Posted by Editoress on 05/15/14
2014 will be a year of restructuring for the International Mountain Bicycling Association (Canada), the national body that advocates and organizes on behalf of mountain bikers north of the Canada/US border. The organization struggled through a difficult period financially last year while executive director, Lora Woolner, was away on maternity leave, resulting in a halt to regional programming, decreased operational capacity, and the loss of several staff.
During Woolner's leave, direction of IMBA Canada's operations was handled by its US counterpart in Boulder, Colorado. In an effort to reduce costs following a problem with cash flow, a decision was made to furlough IMBA Canada's regional coordinators: James Brown, based in BC; Igor Hoogendoorn, based in Ontario; and Eric Leonard, based in Quebec. Decisions were also made to narrow the focus of IMBA Canada's Trail Solutions consulting program, and to cut back communications and membership services, eventually transferring these responsibilities to the US office. Despite good intentions, the lack of Canadian leadership and oversight has had many negative repercussions, ultimately leading to the need to revisit current programming and organizational structure.
With only one staff member remaining in early 2014, it was not clear how IMBA Canada was going to deliver on key programs and commitments moving forward. However last month, former executive director Lora Woolner, together with former Ontario Regional Coordinator Igor Hoogendoorn, successfully proposed to the board of directors to resume control of the Canadian office in an effort to respond to the continued support of members, partners and corporate sponsors. Woolner and Hoogendoorn are sharing a joint leadership position for 2014, focused on delivering essential programs, improving financial sustainability, and rebuilding organizational capacity. Once remaining operational issues are addressed, creating a larger, more influential Canadian board of directors is high on the priority list.
"IMBA Canada's current board structure is a legacy of its growth out of the original IMBA in the US. While it has been an independent Canadian corporation since its inception in 2004, IMBA Canada initially modeled itself after its American counterpart, following the lead of IMBA HQ and its board of directors," says Woolner. "But IMBA Canada has grown enough that the current structure no longer works, and this past year is evidence of that. IMBA Canada members, and mountain bikers in general, deserve a strong, independent Canadian presence, from the board on out."
The team intends to reduce dependencies on the US office, while at the same time retaining IMBA's mission and core values. As always, Canadian dollars will stay in Canada to support Canadian trails.
"We have a lot of work ahead of us," says Hoogendoorn. "But the strongest message that has come out of this difficult past year is that Canadian mountain bikers still want, and need, IMBA Canada. While the issues facing mountain biking have changed, and are becoming more dynamic, the need for a national body to organize and advocate on behalf of the sport has not changed. IMBA Canada is just as relevant today as it was 10 years ago."
Unfortunately, the financial support generated by membership doesn't currently reflect that demand. Total individual membership revenue in 2012 was just $24,000; representing less than 600 individual members.
"One could conclude that the majority of mountain bikers in Canada have not found the value proposition or relevance of IMBA Canada's work and therefore do not support the organization by joining," says Woolner, "but in many ways IMBA Canada has been a victim of its own success. We have done so well at empowering local clubs, working with land managers, and fighting for trails nationally, that our work largely gets taken for granted. Most mountain bikers do not see the connection between the work of the national organization, and success at the grassroots level. They don't ask how the work gets funded; they just assume that IMBA will be at the table when trails are at risk."
In addition to re-establishing member and partner support, Woolner and Hoogendoorn will be looking to develop a model of provincial funding for IMBA Canada's regional coordinator program this year, and will be seeking a new vehicle sponsor for its award-winning Trail Care Crew program, whose contract with Subaru Canada ends this June. The Trail Care Crew, still funded primarily through Parks Canada and Trek Bicycles, will continue in a limited capacity for 2014, fulfilling its funding obligations and working with as many clubs as dollars will allow.
While financial rebuilding takes place, IMBA Canada will be pared back to its key programs and services, namely: the IMBA Canada insurance program, trail education and consulting, Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day, and club support / resource development. Other programs, with a USA base of operations, will continue to be extended to Canada as well, such as the new Instructor Certification Program, the new Mapping Initiative, Destinations, and IMBA's World Mountain Bike Summit, which takes place in Steamboat Springs, Colorado this August.
While the future of IMBA Canada beyond 2014 is still to be given much consideration and careful planning, it is clear that in this time of restructuring, IMBA Canada needs your financial support. If you are a mountain biker or make your living via mountain biking, whether a retailer or supplier, and you value what IMBA has done and is doing to keep the sport viable in Canada, then now is the time to join or renew, and/or to donate to IMBA Canada.
Stay tuned to imbacanada.com for updates and announcements, and to show your support for IMBA's work in Canada.
About IMBA Canada
The International Mountain Bicycling Association (Canada) is a non-profit association whose mission is to create, enhance and preserve great trail experiences for mountain bikers throughout Canada. Since 1988, IMBA has been bringing out the best in mountain biking worldwide by encouraging low-impact riding, volunteer trailwork participation, cooperation among different trail user groups, grassroots advocacy and innovative trail management solutions. IMBA's Canadian office has been up and running since 2004. Join the movement at imbacanada.com.
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