Lessons learned from my paper route

Written for the 2018 Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular Magazine.

IMG_20150715_202105_editWhen I was 11-years old, I had a paper route. I delivered the Orillia Packet & Times in the village of Atherley.  I had 45 customers, and I knew everyone by their first name. Delivering the daily newspaper was a chance to learn more about the people in my community. I always made time to build those relationships.

As winter approached, I was off to K-Mart to buy Christmas cards for my customers. I found myself trying to match pictures on those assorted cards with the interests and personality of my paper route customers. For instance, the anglers and hunters on my route received the cards illustrated with deer or snowy cabins. A family with young children received the cards that colourfully captured Santa or Frosty-the-Snowman, and the faithful church members received the cards adorned with hallowed angels and a nativity scene.

Important people deserve important considerations, I thought, no matter how subtle the gesture. Focusing on the custom-made details and the personal touches are always worth the extra time.  Inside each of those cards, I wrote an authentic, personalized message. I wished my customers well in the New Year and tried to mention topics or coming events in their life that I distinctly remembered from some of the conversations we shared.

As I was taking interest in my customers’ lives, they were taking an interest in mine. They remembered my open discussion and enthusiasm for saving up for a new bike.

While it is always better to give than to receive, in return for service and sincerity, receive I did. House after house, customers slipped a Christmas card into my newspaper delivery shoulder bag. Inside, a generous Christmas tip and a special message: “put this towards your new bike.”

Anyone who is familiar with Robert Fulghum’s best selling book “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten,” might suspect where this OFAH membership story for the Salmon Spectacular is going. All that the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters embraces about quality membership service and donor stewardship is perhaps emphasized by the important life-lessons learned on a paper route.

The OFAH understands that relationship building and communication is always a two-way street. We listen carefully to the interests and ambitions of our members, and we never stop showing them how hard we are working to achieve our goals.  That kind of trust and dialogue opens the door on opportunities through the new I am Conservation campaign.

I am Conservation was developed to promote the OFAH as a highly acclaimed charity in addition to already being a highly respected membership organization.

Your personal outdoors passion

It’s impossible to pick one K-Mart greeting card that speaks to the interests of all paper route customers, and it’s even harder to pick one outdoors passion that speaks to the heart of millions of conservation donor prospects. The OFAH has been creating the I am Conservation themes and messaging, as well as producing personalized appeals that really show how much our organization has been listening, and how much we care.

I am a deer hunter.

I am a trout fisherman.

I am a trapper.

I am a waterfowler.

I am a _________ . (Please tell us!)

No matter if, when and how often these “I am” statements match your outdoor lifestyle, there’s one statement that galvanizes all fishing and hunting pastimes. I am Conservation.

I am Conservation is the single greatest statement that describes the passion and purpose behind every traditional outdoors pursuit. I am an OFAH member is in the echo of 80,000 voices that never give up on the fight to improve outdoor opportunities. I am Conservation is in the heart of anglers and hunters who volunteer, donate, mentor, or in anyway, lead by example to quietly and humbly give back to nature.

The OFAH promotes many ways to make an outdoors difference. While OFAH membership is certainly the most popular option, the OFAH conservation mandate cannot be delivered on membership dues alone. Through the purchase of OFAH Conservation Lottery tickets, donations to OFAH wildlife calendars and other products, as well as participation in the OFAH monthly giving program, about 50 percent of OFAH members proudly contribute dollars beyond their annual membership fee. Some supporters prefer “membership only” and we respect their wishes to be removed from OFAH campaigns ahead of standard membership renewal reminders. It’s also important that we hear from passionate anglers and hunters who believe, as does the OFAH, that we must hold governments responsible to make sure our tax dollars are properly reinvested for the future of fish and wildlife.

Nevertheless, anglers and hunters are motivated by the potential for new outdoor opportunities – a bright outdoors future that the government alone may never be able to afford.

Guided by Purpose

OFAH involvement in enhancing our natural resources is not unlike the work of other great charities that enhance community services, including healthcare. Yes, taxpayers have a right to keep pressure on the government for more support, but at the same time, we must backup our tireless community volunteers who help provide various sport and wellness center needs as well as essential hospital services and equipment such as rehabilitation equipment, radiation facilities and MRI machines.  No matter if it is health care or conservation, progress is achieved when more people find opportunities to give a little extra.

To recognize the “extra” help from OFAH members, we take the time for personalized, hand-written notes to special conservation donors, and we make sure that we remember what topics motivated their OFAH support. We are paying close attention.

Like the paper boy who takes the time to get to know his neighbours, the OFAH is also focused on building long-lasting connections within our own fishing and hunting community. Every home is different, but we make every home feel like they are the most important outdoors home in our organization. We are building on our great membership service reputation, and we never make apologies for reminding our supporters about things we are saving up for – and no, not for a new bike, but outdoor priorities like local fish stocking and hatchery upgrades, moose research and fisheries and wildlife habitat improvement.


Conservation is the brush that allows everyone to paint their own outdoors picture.

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