Mid-Atlantic-Off Road Enthusiasts (MORE) Annual Board Transition Meeting
Offices of Competitive Power Ventures
8403 Colesville Road
Silver Spring, MD
Board Members Present
- Ernie Rodriguez, President
- Rob Lowe, Vice-President
- Aaron Richter, Treasurer
- Greg Dwyer, Operations Director
- Dave Magill, MD Advocacy Director
- Jeff Niner, VA Advocacy Director
- Carlos Alfaro, Activities Director
- Tom Howe, Membership Director
MORE Staff and Members
- Steve DonTigny, Executive Director
- Jonah Meyers, Vice-Treasurer
- Jonathan Kidwell, Trail Boss
Item #1: Introductions
Current and new Board members introduced themselves, discussed their backgrounds, and talked about their roles vis-à-vis MORE.
Item #2: Trails Discussion
Ernie & Steve DonTigny met w/REI representatives on Friday, January 6th to discuss current and future interactions between MORE and REI. Ernie suggests setting up a meeting of the trails committee to focus on future projects with REI and other large donors. REI’s grant funding to MORE was also discussed. MORE has had some true success and some mixed success in 2016. The problem areas have been: 1) Patapsco signage; 2) Loch Raven approvals; and 3) Fort DuPont. We need to show success and “untie” funds. REI wants regular feedback regarding the projects they fund.
What does the Trails Advocacy Position Entail? (Dave Magill): The trails/advocacy job in a nutshell is: 1) getting approved trail access; 2) raising funds and getting funds for MORE; 3) organizing both build and maintenance activities; and 4) working closely with the liaisons. The Trail Boss is responsible for interacting w/the multiple MORE trail liaisons. Specifically he/she is responsible for: 1) supplying tools to trail liaisons for workdays; 2) organizing and/or scheduling workdays; 3) recruiting and maintaining liaisons for parks; and 4) tracking volunteer hours. Why is tracking hours so important?—our volunteer corps and their hours give MORE a huge advantage and credibility when speaking w/local land managers, policy makers, and donors/funders and is used to support our matching grant process. It’s also important so that we can annually recognize members who volunteer for MORE. MORE recognizes the volunteer “pay rate” as $23/hour; this is substantial “money” when we show we have had over 6000 volunteer hours in a year. The Trail Boss also interfaces w/IMBA on trail issues, trainings, and local land-use issues.
Trail Liaisons and Co-liaisons: Trail liaisons and co-liaisons have responsibility for their park(s): fundraising, interfacing w/the local land manger, organizing rides and trail workdays, and interfacing w/MORE volunteers, staff, and the MORE Board
Trail Workday and Hand-tool budget: 2017 budget for workday costs hand-tools is $8,000. MORE supports limited food provision, typically breakfast, for trail workdays. The Board supports the liaisons and Trail Boss to the best extent possible, but we also encourage liaisons to find local lunch sponsors
Special Purpose Funds: these funds are dedicated and restricted to specific trails, parks, or events. The liaisons and their parks/projects are often self-funded. MORE tries to empower the local liaisons and their teams to be as self-sufficient as possible.
Annual Trail Liaison Meeting (Dave Magill and Jonathan Kidwell): The annual trail liaison meeting in March 2017 will be important for new Board members to attend, especially the MD and VA advocacy directors. This meeting is intended to share lessons learned, discuss current and future projects, and collectively recognize the outstanding work of our liaisons and volunteers.
Monthly Board Meetings: MORE board meetings are organized around an agenda, last two hours, and are held on a monthly basis (the second Monday of the month). The expectation is the MD and VA advocacy directors will provide updates on their activities for board discussion.
What are the critical elements to understand to be successful at the advocacy position? Do: 1) build community around trails; 2) enable and support trail liaisons in building trials; 3) help recruit volunteers to support trail liaisons; 4) help trail liaisons raise funds to support trails; 5) integrate and celebrate liaison advocacy and trail building successes; and 6) provide training for volunteer trail builders. Don’t: 1) no illegal trail building; 2) no illegal events (races, club parties, etc.); 3) no illegal night riding or illegal riding in general; 4) important to know the rules and regulations for using power tools at each park; and 5) know how to request and purchase tools for trail work from the Board.
Re-routing of existing trails: rule of thumb is if one is re-routing more than 10 yards of trail, then interact w/the local land manager as this becomes a bigger project. Know the difference between big and small projects at the parks. Of course, this depends on the relationship with the land manager and trail liaison.
Brush management: MORE is seeing more and more need for both brush mowers and the use of blade and string trimmers. The purchase of these types of power tools stretches the budget. Liaisons should be interfacing w/the Trail Boss and advocacy directors when a large purchase is under consideration. MORE has two Brush Hogs currently located in storage at Seneca State Park and one CanyCom rock and gravel mover located in a trail liaison’s garage.
