As Chapters develop ideas for new programs and projects, they find that it costs money to do the things they want. As a result, fundraising has become an increasingly important part of Chapter goals and activities. There are two ways to bring in much needed money for expanding Chapter programs. One way is to raise it through special projects; the other is to convince someone who believes in what you are doing to support the Chapter’s programs. Chapter bird seed sales, raffles and potluck dinners fall into the first category. Foundation, business and individual contributions fall into the second category. Birdathon falls into both categories.
The events and projects discussed in this section include those carried out by large and small, urban and rural Chapters. All have proven successful at bringing in big dollars and spreading the word about Audubon Chapter programs in communities across the country. Let these descriptions stimulate your own ideas. Chapter fundraising ideas are infinite and the potential dollars you can raise for the Audubon mission are limitless.
Chapters should be aware that certain legal requirements may apply to fundraising activities. The IRS website provides guidance on two of these requirements in particular. First, most states require registration by charities that solicit contributions from the public. The IRS website provides a portal where you can review the requirements for the states in which your organization solicits funds: http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=129028,00.html. In addition, a charity must comply with the IRS acknowledgement and disclosure requirements when receiving certain contributions. The IRS website also provides a publication aimed at the general public that provides more information on these requirements: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1771.pdf. Chapters are encouraged to consult with their legal and financial advisors on these and any other applicable requirements.
Fundraising (Marc Smiley)
Audubon provides funding to its Chapters In order to build and strengthen the Audubon grassroots network to be a more effective force for conservation. Chapters and State Programs (if one available) are also encouraged to work together to seek additional new funding from local and state sources through joint fundraising.
If your Chapter has received a direct deposit from Audubon, it will either be Baseline Funding, Membership Incentive Payment, Collaborative Funding Grant or another Audubon Grant (e.g., TogetherGreen). Please browse the links below for more details on each type of funding or contact Chapter Services to ask the purpose of the deposit.
Chapters receive one baseline funding payment each year, generally between September and January, in the month after the Chapter Annual Report has been received and the Chapter has been recertified by the State Office or Chapter Services Office. The payment is made via direct deposit to the Chapter's checking account. The amount of funding for each Chapter is a set formula ($2.75 per member for the total number of members in 2001) that has been the same since 2002, and is not tied to the current number of members nor the amount of membership funding received from those members. Baseline Funding replaced the former "dues share." Chapters may use the funds for any purpose deemed appropriate by their Board.
The National Audubon Society Board of Directors has allocated funds to each state to be used by Chapters to accomplish conservation. Chapters either work with their State Program or the Chapter Services Office to allocate these funds. Once allocated, the funds will be directly deposited to the Chapter checking account.
Audubon pays Chapters 100% of the first-year donation received by any new Chapter-recruited member. Chapters may also receive credit for "rejoin" members--those individuals whose membership has lapsed 6+ months--if they are re-recruited by the Chapter. Funding from Chapter-recruited members is not shared after the first year. Membership forms must be properly coded and sent to Audubon's membership data center in order to be processed. Read more
Reconcile your Chapter's Membership Incentive Payments record by signing up for a free account on the Chapter Reporting System. Read more
In 2008, Audubon launched TogetherGreen, a $20 million, five-year alliance with Toyota to fund conservation projects, train environmental leaders, and offer volunteer opportunities to benefit the environment. Learn more about TogetherGreen
Over the last three years, more than 50 Chapter-led environmental projects have received TogetherGreen Innovation Grants totaling over $1.1 million. These projects have tackled a variety of conservation issues across the country – from restoring prairie to helping cities develop plans for reducing carbon emissions. And all are getting more people involved in conservation action.
An important component of eligibility for an Innovation Grant is collaboration with a partner organization, and many Chapters list strong partners as one of the most important elements of project success. Grantees have partnered with organizations as diverse as Habitat for Humanity, Auburn Theological Seminary, the Jamestown S’Kallam Tribe, Baltimore Medical System, Dayton Chamber of Commerce, and community centers supporting underserved populations. These partnerships are helping Chapters reach beyond their traditional audiences; think in new ways about meeting conservation, social, and economic development goals; and leverage their resources to achieve results.
Following are some lessons Chapters have learned from their partnerships during the first few years of the grants program.
Look for experts in areas outside your own
Tucson Audubon Society had some experience with the Environmental Education Exchange (EEE), a local non-profit, and decided to build upon their work together to reach students in underserved neighborhoods. “They are experts at reaching kids and adults with environmental education, and at marrying projects to approved school curricula,” said Kendall Kroesen, Habitats Program Manager at Tucson Audubon. EEE paired Tucson Audubon with Alice Vail Middle School and Project MORE, an alternative high school for kids that had dropped out of other programs. Tucson Audubon conducted a teacher in-service program at Alice Vail Middle School, which focused on building a rain garden and providing teachers with training and curriculum materials that fit with the Tucson Unified School District 6th grade science curriculum. At Project MORE, Tucson Audubon worked with a science class that was exploring practical applications and technical skills associated with ecology and conservation. They worked both in the classroom and on field trips, and then built a rain garden with students in front of their school. The school subsequently built a second one.
