Thank you to all that joined our 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting! Even if this year we couldn’t come together as a community, we were so glad to have so many familiar faces on the call. A big thank you to all the Chapters that shared their updates and to the Naming Grant partners that will be supporting various Chapters next season. For those that were unable to make it, check out the recap below. You’ll find a link to the slides and a link to the recording on our YouTube channel.
2020 has been a year of highs and lows. While we celebrate our outdoor community, it goes without saying that thousands of families in our country and those closer to us in VT, unfortunately, have been through some seriously challenging times. It’s hard to know where to begin when describing this year. Early on in January and February, things seemed to be on track. As you all know by Mid-March we all were anxious about learning all we could, sharing good information and coordinating it as much as possible between state leadership, the CDC, chapters, etc. The riding community did an amazing job in general with being patient and attempting to be supportive of their fellow riders. We were all grounded in the fact that the pandemic was and still is tragic for many families, and the stress put on layers of essential workers. We led with a mind for each other’s safety. We encourage all to continue exercising patience moving forward – it appears we have a ways to go before this thing under control.
Before we jump in, we have a few words to share from Tom Stuessy, Executive Director –
“I want to take a minute to say thank you. It has been my honor to serve as VMBA’s director for the past nearly nine years. I’ve learned so much from many of you and am grateful for your support in the good and challenging times we’ve experienced over the years. I am excited for the office staff, the board and the next director. I assure you, the search committee is doing a fantastic job with the search. The folks lucky enough to get an interview will have the background needed to keep this train rolling and the person ultimately selected to be the next director will have earned it.
I encourage you to join me in supporting the next director in every way possible – they are going to need a little grace and your expertise as the amazing community they are a part of comes fully into focus for them – this will take time. With you behind them, there is nothing that they can’t achieve. Thank you all so much for everything you’ve meant to me and my family. ”
2020 Summary of Initiatives
Our Diversity Initiative this year harnessed the interest and momentum from the last few years to further our discussion around diversity and what a rider looks like in Vermont. This year especially, there has been a lot of discussion surrounding the lack of diversity in the outdoors both in our communities and with our Diversity Initiative. We evaluated our approach and appointed a steering committee comprised of VMBA BOD members, VMBA staff, and Chapter BOD members. We believe that this committee will have the tools and resources to sustain the initiative for multiple years. The committee heard the communities opinions in our 2019 Membership Survey and prioritized our focus for the short term, 1-year, 2-year, and 3-year projects and changed the language of our DEI pledge to reflect our expectations as an organization to what we are hearing as a society. Projects include our What Does a Rider Look Like campaign, additional blog posts, DEI training, guest speaker presentations, and other offerings. As we are at a transition point with the search of a new Executive Director, we are ensuring that the new ED will continue this work for a diverse, equitable, and inclusive riding community. The ridership we have here in Vermont is wonderful, but there is still work to be done, and there will always be. We encourage anyone that is interested in learning more, or if you have questions/input, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
We are very excited for the growth of our marketing efforts over the past year. With the lack of events, we had to put a stronger emphasis on marketing and outreach. We saw growth in all of our outreach platforms and were able to accomplish several projects. Our newsletter has now over 11,000 subscribers, which has grown by 23% since Nov. 2019. We began utilizing google analytics and tracking our website growth, which saw over 45,000 users since January. Our top pages include our homepage, bike raffle, join page, covid-19 updates, and member benefits. We also saw high traffic through our Plan Your Ride platform and TrailsinVT, both excellent resources for exploring what Vermont has to offer. Our social media also saw significant growth. Facebook has over 8,000 followers, a 15% increase from Nov. 2019, and Instagram has over 5,400 followers, a 78% increase. We launched our YouTube channel, where you’ll find all of our current videos (stay tuned for more videos coming out soon!). Finally, we completed two videos with Eight8 Creative, Cabot, and Mad River Riders to produce videos focused on landowner and volunteer appreciation. We completed a photoshoot with UVMBA and Bear Cieri to highlight family riders and trail volunteerism. We produced an educational brochure for our community, thanks to DRVN Studios and UVM Print & Mail Center. Finally, we launched our first ever Sedona Trip Raffle, creating partnerships that reach all the way across the country. 2020 was a big year of growth for our marketing efforts and we are so excited for the additional projects that we have for 2021. Stay tuned!
Over the course of the last 2+ years, the Vermont Trails Alliance (VTA) has been working with conservation groups in Montpelier and FPR to develop an alternative to Act 250 to oversee the trail building process. This work was extremely resource intensive, but necessary as it benefits every chapter, trail builder, trail user, and, in this case, most importantly, private landowners. This work culminated into language included in H.926, the big Act 250 Bill. As many of you know, H.926 was vetoed, but was followed by an Executive Order that charged FPR with two things: first, submit a report by March 1st outlining how an alternative process will be developed. Secondly, and if the report is accepted, putting the specifics of the report into action and doing the work of assembling the new trail oversight process. It is anticipated that this process will take the majority of ‘21 to complete. The Vermont Trails and Greenway Council (VTGC) has asked for access to every phase of the process to ensure that you and your landowners are consistently represented. Trails groups will be meeting with the Commissioner, ideally, before Thanksgiving. It’s also worth noting that the Executive Order represents more than a gesture from the Governor – it is a statement from this administration that it values the work of trail based nonprofits and recognizes the unique value we bring to the lives of Vermonters, visitors, and local businesses. Chapters can anticipate consistent updates on the process coming out of the office in ‘21.
