Trapped in a Contract

by Hilary Hirtle

Don’t Get Burned by Evergreen and Automatic Renewal Clauses

Lurking in any number of service agreements and other forms of contract is a clause that reads something like this:

This agreement will renew at the end of its term for a further term unless either party gives the other written notice of termination within 30 days prior to the end of the relevant term.

This “evergreen clause” perpetually renews the contract unless a party to the contract follows the correct process to cancel it within a typically narrow window of time (that is set forth in the contract). An automatic renewal clause also renews a contract in the absence of action by a party to the contract but renews only a finite number of times.

Evergreen and auto-renewal clauses are commonly found in:

  • Service agreements (cable, voice over internet phone, etc.)
  • Leases
  • Purchasing contracts
  • Revolving loans
  • Insurance coverage policies
  • Magazine subscriptions

Renewal provisions can be convenient and constructive if the renewal term is brief, e.g., a month; the problems arise with long renewal terms—one year, three years, etc., as an organization may find itself stuck in a contract and with service payments for months or years beyond the usefulness of the service.

Organizations should be wary of draconian renewal clauses that are sometimes embedded in seemingly innocuous contracts. If an organization enters into a contract containing such a clause, the organization should consider the following:

Watch for Traps
Be aware that an automatic renewal clause may be buried within the legalese of a contract, for example in the interminable sea of text that often appears in association with an “I’ve read and agree with the terms” button on the web.

Negotiating Provisions
It may be possible to negotiate changes to a proposed contract to make automatic renewal acceptable by:

  • Allowing either party to cancel the agreement at any time following the initial renewal; or
  • Making the renewal term brief—e.g., one or three months—to minimize the time the customer might pay for an unwanted service before cancellation is possible.

Enforceability and Escape

If an individual person gets trapped in an auto-renewing contract and challenges it, the service provider may be quite agreeable to compromise. However, in business-to-business (including nonprofit organization) transactions, the courts generally can be expected to take a hardline on enforcing renewal clauses, assuming the contract language is clear and unambiguous. 

Rules Vary by State
Rules regarding automatic renewal vary by state, both as provided in court rulings and as enacted by state legislators. To better understand risks and options and to achieve improved outcomes when dealing with automatic renewal issues, legal counsel is advisable.

You can read WeConservePA’s guide, Trapped in a Contract in its entirety here.

Find more guides, model documents, and technical assistance from WeConservePA at


Planning a Website Redesign?

Helpful prep and planning ideas

Thinking of redesigning your website? It’s a big step that can be a daunting idea before the actual process even begins – even more so when you’ve never undertaken this process before. While I don’t specialize in website redesign, I have been through the process and I found the following considerations helpful to act on prior to the actual redesign process taking place.


Go through your current website and, page by page, consider what works on your current site, what isn’t working, and think about how that can be improved. 


I found it helpful to sketch out a map, or site structure of your new website. What would you like for your new site to visually look like? How would menu items and pages be structured? Search out websites of similar organizations and do a deep dive into some of them. Take notes of what you like and consider how this could work on your new website. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for insight into how they approached the design of their website, especially if you like the functionality of their specific website. 


Your website should reflect the goals and mission of your organization. Approach the redesign of your website as you would a strategic plan. Be intentional with your objectives and consider how your website can help to achieve your organization’s goals. 


Talk to members of your team about what they would like to see on the new website. While it’s good to have a set, specific team dedicated to the redesign process, getting feedback from staff or even volunteers in your organization can be invaluable to gaining different perspectives on how the new website can be better utilized.

Featuring Film

by Hilary Hirtle, WeConservePA

Incorporating Filmmaking Into Your Programming Line-Up

For many parks and recreation organizations, nature-based photography contests and classes are a staple part of scheduled programming, so why not expand into filmmaking?

Entertaining and informative, film is a powerful storytelling tool that can allow us to look at the natural world in new ways, to share perspectives not readily seen, and to prompt discussion. It is also a great team-building activity that fosters creativity and participation.

If you’re considering adding a filmmaking program or contest to add to your programming line-up, but are unsure of how to get started, consider the following: 


What are you hoping to accomplish? What would you like participants to gain from this experience? Are you hoping to create a partnership with an arts or cultural organization as part of this endeavor?

Program Format

Are you intending to create a workshop? A week-long camp? A contest? If you already have an established photography contest, consider opening the contest to video submissions. Adapt the rules to reflect the medium (consider desired length requirements, creativity, message, submission theme, etc.).