It was EEE’s expertise that allowed Tucson Audubon to work in neighborhoods that had historically been underserved by the environmental movement. “Look for others in the community who have experience in the kind of project you are doing and ask them about possible partners,” Kendall added.
Janet Wissink, President of Winnebago Audubon Society, was impressed with Habitat For Humanity’s ReStore program, which consists of resale outlets that accept donated goods which are sold to the general public at a fraction of the retail price. “We felt that Audubon and Habitat for Humanity had some common goals in recycling and that their ideas were worth exploring,” Janet said. The two organizations forged a partnership and Winnebago Audubon Society received a 2010 planning grant to help them research and develop a model community wood waste recycling effort to significantly reduce unnecessary disposal at local landfills. “Think outside of the box,” Janet said in regards to their successful partnership. “Be open to new ideas. They may not always come from obvious places.”
Tap into existing networks
Greater Ozarks Audubon Society’s partnerships with a nearby university and Missouri’s conservation department helped them complete a successful application for the Green Leadership Academy for Diverse Ecosystems (GLADE)—a week-long, peer-mentored youth academy that would provide hands-on habitat restoration experience and leadership training. “When we learned that TogetherGreen grants were available, there was little time to polish and stage our project,” said Lisa Berger, grant writer and project lead. “We were lucky to have developed partnerships with several organizations over the previous decade.” The program has received over $55,000 in Innovation Grants and GLADE Director Gregory Swick was awarded a 2010 TogetherGreen Fellowship to create a workbook about the program to enable other educators to replicate its success.
While existing partnerships were helpful to Greater Ozarks Audubon Society, Lisa points out that Chapters without an established partnership shouldn’t shy away from applying for TogetherGreen support. “If a Chapter is not currently working with potential partners, applying for one of the planning grants is a great idea. This gives you time to convene partners, fine tune the project, focus goals and objectives, define partner roles, secure matching/in-kind funding, and develop additional capacity through recruiting volunteers.”
Turn to community groups
When Travis Audubon Society decided to apply for a Grant to facilitate the restoration of Blair Woods (a ten-acre, wooded wetland in the heart of highly urbanized Austin, Texas), they looked no further than their local community for a partnership opportunity. “Judy Walther, one of the co-owners of Environmental Survey Consulting (ESC), had been involved with the environmental community in Austin forever and had years of experience as an environmental educator,” said Nancy Manning, Executive Director of Travis Audubon. “We were familiar with Judy's work and reputation and knew that ESC has extensive experience with habitat restoration,” Nancy added. With this knowledge, Travis Audubon approached ECS about a possible partnership, and discovered that Judy’s experience perfectly aligned with the goals for Blair Woods. After receiving their $15,000 Innovation Grant, ESC spearheaded the entire riparian restoration part of the project.
Partnering with active community groups can also provide unseen benefits. “We initially retained Judy for the restoration, but then she wowed us with her development of a curriculum for the children of Norman Elementary, a neighboring school,” Nancy said. As a result of the partnership between Travis Audubon and ESC, Judy developed the "Explore and Restore" program, which is now in its second year. Ninety two percent of the children who participated in the program improved all of their academic test scores.
TogetherGreen recently opened the application process for the fourth year of the program, accepting applications for Innovation Grants, as well as for Conservation Fellows and Volunteer Day sites.
FOR MORE INFO:
The following are grant opportunities that may be of interest to Audubon Chapters. Listings are alphabetical within each category of year-round and time-sensitive. If your Chapter is successful in receiving any of the listed grants, please let us know. Thank you!
Funds for innovative, community-based environmental projects that improve, restore or protect the watersheds, surface water and/or groundwater supplies in our local communities. We are pleased to offer this modest assistance to our community partners, while leveraging local resources and capabilities to make a positive impact on the environment. To qualify for Environmental Grant funding, a proposed project must be: located within an American Water service area (California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, or West Virginia); completed between May and November of the grant funding year; and be a new or innovative community initiative, or serve as significant expansion to an existing program.
Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation
AMOUNT: $5,000 - $25,000
Primary philanthropic focus areas are community improvement projects and public education (for the latter, priority is given to K-12 public schools). Get to know your local Lowe’s store manager – local store support is imperative in the consideration of grant applications.
In addition, Lowe’s is the exclusive retailer for the Audubon color palettes under the Olympic brand paint.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Grant opportunities for projects that sustain, restore, and enhance our Nation's fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats. Please check with Sarah Caro at National Audubon before applying for a NFWF grant.
Norcross Wildlife Foundation
AMOUNT: $1,000 - $5,000
Targets grassroots organizations who seek funds for practical, immediate use (i.e., land protection, program-related office and field equipment/technology, and public education materials). Please check with Alyssa Restaino at National Audubon before applying for a grant to this foundation.
Provides a list of green grant opportunities for youth.
Shell will consider charitable contributions to eligible nonprofit organizations with priority consideration given to organizations serving in or near US communities where Shell has a major presence. Focus areas for funding are:
Community: Focus on civic and human needs in the community while promoting healthy lifestyles, major and cultural arts that promote access to underserved students and communities, and disaster relief efforts.
Education: Focus on energy awareness with special publics, increasing interest in technical careers among students and professional development in science and math among educators.
Environment: Focus on biodiversity initiatives with support to programs that restore critical eco systems, address water, air quality research, preserve wetlands and sponsor wetlands initiatives.
TechSoup provides other organizations with software, refurbished computers and other technology from more than 40 donor partners — including Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco, Intuit, and Symantec. All donated and discounted products are available to nonprofit organizations and libraries for a small admin fee that supports TechSoup's work in the United States and around the world. Techsoup also provides free learning resources, including articles, blogs, webinars, and forums that keep non-profits up-to-date on the latest technology.
Ben & Jerry's Foundation: Grassroots Organizing for Social Change Program
DEADLINE: Letters of Inquiry are accepted July – September and January 16 – March 15 each year
AMOUNT: Up to $15,000
The National Grassroots Grant Program offers competitive grants to not-for-profit grassroots community organizations throughout the United States, that are working to bring about progressive social change by addressing the underlying conditions of societal and environmental problems. Broad goals are to further social justice, protect the environment, and support sustainable food systems. Letters of interest may be submitted at any time – there is no deadline for applying and the Employee Advisory Committee meets nine time s a year to review proposals. Funding priorities, guidelines and restrictions, and information on the application process are available online. Only organizations with budgets of less than $500,000 will be considered
DEADLINE: September 30 each year- typically for spring and summer projects; February 28 each year- typically for fall and winter projects.
AMOUNT: $500 to $2,500
The Captain Planet Foundation primarily makes grants to U.S.-based schools and organizations with an annual operating budget of less than $3 million. Grants are made for activities that promote and support high-quality educational programs that enable children and youth to understand and appreciate our world through learning experiences that engage them in active, hands-on projects to improve the environment in their schools and communities. Grants from the Captain Planet Foundation are intended to: serve as a catalyst to getting environment-based education in schools, and inspire youth and communities to participate in community service through environmental stewardship activities.
Preferential consideration is given to requests seeking seed funding of $500 or less and to applicants who have secured at least 50% matching or in-kind funding for their projects. Captain Planet Foundation will on occasion consider grants up to $2,500.
DEADLINE:January – February each year
Supports 501(c)3 organizations that assist youth-at-risk and education. Requests for financial contributions are reviewed in January and February for funding the next fiscal year. Requests for in-kind donations are reviewed on an ongoing basis.
Constellation Energy Community Impact Grant Programs
DEADLINE: EcoStar Grants: March 10 each yea; Community Grants and Sponsorships: May 1 and Sept. 1 each year; Energy to Educate: October 1 each year.
AMOUNT: EcoStar Grants: Up to $5,000; Community Grants and Sponsorships: not specified; Energy to Educate: Up to $25,000
Constellation Energy awards grants to the following programs:
Fund for Wild Nature
DEADLINE: May 1 and November 1 each year
AMOUNT: $1,000 - $5,000
Provides small grants for campaigns to save and restore native species and wild ecosystems, with particular emphasis on actions designed to defend threatened wilderness and biological diversity. FWN funds advocacy, litigation, public policy work, development of citizen science, and similar endeavors.
The Home Depot Foundation’s Community Impact Grants Program
APPLICATION PERIOD: February 1 - August 13, 2013
AMOUNT: Up to $5,000
Grants are available to registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, public schools or tax-exempt public service agencies in the U.S. that are using the power of volunteers to improve the physical health of their community. Funds are given in the form of The Home Depot gift cards for the purchase of tools, materials, or services. More competitive grant proposals will specifically identify projects for veterans, seniors, and/or the disabled and will include housing repairs, modifications, and weatherization work.
Lorrie Otto Seeds for Education
DEADLINE: October 15each year
AMOUNT: $100 to $500
Gives small monetary grants to schools, nature centers, and other non-profit and not-for-profit places of learning in the United States with a site available for a stewardship project. Successful non-school applicants often are a partnership between a youth group (scouts, 4-H, etc.) and a site owner. Project goals should focus on enhancement and development of an appreciation for nature using native plants. Projects must emphasize involvement of students and volunteers in all phases of development, and increase the educational value of the site. The use of, and teaching about, native plants and the native-plant community is mandatory, and the native plants must be appropriate to the local eco-region and the site conditions (soil, water, sunlight).
Melinda Gray Ardia Environmental Foundation
DEADLINE: September 13, 2013 for pre-proposal; September 27, 2013 for full proposal.
AMOUNT: Up to $1500
The mission of our grant program is to support educators in developing and implementing holistic environmental curricula that integrate field activities and classroom teaching, and incorporate basic ecological principles and problem solving. Grant Goals: to empower and encourage students to become involved in solving environmental and social problems; to promote thoughtful and appropriate analysis and understanding of the natural world; and to train students as informed decision makers through the emphasis and application of basic ecological principles.
Nickelodeon Big Help Grants
DEADLINE: December 31, 2012. Check back for 2013 deadline.
AMOUNT: Either a $2,500 grant or a $5,000 matching grant (must be dollar for dollar)
The Big Help Grant Program will support projects that inspire kids to (1) take care of the environment; (2) lead active, healthy lives; (3) engage in community service; or (4) improve their educational experience.
The North Face® Explore Fund™
DEADLINE: May 1, 2013. Check back for the 2014 deadline.
AMOUNT: up to $2,500
Explore Fund supports organizations that encourage youth outdoor participation, focusing primarily on creating more connections of children to nature, increasing access to both front & backcountry recreation, as well as providing education for both personal & environmental health.
DEADLINE: Applications will be accepted through October 2013
AMOUNT: $50 to $3,000
The Office Depot Foundation's funding focus aligns with its Strategic Priorities. Audubon Chapters may be interested in these focus areas:
An online eligibility survey and grant application can be found on the Grant Making Guidelines page. Applications are retrieved on a monthly basis and are reviewed by a committee. Please allow at least 12 weeks after you submit your completed application before you receive a response. The majority of grants issued are in the vicinity of $1,000 and are supported by in-kind donations when inventory allows.
Patagonia Environmental Grants
DEADLINE: Year-round for application to Patagonia store in your city; April 30 and August 31 yearly if no store in your area.
AMOUNT: $3,000 - $12,000
Patagonia funds environmental work by grassroots organizations that is action-oriented; strategic; builds public involvement and support; works on the root causes of problems; and accomplishes specific goals and objectives. Patagonia accepts one proposal per group, per year. Please check with Sarah Caro at National Audubon before you submit a grant request.
PG&E's Community Investment Program (serving California)
DEADLINE: September 16, 2013
This program emphasizes supporting underserved populations and focuses on the following three areas:
Education: Supports innovative programs that give students and teachers opportunities to learn and prepare for their future, the future of California and the future of the energy industry.
Environmental Stewardship: Support partnerships focused on renewables and energy efficiency as well as local Earth Day projects that help ensure our neighborhoods, parks and recreation areas remain clean, safe and viable for future generations.
Community Vitality: Providing assistance to income-qualified families through programs that reduce their utility bills, partnering with local organizations to support emergency preparedness efforts and investments in local economic and energy-related workforce development initiatives. In addition, we support civic initiatives that bring value to the communities we serve.
Project Learning Tree GreenWorks! Grants
DEADLINE: September 30 each year
AMOUNT: Up to $1,000
GreenWorks! Grants fund school/community native plant gardens, forest improvement projects, streamside restoration plans, recycling programs, energy conservation project for students, etc. Applicants must have attended a PLT workshop.
PSNH's Environmental Community Grant Program (serving New England)
DEADLINE: September 15 each year
AMOUNT: Up to $1,500
Provides support to nonprofit organizations, within the company's service territory, that foster environmental preservation, improvement, or education. Grant applications must be from organizations served by PSNH or by NU’s other subsidiaries, Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P) and Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECO).
SeaWorld Busch Gardens Conservation Fund
DEADLINE: December 1 each year
AMOUNT: Awards are usually $5,000 to $25,000
Supports projects in four key areas:
Southern California Edison Community Grants Program (serving California)
AMOUNT: Up to $5,000
Through SCE’s online Community Grants program, organization can apply under four areas:
Target Local Giving
DEADLINE: Early Childhood Reading Grant Applications are open between March 1 and April 30 each year. Field Trip Grant Applications (school must apply) are open between Aug. 1 and Sept. 30.
AMOUNT: Early Childhood Reading Grants are $2,000; Field Trip Grants are $700.
Each year, Target store grants help K-12 schools and nonprofit organizations bring arts and cultural experiences to students, provide support for educational field trips and fund early childhood reading programs.
Walmart Local Giving Program
DEADLINE: December 1, 2013
AMOUNT: $250 to $2,500
Through the Local Giving Program, Walmart stores, Sam's Clubs and Logistics facilities can support the needs of their communities by providing grants to local organizations. Applications must be completed in full and submitted online to be considered. Please read the Local Giving Guidelines before beginning your application.
WMAN/IEN Mining Mini-Grants Program
DEADLINE: February 1, June 1 and October 1 each year; applications for Emergency Grants are accepted anytime and should be for time-sensitive unforeseen challenges/opportunities.
AMOUNT: Up to $3,000
The Mining Mini-Grants Program is a joint project of WMAN and the Indigenous Environmental Network and funds work dedicated to mining-related issues. The goal of the Mining Mini-Grants Program is to support and enhance the capacity building efforts of mining-impacted communities in the U.S. and Canada to assure that mining projects do not adversely affect human, cultural, and the ecological health of communities. Indigenous-led organizations will receive at least 50% of the grants made each cycle.
Youth Gardening Grants from the National Gardening Association
DEADLINE: December 3, 2012. Check back for 2013 deadline.
AMOUNT: $500 to $1,000
NGA awards Youth Garden Grants to schools and community organizations with child-centered garden programs. Priority will be given to programs that emphasize one or more of these elements:
Birdathon has caught on as an effective and fun way for Chapters to raise money because it works so well and serves several purposes all at once. First, the Birdathon gets your Chapter working together and building a sense of teamwork, bringing birders and non-birders together for an adventure in many of the different habitats we are all trying to protect. Second, the Birdathon spreads the Audubon mission and brings in people – brand new supporters as well as old – as sponsors (your brother, dentist, or hairdresser) that might not have the opportunity to support the environment or Audubon if it were not for you. There is no limit to the number of participants and sponsors Chapters can involve in their Birdathons, and, therefore, no limit to the amount of money that can be raised. Members who are new to birding will find the Birdathon a wonderful introduction, and people who may have difficulty asking others for money will find it far easier to ask for pledges for their Birdathons. The Birdathon also can generate substantial local publicity for your Chapter.
In addition, Birdathon provides an opportunity for meaningful partnership with Audubon. Many Chapters choose to direct a portion of their proceeds to an Audubon program important to their activities. Supporting the state Important Bird Area (IBA) program, Audubon Adventures, or a nearby Audubon sanctuary are all ways Chapters turn a portion of their Birdathon proceeds into an investment in Audubon’s programs and the overall health of the organization.
BIRDATHON EVENT IDEAS
Birdathons are held throughout the United States from April to June, with times for local events coinciding with peak bird migration.
Participants meet in groups across the country and scan skies, trees and wetlands to identify as many bird species as possible -- up to 200 in some cases -- in a one-day period.
Participants obtain pledges form sponsors, ranging from 25¢ up to $10 or more for each species spotted.
Nontraditional Birdathons: Any creative variation of the traditional Birdthon that your Chapter can come up with. Here are some ideas:
Family field day: Do a variation on regular field trips. Consider charging for these trips if they are normally free, or charge a bit more than usual during your fundraising period. Special “discount” prices for families are a great incentive.
VIP field trips: If you have a “celebrity” birder, or a celebrity who would like to go birding in your area, put together a very special birding day, including a wonderful lunch. Make it an exclusive event – keep it small and set the ticket price relatively high. Some Chapters charge $25 to $50 for these types of events, depending on the popularity of the VIP.
Special Event day: Work with local organizations, such as other environmental groups, garden clubs and scouts, as well as the park service, to organize a “mini-fair” in the park. This event is a natural vehicle for sponsorship, public relations and education about environmental issues. It is also a great opportunity for membership recruitment. Here are some suggestions:
Chapter Bird-a-thon website (Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, CA)
Why Promote Bequests?
Most planned gifts are simple bequests from wills and living trusts as well as beneficiary designations in life insurance policies and retirement plans. Bequest gifts are the cheapest dollars to raise; they require fewer resources to manage than any other source of contributed income. Bequest gifts average 50-200 times more value than total lifetime giving by that donor.
The National Audubon Society has received over $300 million in revenue from over 1,500 bequests and settled life income gifts since the inception of our planned giving program in the mid-1980s. Approximately 60% of these estates have provided unrestricted income to support Audubon’s mission. The median bequest ranges from $10,000-$12,000 by individuals who leave Audubon a percent of their residual estate.
Promotion of bequests is not difficult but does require a long-term commitment; once started, it should not be discontinued. National Audubon’s excellent results in gift planning – about 15% of its annual income, easily among the top-ranking national non-profits – are the direct result of a long-term commitment to promoting planned gifts.
Promotion techniques can include: newsletters, website, emails, check-off for information on reply cards in regular mail; seminars by outside professionals, special receptions, special mailings to all members; and testimonials. NAS staff can provide you with examples and guide you through the process of creating your own.
Bequest inquiries should be replied to promptly by letter and a brochure including legal language and Tax Identification Number, or followed-up by phone. Do not be afraid to talk with fellow members about making a bequest. Older, loyal members are already thinking about future generations, and want to learn how to benefit Audubon for that future.
Treat people who have included your Chapter in their wills like major outright gift donors, and consider starting a special Legacy Society for these people. Gift planning donors who are treated like loyal members are likely to keep your organization in their wills, to increase their investment, and to make the largest outright gifts they can afford.
