Waterfowl Association manages to stay afloat

By Joe Albert

Staff Writer

Plymouth, Minn. — A group with a cloud over its head the past
two years, the Minnesota Waterfowl Association, has a new lease on
life.

The 39-year-old conservation group will stay in business after
delegates learned Saturday its $150,000 goal had been reached and
voted unanimously to keep it running.

“Everybody was pleasantly surprised,” said Jim Cox, MWA
president. “We kind of stalled out there and I think everybody was
kind of apprehensive.”

The association announced in early June that it needed $150,000
to pay off its debt and have some money to operate. Things looked
bleak a week before delegates were scheduled to vote on the group’s
future. There were about $114,000 in pledges at that point.

So Bruce Philipson, MWA vice president, and others started a
phone campaign. They called 2,000 to 3,000 MWA members and raised
about $25,000, said Brad Nylin, the group’s development director.
Late pledges pushed the total to $155,000.

“I was accused at times of being too optimistic when we started
this fundraising,” said Nylin, who’s been with MWA three years.

The group has $65,000 worth of debt to pay off; the rest will be
used for operations, Nylin said. One pledge – $60,000 from the Carl
and Verna Schmidt Foundation – will be available to local MWA
chapters (That grant was dependent on the group meeting its
$150,000 goal and is not included in the total.)

MWA will move forward with two employees in its state office in
Plymouth. Les Jones, who was executive director of the group,
resigned his position July 15 in a cost-saving move. He already had
cut his $57,500 salary in half, but said in a letter that MWA
couldn’t afford a full- or part-time executive director at this
point.

Jones will remain with the group on a business consulting
basis.

Nylin expects MWA to get back to doing projects soon.

“I would imagine we’ll start seeing project requests very
shortly,” he said. “We should be, literally, hopefully, hip-deep in
projects within a month.”

The association ran aground in 2003 when a state audit
criticized its accounting practices. Many members and chapters left
the group, which currently has about 4,500 members and 28 active
chapters. Before the audit, it had nearly 50 chapters and 8,000
members.

“We have to (get back to that point),” Cox said.

Increasing membership and chapter numbers will be most important
in the near future, Nylin said.

“That’s huge,” he said. “Those are probably the biggest things
that are going to make the most immediate impact.”

The association also will move to a new Pheasants Forever-like
structure under which local chapters will keep the money they raise
at fundraisers. The state office will get only membership fees.

New board members

MWA delegates also voted to keep Cox on for another term as
president. Philipson, former past president, was elected to a
one-year vice president position; Mark McNamara was re-elected to a
two-year vice president term; Rick Heilig was re-elected to a
two-year term as secretary; and Bob Page was elected to a two-year
term as treasurer.

John Wolf was not up for re-election and remains on the
board.

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