail expands, profile views and photo and video clicks and adjust your approach accordingly. Twitter analytics are easy to find from a drop-down in your account menu.
Tweeting is like “Field of Dreams,” if you tweet it, they will come. The more times you tweet, the more impressions you gain. Rather than your posts being viewed as impolite, it’s understood that Twitter lends itself to high volume. It’s good to tweet regularly. I’m often perplexed by well-known brands that send a single tweet weekly or monthly.
Twitter is the most irreverent of the major social media platforms. It’s important to suffuse your account with posts that are spontaneous and occasionally witty. Think of the tone of your tweets more like the funny texts you exchange with friends. Again, the Bledsoe Effect. His tweet worked because it said, “I Dont wanna be here,” rather than “I’ve formally requested a trade from the Phoenix Suns.”