I bequeath _____ % of my residuary estate (or $________) to the __________ (name of Chapter), a not-for-profit environmental conservation organization, with its principal offices located at ________________________________ (address), for its ongoing environmental conservation and educational purposes. EIN # XX-XXXXXXX (Chapter tax ID number).
Annuities, Trusts, and other types of Planned Gifts
Most Chapters are not equipped to handle the demands of administering other forms of planned gifts directly, but the possibilities should not be ruled out, especially if you have a local community foundation available to you as a resource. Charitable gift annuities and gifts from IRA accounts (in years approved by Congress) are good types of gifts to know about, and NAS staff may be able to assist you in deciding whether you should add these to your gift planning “toolbox.”
Ready to get started?
Look at the following resources for more information and give us a call if you have any questions.
Chapters of any size stand to benefit from a special appeal--that's a letter, an email message, social networking campaign or a phone call to your constituents asking for a donation, generally for a specific cause, project or program. Annual appeals are popular with non-profits just before the winter holidays. People are generally in a more giving mood and are also interested in making tax-deductible contributions.
Launching a successful appeal requires good planning. You will essentially need to be able to sell the concept of your Chapter's mission, your program or project to the prospective donors. But it's not all about the organization--you must connect with the individual on the other end of the line or letter and show them how they are relevant to the success of your Chapter and the great blue heron, or whatever cause you are promoting.
Plant the seed and then cultivate. Build relationships with your prospects gradually--don't ask them for $500 right away. Encourage them to increase what they give over time--being sure to educate yourself on their giving history and ask for more each year. If they aren't comfortable giving more, indicate what they gave last year and ask them if they can give at the same level. Recognize also that a person's economic situation may have changed, and they really can't give as much as last year or at all.
Network for Good says that a good appeal must answer four basic questions:
Special Appeal Training DVD Available
Craig Breon, former Executive Director of Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, developed a training DVD for Chapters on conducting a special appeal. To order a copy of the DVD, contact Chapter Services at 800-542-2748. See a preview of the DVD online.
More Tips for Appeal Letters
Personalize Greeting and Information
If you don't already mail merge information from your database to any letter or email message you send, start now. Would you be more likely to respond to a solicitation that said "Dear Member" or "Dear [your name here]"? Talk to the individual, not to the masses. If you have the information, merge in the amount they gave last year (and thank them again for it), and add in any other details that seem fitting.
Summarize Accomplishments and Goals
Let your prospects know what great things donor contributions made possible last year and what continued/additional programs and projects will be possible with their support. Don't get long-winded--just stick to the most significant--and sellable--bullet points.
If you're sending appeal letters, a personal handwritten note in the margin goes a long way. Have a note-writing party at a board member's home and invite all Chapter leaders to participate. If someone personally knows a particular donor/prospective donor, that person should write the note. There's no need to write an essay. A short, sincere message will suffice, e.g., "Bob & Lucy--it was fantastic to bird with you at Loch Ness. Hope to see you on the trail again soon!", or "Laura--thanks so much for helping us during River Cleanup Day--glad you had a chance to see those osprey chicks!"
While you have those volunteers gathered, have them hand-address each envelope and affix first-class postage. This makes the mailing look more personalized than a machined bulk mailing.
Reply Card and Envelope
The reply card should be well-designed and contain only essential information. If it is overcrowded or lengthy, prospective donors may cast it aside. Be sure to have a place for them to fill in their name and contact information and possibly answer a small number of questions by marking checkboxes, e.g., "I am interested in volunteer opportunities with Birdie Audubon Society".
Make it as easy as possible for donors to send money--include an envelope (that is sufficient to accommodate the donation form and check without folding them).
If you have a nice brochure of upcoming Chapter programs, include them with your letters. You may also consider a Chapter logo sticker or other enclosure.
Evaluate Your Appeal
As with any Chapter endeavor--whether a program, event, or fundraising scheme--it needs to be assessed in order to determine its successes and failures. Feel free to experiment--try including reply envelopes with stamps and those without (make sure to keep track) to see if it makes a difference. Make phone calls on different days of the week at different times to determine what works best.
The following fundraising events have been particularly lucrative for many Chapters. Always remember to use your imagination and do not feel restricted to these examples. Chapter members can always dream up better innovations using their own local resources.
La Purisima Audubon Society is a small Chapter in rural California. It convinced local merchants to donate furniture for its Chapter auction. The $5,000 generated by the auction was used for building a nature center and placing Audubon educational materials in the school system. Northern Shenendoah Valley Audubon Society in Virginia holds a silent auction as part of a member meeting. Members arrive before the meeting to make their bids on items. The bidding closes when the meeting program begins and members pick up and pay for their new possessions after the program. In addition to being good fundraising vehicles, silent auctions have become a good way to attract new members to the Chapter.