For our 2020/21 Membership season, we’ve had 2,875 base individual members and 4,742 base family members. This has us at a total of 7,617 members, which is our record season total and a 12% increase from last year! For add-on members, we had 1,487 individual add-on members and 1,785 add on members. This is a total of 3,278 add on members, which is a 94% increase from last year!
Chapter Admin includes travel, insurance, member benefits, Chapter marketing materials (COVID signs), web design, Chapter event supplies, Chapter program admin, VMBA Trail Grant.
VMBA Operations includes business expenses (annual reg. fees, bank fees, credit card fees, mailchimp, QB, etc.), marketing (brochures, videos, paid social, raffle bike, etc.), office rent, office supplies, phone, internet, salaries, salary related expenses, professional services.
Chapter donations & Grants are 100% passthrough funds ($104,597)
Naming Grants are 100% passthrough to chapters
- Total base memberships revenue: $341,428 total base membership payout: $197,452
- Add-ons for VMBA base chapters generated an additional – $52,00
- If we add base member payouts, add-ons, Naming grants, Chapter program admin, and the VMBA trail grant – the Chapter model generated $345,000 in trail support in 2020 – this is in addition to paid administration at the chapter level, and the extremely valuable volunteer effort every year.
74% of all expenses are items that are in direct support of chapters. This is great news! It means the office is operating efficiently and the funding systems are supporting your trails and chapter operations well.
The income shown here represents everything through Sept. 30th. The expenses include all of our known fixed expenses through Dec. 31st. With good read on the VMBA Trail Grant and what we wanted to use to build the rainy day fund, we understood our expenses well when we printed the annual appeal.
The income here does not include a few items – these were not accounted for as we cannot count any non-guaranteed income until it has arrived. The income still in process includes a grant from ACCD, an operations grant from Cabot, RTP pass-through funds to Chapters, and donations from the annual appeal. These sources are anticipated to generate an additional $45k in revenue between October 1st and December 31st.
Many of you have likely seen this graph already, but we wanted to show it here also as it illustrates the partnership required to generate our shared successes. The chapters and the office each play important roles towards getting more trails on the ground.
From membership, the office retained $143,976. The grid to the right shows how this money was spent. The total of the grid on the right is $154,000.
It was requested at the meeting that a Balance Sheet be available. Please find that here: 2020 Balance Sheet.
Our model has helped support some amazing work this year!
We had several Chapters present and share updates on the exciting projects that are happening in their area. Please check out our Annual Meeting video or slideshow to hear and see what Chapters are up to. Chapters that presented include Mad River Riders, Franklin County Mountain Bike Club, Velomont, Slate Valley Trails, Grateful Treads, Upper Valley Mountain Bike Association, Fellowship of the Wheel, Stowe Trails Partnership, WATA, WAMBA, and MAMBA (voice only).
VMBA BOD Elections
We are very excited to welcome Ariel Kent and Curtis Fox to the VMBA BOD! Jeff Dickson will remain on the BOD for a second term. Jason Rickles will be moving into the Chapter Liaison VMBA BOD seat.
These grants are more than funding and represent intentional, long-range benefits to chapters and thousands of trail users. Companies that show an interest in their employee’s passions beyond the scope of their work and link those passions to making a meaningful difference in their communities have an easier time attracting and retaining top level talent. The naming grants allow outdoor minded business an opportunity to measurably illustrate to their employees that they care about what matters to them and their communities. In turn, lifting up the value of trail volunteerism – and supporting your projects, becomes a core business strategy that companies can use in a variety of ways. Companies being philanthropic isn’t a new concept, but the naming grant program integrates our partners to a deeper extent. As a team, they choose which chapter project to support. This process, ideally, promotes a positive dynamic among employees.
Mike Donohue from Outdoor Gear Exchange shared the following with us recently: “Outdoor Gear Exchange is proud to be able to support The office and chapters in building and maintaining Vermont’s trail infrastructure, a key part of what makes Vermont special and where we have found solace, stress relief and also lots of fun in the past year. Looking at RASTA’s plans we are also excited for the years ahead and to begin to piece together a state length singletrack!”
There’s more – any trail project that was not chosen for a Naming Grant, has the opportunity to seek funding through the VMBA trail grant. These grant funds are 100% managed by chapters through a trails committee on the Advisory Council. This council is made up of one chapter representative from each chapter and meets a few times a year. Once the naming grants have been chosen, the Advisory Council gets to work on reviewing their peers’ trail proposals and awards the VMBA Trail Grants each year.
We are excited to see how this program evolves, It’s unique to VMBA and holds tremendous potential. We are very excited to share this year’s grant selections on behalf of our grant partners:
- Burton – Mad River Riders
- Cabot – FOTW, BATS, WAMBA
- Outdoor Gear Exchange – RASTA
- Ranch Camp – RMT, Ascutney Trails
- Vermont Country Store – JAMBA
- Mountain Flyer Magazine – support in the Chapter Trail Grant
Thank you so much to all of the volunteers that have lent a helping hand to a VMBA Chapter this year. We know that it was tough to volunteer this year with the uncertainty of COVID-19 and so we appreciate all of your dedication and support to our Chapters and the trails. Plus, I want to give a special thank you to Cabot, Specialized and Skirack for all of your support for this amazing program.
Without further ado, the winner of a Specialized Enduro Expert is Damien Brown! Congratulations Damien! And again, thank you to our partners, Chapters, and volunteers for the hard work that was put in over this year.
Things to Keep in Mind this Winter
- Stay safe – stay diligent about the pandemic guidelines
- Some folks may not do well with more isolation – please reach out more often and expand your digital community
- Think about sharing your talents with a VMBA Chapter in 2021
- Commit to attending at least two trail days in 2021. Log those hours and enter to win a sweet new bike!