Joining a birding or wildlife conservation organization is a fantastic way to support your favorite species and enjoy all the benefits that come with membership, from magazines and newsletters to festivals and travel opportunities. But which birding organization is right for you?
Factors to Consider
There are hundreds of birding organizations available throughout the world, from small local clubs and conservation groups to national and international organizations with thousands of members and multiple chapters or divisions. When you are considering which birding organization to join, think about…
- Mission: What is the purpose of the organization? Does it have a stated philosophy, and do you agree with its goals? Many organizations have a variety of core beliefs, such as conservation, habitat preservation, bird rehabilitation, international efforts and more. Choose an organization with a mission that matches up to your personal values and you will be more satisfied with what your membership dollars do.
- Projects: What projects does the organization regularly support? Do they have a political agenda or work through government channels to further their cause? Projects might include organizing festivals or birding tours, serving as public speakers, supporting education programs in different areas or fostering partnerships with other organizations to promote similar causes.
- Bird Exclusivity: What birds does the organization support? While many birding organizations support all types of birds, others are specialized for a certain type of bird (ducks, raptors, hummingbirds, etc.) or even a single species, typically an endangered bird or one needing special consideration. Some organizations also embrace all wildlife, including birds, but that will may mean that your membership dollars do not all go to birding causes.
- Budgeting: How are members' fees and donations used within the organization? How much money actually goes to support various causes, and how much is used for administrative support (paying employees, printing materials, office space, etc.)? While this information may not be immediately available, legitimate organizations will happily provide a general breakdown of expenses on request.
- Proximity: Is the organization involved in activities in your area? Would you be able to participate in events regularly? Joining in local activities can help you get more out of your membership dollars, but also be aware of how active the organization may be in areas where you plan to travel for birding and whether or not you could use membership privileges away from home.
- Benefits: What benefits come with being a member? Many organizations offer regular magazines or newsletters, and membership gifts such as water bottles, tote bags or binocular straps are also popular. Other benefits to joining birding organizations might include exclusive access to a website or discounts on birding travel, but take time to consider if you will actually use those benefits before letting them influence your decision to join.
- Fees: What is the cost of membership? Is it an annual fee or lifetime membership? Are there discounts for students, couples, multi-year memberships or other options? When your budget it tight, the cost of a membership can be critical in deciding whether or not you should join. Many organizations, however, do have different levels of membership and will allow at least a portion of the fees to be tax-deductible (depending on the organization's profit status).
Learning More About Organizations
Understanding just what a birding organization is about and how it works is important to choosing the best one for you to join. Many organizations have official websites that list their mission, upcoming events, causes they support and other information that can be helpful, or you can contact the organization to see if an information packet can be mailed to you. You can also ask if there are local members you could speak with, or investigate non-member opportunities such as attending an event or meeting as a guest to try out the organization before joining.
Popular birding organizations to join include:
Joining a birding organization is a fast, easy way to help support your favorite birds and reap the benefits of being a member of a like-minded group of people who share your passion for birding. Join in!