The Madison Audubon Society of Madison WI. Holds an annual Art Fair featuring about 100 artists displaying and selling photography, painting, printmaking, weaving, glass, drawing, fiber, ceramics, jewelry and a variety of sculpture and mixed media. The chapter holds a silent auction at the fair and offers food on site. In 2007 the Fair netted $14,727!
Bike for Birds
Audubon North Carolina Board Member Lena Gallitano of Raleigh NC participated in Cycle North Carolina's Fall Ride from Elkin in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to Carolla on the Northern Outer Banks. She challenged sponsors and supports to make contributions to her Bike for Birds Campaign and raised over $7,800! Lena says, "I did a lot of birding by ear while riding my bike...The birds made my training rides more pleasurable, and I've been an Audubon memeber for many years, so that's when it clicked: I could make the ride a fundraiser and call it Bike for Birds."
Bird House Building and Sales
Siskiyou Audubon Society of Grants Pass, Oregon, raised money for Audubon Adventures by building over 500 bluebird boxes for sale and distribution throughout the community. The Chapter credits a local timber operation for selling used materials for the nest boxes at reduced prices.
Bird Seed Sales
Chapter bird seed sales are another tried and true method by which Audubon chapters raise money for their programs. Some chapters find that they can increase their profits by obtaining pre-orders for bird seed. By advertising the sale and taking orders for specific types of seed well in advance, a chapter can order just the amount of seed it needs, and avoid wasting large amounts of seed. Once the total seed order is collated, most chapters order their seed from a distributor. The seed should be delivered to a central location and chapter volunteers should be ready with a list of individual orders. While bird seed sales do require a cash investment, many chapters have been able to raise substantial funds through their sales.
Amos Butler Audubon Society in Indiana grossed $12,300 on a $9,000 investment in bird seed sales. The chapter advertises the bird seed sale in its newsletter and takes out ads in the local paper, enabling the chapter to pre-order only the amount of bird seed that has been ordered by members and other customers. Customers pick up their seed directly from the distributor’s truck, freeing the chapter of warehousing and inventory problems.
Greater Wyoming Valley Audubon Society in Dallas Pennsylvania offers an incentive; customers who purchase $100 of seed/suet receive a free suet cylinder feeder.
A number of Chapters hold a series of weekly “Beginning Birding Seminars” or “Master Birding Programs.” In addition to identification, field trips are generally part of the sessions. With the appropriate tuition, birding seminars can be extremely popular, educational, and lucrative for the Chapter. These classes are promoted in the Chapter membership and throughout the greater community. North American bird identification slides are available from Cornell University’s Ornithological Research Station, Sapsucker Woods. Sapsucker Woods maintains an extensive collection of slides that are available for sale. To order a brochure, contact: Sapsucker Woods Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Ithaca, New York 14850.
Business Customer Donations
Check with your local businesses to see if they have a means (e.g., through a service like eScrip) for their customers to donate to your Chapter with every purchase they make at that business. This is a nice way to receive a steady stream of income throughout the year, with minimal effort.
This idea comes from the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society (CA). They offer 2 different calenders for sale each year. One features pictures of birds donated by local photographers. The chapter sponsors a Wildlife Poster contest for local students. The top 12 picks are featured in another calender.
Host parties around holidays such as New Year’s Eve, April Fools Day, John James Audubon’s Birthday (April 26), and the Fourth of July. For a real money maker, throw in a bingo game, special door prizes, or a few party games.
The house meeting can be an occasion to get friends and neighbors together in someone’s home, tell them about Chapter programs and ask them for financial gifts to support these programs. You might organize a house meeting around the premiere of an Audubon television special, serve dessert, and ask friends and neighbors to sign-up for a Chapter membership with a small donation. It is always best to ask for money for a specific project the Chapter is currently pursuing.
Native Plant Sale
This idea comes from The Grand Rapids Audubon Club (MI). Chapter members donate native plants from their yards for sale.
Tri-Moraines Audubon Society in Ohio brought in $5,000 by processing a quarter million pounds of recycled material through its “Project Recycle” program.
Rummage and Garage Sales
Prescott Audubon Society in Arizona and Boulder Audubon Society in Colorado hold annual rummage sales netting $2,000 - $3,000 each. What a great way to make money and turn your unwanted items into someone else’s treasures!
This idea comes from The Grand Rapids Audubon Club (MI). Does your chapter have T-shirts, mugs, kids apparel or other swag? Sell your chapter's merchandise worldwide and provide a convenient way for locals to get your goods. View an example from The Grand Rapids Audubon Club here.
Here are some planning tips to help ensure the success of Chapter fundraising endeavors. Like any other planning activity, clear goals and objectives for fundraising are essential.
ALLOCATING YOUR RESOURCES
EIGHT STEPS FOR FUNDRAISING THROUGH FOUNDATIONS, BUSINESSES AND CONTRIBUTIONS
Assuming a Chapter is organized as a corporation, and has secured tax-exemption under Sec. 501(c)(3), the Chapter may need to comply with any gaming laws of the state in which it is organized and with any federal, state and local tax laws that apply.
