Raising Money for Stewardship – Part 2

Raising Money for Stewardship – Part 2

2 May 2023


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


A few weeks ago, I was asked to prepare a presentation on how best to raise money for stewardship, and last week, I posted the majority of the answers I offered: Raising Money for Stewardship – Part 1.

Essentially, the best way to raise money for stewardship is to raise it at the same time we are raising money for all the other related conservation costs. But if that horse has already left your barn, you can dedicate unrestricted bequests gifts and other windfalls to stewardship, you can launch a campaign, and you can work with major gifts and major gift donors.

If you go back and read (or re-read) the post from last week, don’t miss Alex’s offering in the comments.

We talk about the “total cost of ‘forever conservation’” or “total cost of ‘in perpetuity conservation’” of a property. We talk about what that means more generally: 1) researching the conservation project (“due diligence”); 2) acquiring it; 3) restoring it; and 4) “caring for it”/”stewarding it” forever … We try not to let our donors get mired in the detailed, “fund-level” finances, and instead focus on the “long-term” or “forever” impact of their support.




But who are these people whom we can talk to about stewardship? Isn’t land acquisition the reason people give money? Who would be interested in “caring for it”/“stewarding it” forever? How do we find them?

Part of the answer, it seems to me, is to ask them. I wrote in this space about a month ago that we need to fundamentally change the way we approach raising money. “If we think less about asking people to support OUR interests and more about finding opportunities to support THEIR interests – if we prioritize learning and discovery over teaching and selling – we will raise more money.” – Four Paradigm Shifts I Wish Every Land Trust Would Make and Why.

So, instead of finding people who give and asking them to give more to stewardship, we will do better by finding people who give and asking them why giving is important to them. And then asking those with answers related to stewardship to give to stewardship.

You can probably do this at scale by using social media questions or short eNews surveys.

Which of the following best describes your support of the land trust:

      • We need to protect more spaces for Nature and people.
      • We need to take better care of the protected spaces that already exist.
      • We need to restore more land to heal damage already done.
      • We need to make more protected space accessible for people (low impact recreation).


Then look at the people who respond to the last three as potential stewardship donors.


Another possibility is to incorporate the idea of subject “briefings” into your schedule of events. A “briefing” is a subject-specific gathering – a party with a short topical program, like stewardship or restoration. The briefing could be indoors, but it could also be hosted on-site to “show” people the stewardship activities instead of just telling them about it. Invite a large group of people and see who responds. Those who come (and those who express regrets) will be the ones most interested in stewardship and restoration activities.


But the best way is over a cup of coffee or walking along a trail together. Talk about stewardship as an organizational value (instead of leading with descriptions of stewardship activities and projects) and see if the light turns on in their eyes. It will for some and won’t for others.


Here are five places to look:

  • State Master Naturalist programs – programs who have done the selecting for you. Certified Master Naturalists would have to be among the people most interested in stewardship and restoration work.
  • Stewardship Volunteer programs – programs that openly invite people to come learn about stewardship and restoration activities. There are several great programs around the country – programs that train and certify volunteers in addition to looking for grunt labor. Bayou Land Conservancy’s Ambassador Program, Ice Age Trail Alliance’s Mobile Skills Crew, and Citizens for Conservation’s Eco-Monitoring Program all come to mind. Most of these programs are themselves run by volunteers.
  • Faith Communities – Many churches and faith communities have embraced care of the Earth as part of their community values. Some have small native gardens that members tend, some have youth programs that connect young people to land, and some connect natural experiences to emotional healing. There is a monastic retreat center in my community that tends a largish native prairie as part of their retreat programming.
  • Stewardship Network – The Stewardship Network is a Midwest-based non-profit that facilitates collaborative stewardship activities, particularly around invasive species control. Their operating premise is that when invasive species control can be exercised over large areas, the invasives can’t repopulate as quickly and overall stewardship costs are reduced for everyone. The resulting collaborations (called “clusters”) involve individual landowners as well as local businesses and government.
  • Backyard Habitat programs – There are many similar voluntary programs that certify residential homeowners’ efforts to make their yards more Nature friendly. Columbia Land Trust and Audubon Society have this one in Portland, Oregon. Other areas have native gardens, pollinator gardens, Conservation@Home programs, and so on.


The point is that care of land and land stewardship is a value that many people and families share. And there are already places where these like-minded people gather. Find them and connect with them.

Instead of treating everyone giving you money as a stewardship-champion-in-waiting, ready to give more when asked, cross reference those who give money with those who participate in one of the above programs.


And ask the rest to give to more land acquisition.


Cheers, and have a great week!




PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.


Photo by 明佳凜, courtesy pixabay.com



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