Who is your intended audience? The Camacho Activity Center in Austin, Texas has held successful youth-based film and photography programs that can serve as a blueprint for possibilities. Adults shouldn’t be overlooked as an intended audience. If considering an adult filmmaking program, they can follow the aims and format of a youth program, but with adjustments made to the length of commitment for the program (instead of a week-long program, a one or two-day workshop would probably be best).


If costs of equipment are a concern, gone are the days in which budgets needed to accommodate expensive technical equipment. In today’s smartphone-filled world, access to a decent video camera isn’t hard to come by and you can create a short film easily just by utilizing a smartphone (indeed, smartphones are heralding a new age of accessible filmmaking opportunities). Microsoft and Apple products often have video editing software built into their products, allowing access to free editing software. Free Music Archive can also serve as a resource for royalty-free music.

From experience, I have found that successful programs focus on providing participants with an overview of the filmmaking process (writing, camera operation, sound, lighting, and editing), with the goal of creating a short film (anywhere between 1-3 minutes in length) that encompasses a theme. Consider the possibilities that will work best for your organization. 

Happy filmmaking!

Keeping Connected to Nature

Incorporating nature connection into the work day

by Hilary Hirtle, WeConservePA

If you have worked from home since the beginning of the pandemic, then you may (in some form or another) be returning to the office, or planning a return to the office in the near future. 

We all have cultivated our own experiences, opinions, and preferences about working from home. Reflecting on my own, I was surprised at how much more likely I was to incorporate a connection with nature into my day, as compared to when I was working within an office 100% of the time. Things like going on a short walk before the start of work, taking my lunch break outside, and opening the windows to just listen to the birdsong were some habits that I developed. These were mindful and meaningful connections that became a part of my day that made me feel more grounded, even energized, especially when each day felt like it was on repeat. As working from home transitions to working from an office once more, I’m resolved to keep up these habits in the best ways that I can. If you’re looking to do this as well, hopefully the following tips will be of help.

Connect with nature at start of the day
Do you read the news or check your email first thing in the morning before even starting work? Trade that for sitting quietly outside or near a window at the start of the day, being mindful and present to your immediate natural surroundings.

Taking a break or lunch? Take it outside!
Whether you have 15 minutes or an hour, taking your breaks or lunch outside is a great way to incorporate time spent in nature into your day. When doing this, try to leave your phone behind to provide you with time to disconnect. If you can’t or don’t feel comfortable doing this, turn your phone off or on vibrate, and try not check email or messages until it is time to return to work.

Move your desk closer to a window
The opportunity to just view nature is linked to a decrease in stress and increase in mood and self-esteem. If your office space doesn’t have a window or it’s not possible to move your desk, consider adding some nature-themed artwork or even plants to your office space as a way to bring the outdoors, indoors.

Listen to the sounds of nature
Do you listen to podcasts, music, or the news while working? Why not listen to the sounds of nature? There are many online recordings of birdsong, ocean waves, falling rain, and more. Personally, one of my favorites is BirdNote’s Sound Escapes.

Value and Appreciation, Investments in Volunteers

April is National Volunteer Month! Volunteers are an integral part of many parks, recreation, and conservation organizations. Appreciating and valuing volunteers for the time and effort that they contribute is an investment in not only creating a satisfying volunteer experience, but it also showcases how integral volunteers are to your organization, as well as leads to increased volunteer recruitment and retainment.

This National Volunteer month, revisit your investments in your volunteers. How does your organization express value and appreciation for its volunteers? Are you attracting and retaining committed individuals? Can you identify areas needing improvement? If you find that some things can be done differently, keep in mind the following tips:


Depending on the volunteer position, this might seem like a no-brainer, but providing adequate training not only sets your volunteers up for success, but it can also improve satisfaction with the volunteer position and the organization as a whole. Providing training to volunteers also contributes to their sense of value and purpose through the work that they are undertaking.


Volunteers are contributing their time and talents without compensation. While not every volunteer opportunity can be entirely flexible, working with volunteers on flexible arrangements of commitment recognizes the services that the volunteer provides, and that their service is valued. Developing flexibility arrangements can also open the way to retaining as well attracting volunteers.


Actively listening to volunteer feedback, ideas, achievements, or concerns shows value, respect, and appreciation. Provide ways in which volunteers have a voice in their work, role, and in the organization.


Volunteers are vital. Recognize the contributions and achievements of your volunteers. This can be through social media shout-outs, thank-you cards, featuring volunteers in newsletters or blog posts, or hosting a volunteer recognition event or celebration.

%d bloggers like this: