Optimism, flexibility, stamina. That is what it takes to work in the non-profit world and Earth Island Institute Membership Director Karen Gosling demonstrates all of those qualities. For 30 years, she has worked and volunteered for various environmental and conservation causes across the country, dedicating her time and energy to Earth Island Institute since 1986 – 20 years of devoted service.
“I always wanted to incorporate a love of animals with my job,” Gosling enthuses. Growing up in Colorado, Maryland, Kentucky, and Ohio, (“I was an army brat”) Gosling and her siblings lived with cats, dogs, hamsters, and rabbits, but her interest in animal conservation and activism was fostered in college.
While pursuing a dual degree in sociology and art at Indiana University, she attended the First International Whale Symposium held in Bloomington. The Symposium was one of the first international events to focus on whale and harp seal conservation.
The Symposium proved to be one of many auspicious firsts in Gosling’s career. She volunteered as a canvassing activist for Bloomington Greenpeace, the first chapter east of the Rockies. Afterwards, she continued her work with Greenpeace in Ann Arbor, Michigan before moving in 1981 to the San Francisco Bay Area where she worked at the Marin Humane Society.
“I enjoyed working with animals directly, but I also wanted to get involved on the administrative side. I started working for Friends of the River, my first paid environmental non-profit job. Then I joined Friends of the Earth in 1983,” she recalls. When Friends of The Earth split in 1986, Gosling was part of the grassroots faction, centered on Dave Brower, that became Earth Island.
“It was an exciting time and Dave Brower was a real inspiration. We were a small grassroots organization, but the scope was visionary, working on both local and global issues. The International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) was an initial milestone for the organization, transforming Earth Island into a membership organization. Today I see former projects like the Urban Habitat Program as being crucial in weaving environmental and social justice issues together.”
Hired as part-time office manager in 1986, Gosling attended the International Whaling Commission meetings in Sweden and helped produce the ECO newsletter for IMMP. Using her background in fine arts, she worked as a paste-up artist at her other job, and was able to bring those skills to Earth Island designing brochures, invitations, and flyers over the years.
“Essentially, it was design pre-web. As Earth Island has grown, my job has focused more on membership and how to grow public suppport. My duties include maintaining the database, managing our renewal program and sustaining members, and handling our merchandise sales.”
Over the years, Gosling has participated in Earth Island’s technological shift, and adapted to the comings and goings of staff and projects.
“There have been a lot of changes, but I view the Internet as having a positive effect. Direct mail is expensive and the web is one of the best venues for acquiring members. Sometimes it is difficult getting members, but our renewal program has proven to be quite successful, and we are grateful to our loyal donors.”
Despite the changes, Karen Gosling sees Earth Island as staying its course by providing a home for small, cutting-edge projects.
“The integrity of the organization and the dedication of the staff, no matter what their job, have stayed the same,” she says.
And Karen Gosling is an essential part of Earth Island’s integrity.
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