Last spring the pandemic upended North Carolina’s plans for its advocacy day and organizers had to pivot to a fully digital event, including adapting their trainings and approach to fit those needs. Building on all of the learning from last year’s adapted event, Audubon North Carolina expanded its ability to reach and train new advocates by giving last year’s volunteers the tools they needed to become trainers in their own right.

That work paid off on February 10 when more than 100 ambassadors, college students, volunteers, and bird advocates met with 41 lawmakers to talk about Audubon North Carolina’s top priorities for this legislative: growing the state’s conservation trust funds, supporting clean energy and storage, and finding solutions to the heirs’ property problem

Mary Abrams and Anne Dayer, members of Audubon North Carolina’s board and leaders for their chapters—Wake Audubon and New Hope Audubon, respectively—were two of eight local leaders that stepped up to the challenge of organizing members, recruiting new people, scheduling meetings, and preparing fellow constituents for the big day.

In addition to helping organize the event, local leaders attended a series of advocacy trainings and preparation webinars hosted by Audubon North Carolina and members of Audubon’s national campaigns team. Those leaders continually checked-in with fellow chapter members and advocates until everyone felt comfortable and ready.

“I felt that having local leaders established much more of a connection to the volunteers, advocates, and even lawmakers," says Dayer. "It was also beneficial for us to lead the flock since we foster relationships with these representatives and senators and provide feedback on what our community needs." 

Megan Damico, an environmental health sciences Ph.D. candidate and member of the T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon Society who particpated in advocacy day last year and this year, says this virtual Advocacy Day showed her the next step in the evolution of grassroots advocacy. Damico also stepped up to the challenge of organizing members, recruiting new people, scheduling meetings, and preparing fellow constituents. And since last year’s advocacy day, Damico has ramped up her involvement with Audubon North Carolina and took what she learned to inform her students on her campus.

“I see this as my calling. This work gives me so much joy and I take pride as the ‘bird lady’ on my campus,” says Damico. “A year ago I attended my first advocacy day, now I’m organizing it and planning another one for fellow graduate students on a totally different topic. In large part, this confidence is all thanks to Audubon North Carolina for making me feel empowered.” 

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