“Why the name Bold Bison?” It’s a question I get all the time. And my answer is always the same:
“Because our communications must be bolder.”
I’m Brandon Hayes; I’m the founder and principal of Bold Bison Communications and Consulting, the business I started six months before the start of a global pandemic. Prior to starting my own business, I spent 20 years working in the nonprofit sector, which included significant time working in publicity for arts & cultural organizations and before a seven year stint as Communications Director with a land trust servicing the greater Chicago region. While this was my formal entrée into professional conservation, I’ve been an avid lover of the outdoors and a lifelong advocate for nature.
It’s because of my passion for conservation that I’ve paid such close attention to the movement. And surely, there is progress to note. Conservation is starting to make the connection to agricultural land use and local food; environmentalism across the board is beginning to realize that people are a key component to healthy communities in a healthy ecosystem; organizations and funders are beginning to realize that a mission to preserve a local waterway and the people are interconnected, and communities often need to be invested before the natural assets.
But it’s also been stunning to see how a movement so widely supported by Americans has time and again failed to rise to the moment, especially during the watershed moments of the previous administration.
Through both my personal and professional experiences, I’ve watched as conservation organizations (and non-profits more broadly) have slowly, but surely surrendered the rhetorical high ground on their issues. Whether on climate action, racial and economic justice, community organizing, and even public land protections, I’ve watched conservation organizations back away from participating in the actual work on their movement because it was controversial at the time – always offering up dismissive suggestions of mission drift, claiming that getting involved in a cause is, “nothing something we do,” while we only ever seem to actually define our work in the context of the most pressing grant report.
It’s a cowardly retreat to what’s comfortable and familiar, rather than honestly discussing the work that needs to be done and the existing needs of the communities we purport to serve.
It’s an existential problem for the non-profit sector… But it’s not due to a lack of passion.
Some of the most talented, innovative, and forward-thinking people I know are folks I’ve met supporting conservation and local food movements – folks realigning their small community arts organization to amplify the voices of their environmental justice movement; folks fundamentally rethinking the meaning of local food economies in the wake of the pandemic; folks in under-resourced roles whiteknuckling their work in overburdened communities simply because they care. I could go on all day and we’ve all met people like this.
If these movements are going to enact the change they envision, then we need to activate these passions, we need to amplify the voices already doing the work, and we need to reach the audiences that already overwhelmingly support our cause with bold messages and bold visions of change.
I firmly believe that anyone passionate about an issue can be a fabulous communicator of that issue. What I’ve noticed missing in the sector are the tools, trainings, supports, and strategies that allow all the passionate folks we know communicate with the full impact and confidence that reflects why they came to this work in the first place. And especially in the wake of the pandemic, I’ve seen new leaders step up, and organizations respond successfully to all kinds of new challenges and opportunities – but many of them left wondering how to define themselves in this new space we’re working in.
There has never been a more important time to be communicating boldly about your work and I cannot encourage enough to not hold back. And if you need help, Bold Bison is equipped to help you think through these issues. I invite you to take a look at our robust portfolio of recent work and read through our services – I assure you this list is but a snapshot how we can help your organization.
I founded this company to expand the communications capacity and help guide the strategic thinking of non-profit organizations. The Bold Bison team is always happy to meet with you, get to know your organization and hear where you’re at, and offer a recommendation.
Please feel free to get in touch. It’s why we do this.
And welcome to the herd.