Other trail and park clubs and support of multi-use trails: MORE supports the multi-use, natural surface community in the WDC area. We want to partner with all trail users. MORE is having increased success w/the multi-use community b/c we build and maintain trails—MORE is a respected organization in the region b/c we achieve positive, sustainable results for the communities in which we work. We are primarily a MTN Bike club, but we support all human-powered trail use. The Board supports MORE member involvement in “friends of” groups for specific regional parks and recreation areas, specifically by participating on their boards and interacting w/club members to advance MORE’s goals and objectives.
Community issues (Jonathon Kidwell): How do our newer liaisons and newer parks build rapport and create successful interactions w/the local community? What does it mean to build a community around a park? The Patapsco Park liaison community is an excellent example.
Action Item (Jonathan): MORE has encouraged liaisons to build community, but it hasn’t told them how to do this. Suggest this item be put on the liaison annual meeting/dinner agenda. Each local “social community” builds and maintains trails and organizes the work and community outreach at parks.
Bike Parks/Gravity Trails/Pump Tracks/Expansion of Non-Traditional Trails:
What is MORE’s involvement w/these type of projects? Bike parks are growing in interest and are expanding in the region, however they are very labor and cost intensive. The per/mile cost of supporting a natural mile of trail is considerably less than the per/mile cost of supporting a mile of bike park/pump track trail.
Ernie: These “non-traditional” uses serve as a gateway to future memberships and increased involvement in MORE and its “traditional” projects.
Bull-Run Occoquan Trail (BROT) access was built on the success, popularity, and use of Fountainhead.
Trails and Trail Liaisons Budget : MORE operates on an approved annual budget process. Each Board member has a specific budget and can approve his/her own projects. The Trail Boss has the largest budget (~$8K). A trails committee was formed to focus on priorities and for the disbursement of trail-specific, restricted funds. The Most Accountable Person (MAP) and the trail liaison collaborate to approve expenditures. MORE board members serve as Most Accountable Persons (MAP)s to provide accountability for project funds.
- General Trail Fund—a special purpose fund, but not dedicated to a specific park or project.
- Recreational Trails Program (RTP) Grants—essentially, grant monies coming from gas tax revenue for use by individual states. MORE succeeded in getting two $30K grants in MD in 2016. Advocacy Directors work w/ liaisons to develop ideas and proposals for grants that are then prioritized. In VA, the minimum RTP grant is $100K (MORE would match 20% of the VA RTP grant). Those RTP requests are for single projects; we can’t package multiple parks in VA for a bigger RTP grant. We also can’t propose that the funding be applied in phases—the RTP grants fund specific projects over specific timelines (usually no more than three years). RTP grant monies can’t fund trail design, marketing, or fundraising—the funds must focus on actual trail building. In MD, the general limit for grants is below $40Kand 10% of the MD RTP grant can go to design, permitting and other costs (new trail development).
Item #3: 2017 Events of Note (Rob Lowe)
- Winter Membership Meeting (Party), February 4th, Silver Spring, MD, 6-9PM.
- Annual Trail Liaison Meeting, March 2107 (specific date/time/location TBD) Montgomery County (MoCo), MD
- Summer Festival, June 10th, MoCo (Seneca Creek State Park)
- 25th Gala: Location TBD. Tentative Date is 29 July, 2017
- Patapsco Trail Fest September 15-17, MD
- MORE Fall Camping Trip: September 22-24, 2107, West Virginia.
- MoCo Epic: 7-8 October, 2017. MoCo, MD.
- Thinking of reinventing the NoVa Epic – dependent on volunteers
Item #4: 2106 vs. 2107 Financials (Aaron Richter)
2016 was a good year regarding donations and memberships.
During the last six weeks of 2016, MORE received approximately $10K in general fundraising. How often does MORE want to push for donations from members? Semi-annually? Focus on a spring donation and on end-of-the-year calls for financial support. Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) donations: None in 2017 b/c MORE did not submit its 2017 application in time. MORE will be back in the CFC Catalogue of Giving 2018.
MORE-IMBA Financial Relationship: IMBA cost-sharing and funding of MORE staff. The Chapter Charter Agreement notes three main items between MORE and IMBA: 1) having an executive-director; 2) getting under the IMBA liability insurance umbrellas; 3) and increasing MORE’s size as a result of its association w/IMBA. We need to grow our membership and we need to grow our grants and funding. We are event driven and that’s when most members renew memberships and when we onboard new members. We need to advertise auto-renewal memberships. Membership revenue is currently split 60/40 between IMBA and MORE respectively. IMBA is considering changing the revenue split based on chapter input and will make a decision early part of 2018.
2017 Budget: The 2017 MORE operating budget was approved in early January 2107.
The average outlay of budgetary expenses per member is $100. Memberships are $35/year. MORE needs to communicate this important fact to current and potential members. Members need to know MORE spends more per member than members pay in dues. Discussion ensued about using membership revenue to fund social activities and raise donations to build trails with matching funds and volunteer work or materials.
Greg D: How do we want to handle recognizing in-kind donations, and do we want to do this in our communications with potential donors and sponsors? A: We could do this, but it may add to our accounting burden and it may not be fully accurate as in-kind donations value is based on what the particular donor has determined. Ernie: We are asking for donations and should accommodate in-kind donations and asks as long as they are reasonable.
