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

Traditional Birdathon:

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 25C/ 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:

  • The lunch bunch:  Decide how many species your group will see in the morning, stop after you have found that number, and go out to lunch!  Ask your prospects to sponsor you based on the number of species you promise to see.
  • "A funny thing happened on the way to the office..." A Birdathon geared toward busy executives.  Bird from 6:00 am to 9:00 am (in your business suit!) and then go to work.
  • Single sex:  Competing men's and women's teams.
  • Pedal power:  An energy efficient Birdathon on a bike.
  • The big sit:  For the ultra busy, the sedentary, the relaxer, the incapacitated, or the just plain lazy!  Sit in your favorite chair or spot in the park, your house or yard, or your friend's yard.  Ask your prospects to sponsor you based on the smaller number of species you will see from your spot.
  • Naturally novice:  Create an event that will include novice birders.  They are usually the ones who do not get invited to be in a Birdathon - but of course have the same fundraising potential as birders do.  Orchestrate a day, or part of a day, dedicated to novice birders - members, friends, relatives, anyone who wants to come along.  Knowing they will only see a small number of species, help them determine a number on which to base their requests for sponsorship.  You will raise more money for the Chapter's event, and make new birders, new friends, and perhaps new members!
  • The age range:  Organize competitive teams by age groups, i.e. 0-25, 30-50, 50+.
  • Kids Birdathon day

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:

  • Ask local businesses to help sponsor the event and feature their products at the fair.
  • Alert the local media and advertise the event throughout the community.
  • Provide visible, attractive kiosks with information about Chapter programs and conservation issues.
  • Be sure to have volunteers available to answer questions and recruit members.
  • Include booths of nature related services and products.
  • Organize activities throughout the day, such as "interpretive" bird/nature walks. These can be designed as "do-it-yourself" trips or can include a guide.  Be sure to include a trail/route map, drawings of birds and plants likely to be seen, etc.

Additional Resources

Chapter Bird-a-thon website (Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, CA)