CelebratingYourLeadership Report for Maggie Walker


During a period of significant change at Audubon and across the country, your inspirational giving has helped bring to life a more inclusive, more innovative conservation paradigm. Protecting birds and the places they need is a collective effort. From advancing conservation strategies that span the hemisphere to launching vital organizational efforts that will make Audubon more inclusive, Elevate has helped position Audubon to meet 21st-century challenges facing birds and people. 

Your contribution was a seed from which Elevate sprouted. At a critical juncture for Audubon, your investment shaped how we operate and inspired other board members to consider how they give with an eye toward local and national priorities—and how greater investment can scale to create greater impact. As a leader on the Campaign Executive Committee and Council of Co-Chairs, you connected with board leaders at the state level, and took it upon yourself to speak directly with Audubon volunteer leaders and donors about the campaign. Elevate would never have left the ground without you.

Building a better Audubon

Powered by Elevate, board investments included $1 million in FY 2021 that positioned our new chief equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDIB) officer for success. In addition to the board’s commitment, the development team has raised nearly $950,000 toward our EDIB initiatives.

Of the $1 million dedicated by the board, we have disbursed just over $650,000. The majority of these funds were used to support the organization's internal activities such as the hiring and onboarding process for our chief equity, diversity, and inclusion officer, investments in human resources, and staff training. These efforts to transform Audubon's organization and culture were—and are—essential if we are to continue on our journey to become authentically inclusive and welcoming of all those who wish to be part of our conservation legacy.

For a more comprehensive overview of Audubon’s latest efforts in this area, please see the 2022 EDIB Report.

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Significant commitment.
Profound impact.

The structure of your Elevate campaign gift—part unrestricted, part investment in our future, and part support for Audubon Washington—became a model that will elevate Audubon for years to come. Furthermore, your profound engagement and support across multiple pathways, from executive and board leadership to catalyzing state leaders to Walker Fellows, is serving as a leadership model for how board members and supporters can engage.

Organizational transformation at scale requires significant time and resources. It also requires visionary leadership to look at what is and to imagine what could be—the type of leadership you’ve always demonstrated.

Maggie, thank you for your enduring support for conservation, for birds, and for Audubon. Your generosity and leadership have been instrumental in creating a new vision for Audubon, making spaces for new voices in the world of conservation, and ensuring we can all work together to protect our shared and precious planet.

Centers Transformation

Your campaign support for our Centers is powering programs around the country, with a growing focus on grassroots and community leadership.

Your gift helped to underwrite a learning lab, which helped identify strengths, best practices, infrastructure needs, and more. We are now better prepared to scale successful programs to benefit other Centers throughout the network. This work is informed by a broad-based assessment of our Centers strategy, conducted by the team of Amy Kaufman Cultural Planning, PROS Consulting, and HG & Co., that will position us to better integrate community needs with an enhanced theory of change. 

The transformation efforts you've helped to drive have had several significant benefits, both locally and nationally:

The primary initiative fueling program innovation at Audubon Centers over the last three years has been the Maggie Walker Incentive Fund, which is currently in its final year of grants. The Fund has supported 17 projects across the country and garnered significant matching funds to bolster these initiatives. 

Our Program Innovation Working group is assessing the funded projects to determine which are best suited for further expansion. In the coming years, we will devote resources to scale up these pilot projects, develop clear financial models and understanding of outputs and outcomes, and train staff in their implementation. In addition to your support, this work is aligned and leveraged by the $1 million National Science Foundation grant to develop a new Audubon-wide curriculum to engage 18-25 years old in STEM and Climate Science through guided nature experiences.

Future investments will advance work that is necessary for Audubon to realize the timely vision of transforming our Centers—places that are a vital entry point for so many who are touched by and become part of our work.

Maggie Walker Centers Incentive Fund

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, staff at Audubon Centers have been extremely successful at stimulating program innovation. In many ways, the pandemic has increased communities’ desire to spend time—safely—together and in nature. Our staff demonstrated outstanding flexibility and perseverance, not only in shifting activities to remote contexts, but also in facilitating modified programming that prioritized the health of our visitors while still enabling active in-person engagement.

As we encourage growth at the local level, we are also identifying and nurturing programs with scalable potential: programs that can be uniquely Audubon across the nation. However, as you know, it’s not enough to ask people to come up with good ideas for innovative offerings. In a national network like ours, it takes resources to put these plans into action. In 2021 we received nine grant proposals totaling $538,985, with an additional $577,200 of proposed match funds. Six of the proposals were accepted.


Maggie Walker Centers Incentive Fund Grantees 2021

Honoring Our Roots

Following their recent designation by the National Park Service as an Underground Railroad Trail to Freedom site, staff at the Audubon Center and Sanctuary at Francis Beidler Forest are working to build the partnerships, skills, and competency to better interpret the difficult history of the site as part of their efforts to advance equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging. With 1,000+ years of unchanged, old-growth forest surrounding the boardwalk, Beidler Forest can play a unique role in sharing this history.

Engaging Native Landowners

Over the past several years, Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center has forged partnerships with the Ponca and Winnebago Tribes to implement bird-friendly conservation practices and grow engagement with Indigenous populations. We now aim to expand these relationships to bring Plants for Birds to one of the few remaining remnants of tallgrass prairie, to assist with community projects on tribal lands, and to expand the use of Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center by first peoples.

Forging Pathways from the Classroom to Careers in Conservation

Following on the success of the Tenacious Roots teen afterschool program, Seward Park Audubon Center seeks to launch a new Elevation program that will engage an even broader swath of young people. The program will create cohorts in six schools in the Puget Sound area, empowering students to plan and execute their own conservation projects while connecting with environmental professionals as they grow their understanding of careers in conservation.

Bringing Wild Indigo to the Heart of Columbus

Grange Insurance Audubon Center is partnering with colleagues in the Great Lakes office to expand the Wild Indigo program to the Columbus community. Located within the 120-acre Scioto Audubon Metro Park, the Center is a critical resource for the surrounding community, offering access to nature, educational programming, and art exhibitions for people of all ages in the heart of downtown Columbus. Wild Indigo is a program focused on thoughtfully engaging diverse and underestimated communities in conservation issues that are relevant and impactful in their everyday lives.

Reaching Diverse Communities in the Southwest

Rio Salado Audubon Center is also partnering with colleagues in the Great Lakes office to expand the Wild Indigo program to the Phoenix community. The new Rio Salado Wild Indigo program will explore partnership and engagement opportunities in the immediate South Phoenix vicinity, where they plan to help address the barriers and lack of awareness that make natural spaces and environmental careers inaccessible to communities of color and begin to dismantle perceptions that nature, stewardship, and environmental careers are not for them.

Welcoming New Fellows

The two Audubon Centers in California—Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary and the Audubon Center at Debs Park—are teaming up to create a new Community Conservation Fellowship program. This multi-landscape and dual-center fellowship will launch two young adults’ conservation careers and provide young people in two urban centers with volunteerism and advocacy experience.

Incentive Fund Overview

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