Most states regulate raffles, and there is little, if any, uniformity. It is up to each Chapter to seek out the state agency that regulates gaming activities and review the applicable requirements.
In addition to gaming laws, tax laws may also apply. At the federal level, a raffle sponsor (and the winners) may have reporting obligations to the IRS (generally, if the value of the prizes is $600 or more). In addition, for high-value prizes (generally, $5,000 or more), the sponsor may have withholding obligations (possibly 25% of the prize value). The IRS has a publication aimed at the general public that reviews the federal tax issues: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p3079.pdf. Additional state and local tax requirements may also apply.
In summary, anyone contemplating a raffle should review the requirements imposed by the applicable gaming and tax authorities. Some state gaming authorities can impose surprisingly rigorous requirements. (Connecticut, for example, has an entire section of its gaming statute describing what should be printed on any raffle ticket, and how the raffle tickets should be drawn.)
1. Collect names and contact information whenever possible
Every name added to your mailing list is potentially precious, representing someone who can be cultivated into a lifetime volunteer and donor. Don't forget to collect the names of people who call for advice, pay cash to attend an event or benefit on their own or as a guest of another member, or stop by at your open house.
To capture names of nonpaying guests at events, hold a small raffle or giveaway, register people for a silent auction, or simply put out a sign-up sheet for people wanting more information.
Any member of your Chapter who interacts with the public should also be ready with a standard question like, "Can I take your address or email and send you more information about what we do?" Email is often the least threatening for people, who know it's easy to delete if they're not interested.
2. Create ways to interact with new potential donors and volunteers
Be creative about ways to reach out to people so that they want to give you their names or the names of friends.
3. Ask for names from your board members, staff, and volunteers
Request your Chapter board members, staff and volunteers to pull out their address books and provide you with names periodically, especially so you capture information from new members and changed contacts and friends. Consider an outreach campaign -- for example, ask volunteers to make a pitch at their workplace for more volunteers or to their friends.
4. Capture a new donor's interest with an insider benefit
If you have a connection to a potential donor (perhaps through LinkedIn or social network contacts), look for something your Chapter can uniquely provide to pique that person's interest, such as a birding walk or site visit to an IBA or sanctuary. Sign up existing donors and then invite new ones. And be sure to get names of people who couldn't come but want to hear about upcoming events such as this one.
5. Trade mailing lists with another organization
If you are considering using direct mail to reach out to prospective new donors, think about a one-time trade with a partner organization. Although research shows that you won't end up stealing away each other's donors, both of you may feel more secure if your missions aren't too similar.
6. Use your website to attract donors
If you don't have a website yet, this should be high on your priority list.
7. Get active in the Social Network scene
No need to join every network right away, but establishing a presence on Facebook or Twitter is a good start. This allows you to reap the advantages of people-to-people fundraising, in which your fans or supporters tell their friends about your cause and needs, and maybe even find their own ways to raise money for you.
8. Present a joint event with another organization
If your Chapter isn't usually in the public eye, or wants to attract younger members and volunteers, for example, hold an event with another organization or Chapter that already has the groups you’d like to reach.
9. Change how you communicate with the outside world
Many organizations have pools of potential donors or volunteers that they can't quite figure out how to turn into donors. To determine how to best get these folks to donate, take a hard look at how your Chapter communicates with the world. For example, if you publish a newsletter, does it assume that its readers are mostly of a certain age? If so, include stories directed at older and younger readers. If reaching younger people is your challenge, ask a younger member to help, perhaps by creating buzz on a social networking site.
10. Try something wacky
Potential donors -- and maybe you, too -- may be tired of the formulaic letters, dinners, and other standard fundraising approaches. For a break, try something offbeat (but not too time-consuming). Perhaps a dunk tank at a local festival or a moustache contest (online or offline). At the very least, you may get some press coverage, which is another nice way to raise awareness and even direct contact from interested supporters.
Adapted from Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits: Real-World Strategies That Work, by Ilona Bray (Nolo). Updated by Sidnie Shaffer, Audubon Director of Conservation Philanthropy – West.
Who are the best people to ask for donations? Those individuals and families who are already Chapter donors! All you need to do is inspire them to keep giving, and to increase their giving--if and when they can. You can start by tracking the level at which they have donated previously--then ask for an additional $25-$50, or whatever amount you feel would be appropriate. If you or someone on your Board doesn't already have a personal connection with the donor, start cultivating one. Meet with the donor over coffee and get to know them better. What do they enjoy in particular about your Chapter? Is there anything they would like to see changed (be prepared for this sort of feedback, or don't ask)? Would they like more information or involvement in any particular Chapter program?
Consider offering additional benefits to high-level donors. Travis Audubon Society (TX) developed a "Donor Stewardship" program that offers personal letters and calls of thanks as well as VIP field trips. See their donor stewardship chart in the "Downloadable Resources" below.