In 2019, Development Guild partnered with the National Audubon Society on their executive search for a Managing Director of Development Communications. We placed Lauren Shoor in the role. We recently caught up with Lauren to discover how her position and the organization have evolved and adapted over the last two years.
What initially attracted you to the Managing Director of Development Communications position at National Audubon Society?
It felt like the position offered a real opportunity and potential for impact on the donor communications front, similar to the work I led at Planned Parenthood, which meant building something new from scratch. And the creative appeal was tremendous. Audubon has a wealth of stunning photography, and its voice intrigued me – it was playful, clever yet humble, and well-recognized while innovative. I was so impressed by the quality of their publications. Audubon’s CEO David Yarnold is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former editor of the San Jose Mercury News. To have the chance to write and work for someone of David’s caliber – it was a daunting challenge, but an exciting one, too.
Reading Audubon publications gave me hope. As I was going through the interview process, we were three years into the Trump administration. So offering a sense of hope wasn’t an easy feat! I really appreciated the organization’s bipartisan membership and the unique value it could bring. At Planned Parenthood, I saw how just how much could be decided at the state level around key issues, and the profound implications such actions could have.
What do you enjoy most about the organization now?
I love collaborating with our Art team, particularly on publications. When I arrived at Audubon, one of my first tasks was to partner with them to create the national campaign case statement. Audubon had never done a campaign before, so we had to figure out what it would look like – and how we’d meet the organization’s high visual standards as well as our CEO’s vision. It was a formidable, but fun, endeavor. It’s such a pleasure to work with my colleagues to develop pieces that push the envelope for Audubon – which feel like Audubon, capture the story we want to tell, and include an element of surprise. Working on the national case, and more recently the annual report, has been highly rewarding. I feel like I have produced some of my best work here.
How has your role changed since you began?
Of course, with COVID, practically everything changed for everyone. On the fundraising front, we had to shift stewardship into high gear and do so virtually. Among our first actions was to launch a donor webinar series, which was new to Audubon. To bring our work to life, we featured national, state, and program leaders, as well as external partners and funders, in conversations around our top priorities. The webinars have been a terrific engagement and discovery tool, revealing the interests of potential prospects, reinforcing what matters to current donors and prospects, and offering additional avenues for cultivation and stewardship.
Another way my position has expanded is that I co-lead a development task force focused on external engagement. It was the brainchild of our Chief Development Officer Sean O’Connor to pilot this task force at the outstart of COVID, which includes fundraisers from across the Audubon network. I keep them informed of what’s happening on the communications front, and they share insights from conversations with donors, as well as the strategies and tactics supporting their fundraising efforts, and how they can make their outreach more successful. The task force has become an innovation incubator for the broader team and enabled fundraisers to leverage others’ ideas and experiences to advance their own donor relationships.
When I first joined Audubon, I hadn’t anticipating stepping into this leadership position. I have appreciated the opportunity to take on this meaningful role, and to partner with fundraisers in ways that I had not done before during my 15+ years in the field. It has also been wonderful to feel so connected to my colleagues across the country while we are all isolated.
What have been your and your department’s greatest achievements in the past couple years?
In addition to the webinar series, I would consider our most recent annual report one of our greatest achievements. The Art team and I had to find a way to tell the story of 2020 when we didn’t yet know the outcome of the presidential election – even though the report would hit mailboxes after the election! We landed upon a theme of “One Sky.” When people received the report, its message really resonated; One Sky provided a sense of hope, a chance to come together, and a shared purpose for the future. One Sky has since become a theme for additional initiatives and communications in the past six months.
Another achievement has been a more centralized coordination of external communications and broadening of our audience and reach. After I started, we began sending weekly eblasts to managed donors to share timely updates about our work; this wasn’t something we were doing consistently before. I’ve also made it a point to make inroads across our communications channels. Our eblasts now regularly reach volunteer Audubon leaders, such as current and former state and center advisory board members. This audience is among those who have been most engaged in our webinar series. So, this has been a big step forward.
Lastly, we are launching a new giving society for donors at the $10,000 cumulative and above level called The Canopy. I’ve worked closely with our art director and our senior designer to create the visual identity, as well as our national board member Jeff Goodby, who is the ad genius behind the ‘got milk?’ campaign. It was a labor of love, and a joy to workshop creative concepts with someone of Jeff’s stature.
What do you hope to achieve at National Audubon Society in the future? What is on the horizon?
So much! The national and state campaigns are ongoing, so there will be a lot of work to come as we approach their public launches and beyond. I’m also focused on getting The Canopy giving society off the ground, which will include building out the donor experience and communications strategy. We’re working to transition some of our highest profile events from a sole fundraising focus to more of a cultivation and stewardship focus – in whatever form events will look like in the months ahead. And from a comprehensive perspective, I’m working with colleagues to solidify a stewardship program across Audubon. We’re looking at it at a mass scale, as well as individual experiences for donors, and systematizing what we can to ensure certain actions are triggered at the right time. With all of this work, we’re focused on continuing to expand communications with our audiences and build more bridges as we do so.