Donors and Sponsorships (Steve DonTigny & Jonah): A MORE committee has been established consisting of: Steve DonTigny, Jonah Meyers, Dave Farraro, Ryan Delany, and Ernie Rodriguez. The committee is looking for one additional member. We are looking to establish a database w/current donors. Focusing on specific sectors such as the Healthcare Industry (doctors, specialists, etc.), real-estate agents, builders, lenders, non-profits, foundations, charitable trusts, non-government grants, companies in the mid-Atlantic area, and outdoor apparel industries and manufacturers. Tom Niner: What about corporate political action committees and matching dollars to employees? Steve: this is the kind of information we need to communicate to members—that they can join their organization’s Employee Political Action Committee (EPAC) and donate to MORE this way. The MORE Donors Committee wants to work w/an apparel organization for the 25th anniversary jersey, on socks, and other items.
Potential Fundraising Events Include: 25th Anniversary Gala (July), Happy Hours, Tap Take-Overs, Board members leading rides on weekends for current and potential donors, Women’s Rides & Events, sMORE’s rides. Need to focus on these underrepresented groups, i.e. women in MORE.
Sponsoring workdays at parks: DC Brau may be willing to sponsor a workday at Fort Dupont Park. Greg D. is following up.
MD RTP Grants Working Capital (Dave): We need to look at increasing the working capital fund (aka backstopping funds) to support MD RTP Grants. We have $100k in grants available for Patuxent and another $60K elsewhere and will need to spend funds up front and be reimbursed by MD State Highway Administration after work is completed. This will be an ongoing challenge for MORE.
Restricted Funds Review (Dave): Reviewed ongoing projects in MD and VA. Board passed a motion to close the Trail Tread and Black Hill funds as they are completed. Liaisons will continue to have access to additional tools as needed.
Item #5: Improving and/or updating the MORE website
Greg has lead for this. Work w/Martin Fernandez and then through Jason Ashmore to consider alternatives. Martin and Jason built the MORE website, Jason is the system administrator and Martin is the content manager. Can we host it somewhere less expensive? Can we edit what is on the website? Editing the website CONTENT is the key goal now. We have 10-15 people with admin rights and each person has their own vision on how/why/when the MORE website should be updated. Jason is excellent at controlling website cost and will continue serve as system administrator. Martin will work to help train administrative users to add content to our site.
Action: Rob, Tom, and Carlos, et. al will work together to review the website and provide suggestions for improvements to Greg D. who will present the suggestions, options, and proposed priorities for improving the MORE website during a future Board meeting.
Item #6: Update on IMBA and collaboration(s) with other trail user groups (Ernie)
Major changes in and to IMBA are immanent in 2017. IMBA runs the essential “back office” operations for MORE. The IMBA associate regional directors not directly funded by a local IMBA chapter were let go. Let’s consider increasing our collaboration with other trail user groups in the local community—we can do this w/out cost to the organization by literally showing up to common events and by supporting common projects.
Ride event coordinator: Brad Hawk—Brad is responsible for regional ride leaders, getting rides on the calendar, Patapsco After Dark, tracking rides lead/swept, etc.
Item #7: February Winter Member Meeting (Party) – All
Ernie: Russ Adams has the lead and will be distributing the agenda and plan for the February member meeting to the Board.
Family Rides, sMOREs: Some of the sMORE’s groups are on winter hiatus. A few groups are active like Todd B. who is now leading sMORE’s in MoCo year round.
Women’s Program: We have great women leaders growing or ride offerings, skills, events and members.
Action Item: We need to make sure we advertise the Winter Meeting Pot Luck in all of our social media!
Gears and Beers: It’s a FB group, not “Meet-Up” group. A community w/in a community, mainly supporting Lake Fairfax Park.
Mountain Bike Meetup – MORE’s Meet-Up group can be found under “Mountain Bike Meet-Up” on the Meet-Up website.
MVD Meetup – has been great at advertising rides, workdays and supporting MORE.
Prospect of Montgomery County, MD becoming an IMBA Ride Center: Could the DC area become an IMBA Ride center? Certainly worth considering.
Action Item: Ernie will work with Dave and Casey Anderson (MoCo Park and Planning) to begin the studying the process for MoCo to be designated as an IMBA Ride Center.
Item #8: Influence among other organizations and Strategic Direction (Ernie) What and how much influence does MORE have in its collaborators network: hikers, road bikers, kayakers, horse community, other trail users? Where do we see the organization five years from now? Ernie’s vision: 5K members, serving as a model organization for other regional and national mountain biking groups to copy, to become self-sufficient in funding and staffing, keeping MORE primarily a volunteer organization with a minimal paid staff, becoming the enabler of multi-use trails in the region, producing regional events and celebrations, and being part of a strong IMBA.
Item #9: Volunteers (Ernie)
Marketing: Jason Miller did an outstanding job on developing the “Who is MORE?” campaign. Trailhead News was successful in 2016 and we should continue distributing Trailhead News in 2017. The dedication of Dave Farraro and Jason Miller in editing the communications was outstanding and that made it successful.