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How to Save A Piece of Precious Land

How DO you save a precious bit of land that is the last of its kind in the area, a nature nook, a legacy of biodiversity? People all across the country ask that when a nearby empty field goes up for sale, and the plan for a new shopping center is announced. But that is usually too late. A few exceptions happen...but people stand a better chance at preserving land if they look ahead and raise the funds needed for community enhancement.

Here are some ideas if you're facing that daunting fundraising challenge. These are ideas gathered from creative people who care about their neighborhoods. They are a starting point for your own creative journey to create a special sense of place.

Conduct a brainstorming session that reaches into the hearts of the people wanting to save the land. Dig out the values, comparative values, get to "commitment" of resources, strategies to engage others, and the vision of the future. Typical questions for people to answer privately, and share for compilation:

  • What does this land mean to you?
  • What have you gained from your access to the area?
  • What special moments did you have?
  • How much value does it add to your home value?
  • What percentage of that value would you invest to keep this valuation?
  • How much value does it add to your children's education? How many valuable hours?
  • If you paid private school or entertainment fees for these hours, how much would it be?

If you can relate the amount of money needed by each participant, they can connect their love of the land to a sacrifice that is meaningfun and attainable.

You are asking the developer to give up the potential for profit on his land, what are you willing to give up to save the land for yourselves?

For instance:
A vacation? A new car this year? A hamburger each week? A meal out on the town--have it here instead? A new addition on your house? A continuing education course on gardening or ecology? A session a month with your shrink? A 10% tithe to the creator of the land? Channel a full year's maximum tax deduction to one project to make a significant difference? A new suit? A new pair of comfortable, stylish shoes? A new coat? A new bike? A rare breed of dog or cat? An ecotour to some distant paradise? A breath of fresh air? A sunset? A view of the skyline? One Lakers outing? A season ticket to your least favorite obligation? A designer bikini? A computer game? Your most expensive book of the year?

To build your case for why this land should be saved, it is necessary to get some facts. The more pertinent the facts, the better.

  • How does the ratio of parkland in this part of town compare with others? How does it affect liveability -- and corporate recruitment issues? What are secondary uses, such as flood or fire control, or student ourdoor learning program?
  • Just how rare is this land…in the city, the state, the world? How many species live, use this land as home and territory? Migration? Resident? How is biodiversity valued economically? Along with community benefits, you will want to think about how donors can be acknowledged for their investment in the community through helping save this land.

  • What continuing good will can you deliver to major donors? Name things after them? Stories about their active involvement in the process? Recommend them for an award? Give them a certificate, or work of art? Photo with a star/politician/local group? A special event with celebrities: fishing trip, golf, tour of the land, sailboat, dinner?
Next comes how to contact donors. Think about your unique resources. Does someone in your group have a place available for an outdoor event? Brainstorm creative uses of the resources available to you:

  • Fundraising program: Catered dinner under the stars…with the stars.

    And a lot of attention never hurts -- especially when it is thought provoking without demonizing.

  • Tie a yellow ribbon around a tree. Decorate that ugly fence: put photos of the fence and the developer's building side by side… Explore "fencing us out of nature" as philosophical concept. Liability. Disownership. Disconnect with community. Common ownership of the air space, the view, etc.

    But it ALWAYS comes down to individuals caring enough to take action -- caring enough to invest in their own future. Help them connect their benefits to the need for a specific donation amount:

    • How many hours did you spend on the land?
    • Compare this figure to cost of exercise membership, movies, travel, eating out, how much per week/month would it's value be?
    • How much would having this land mean to you for the next TEN years? Will you commit that amount to the project now, to secure the resource for the next 10 years+
    • What creative ways could you use your special talents and connections to raise $10,000 for this project? If you had a support team, how could you raise $50,000?
    • Who has a million dollars that could be donated to this project? Who knows that person...or knows someone who might know that person?

    And when you identify major donors, it is good to have a good negotiator visit with them about how they perceive the need to save land in general...and this land in specific. And also to learn how they make their decisions about donations. Donors always have a reason for donating to a specific project -- they can't be talked into doing something that has no personal benfeit. Couuld you?

    • What is the largest donation you have made to a community project in the past?
    • What would convince you to make a donation at least 10% larger than any donation you have made up to this date for community support?
    • Do you feel strongly enough about this project to tell 10 people you know about the need and ask for their support? What would make this mission easier for you?
    By visiting with a variety of people, you begin to paint a word picture of what you're creating for the future. This is your mission.


    • Save this rare and beautiful natural heritage treasure for all people in the community, for all time. And missions have to be broken down into objectives that are really projects that can be delegated to a specific group of people. For example:

      Raise $1 million seed money, raise $21 million to buy the land, raise $X endowment to maintain the land. You reach that objective with specific events or programs.

    • Grassroots fundraising, Public awareness/pressure, Grant campaign And of course, every program has specific jobs to do -- tasks to accomplish:

      Projects and tasks:
      • Grassroots fundraising:
      • Sell XXX square foot certificates (Place in retail stores, present at events, give talks to civic groups, go door to door in own neighborhood, make gift certificate alternative for holiday gifts, and media sponsored challenge campaigns that offer free publicity.Auction off certificates with star signatures, Auction off artwork of "1 square foot" of themes such as native plants, butterflies, wildlife, helping hands, smiles of joy, view of the wetlands, Make timeline back into prehistory. Publish book of memories of place (july 4, etc.) Art and music contest to record the land's beauty and history. List all the native plants and animals that use the land.
      • Public awareness pressure:
      • Tell XXXX people about the need. (Personal testimonials with print and video information)
      • Recruit XXX letters sent to the XXX identified decision impact points. (Write sample letters, talking points, and give list of addresses of key decision makers)
      Major grant proposal campaign require longer term strategy. You will be asking individuals and groups for amounts equal to their largest donation in the past 3 years…expect half the amount asked for…so ask twice as many people as anticipated to respond favorably/
      • Ask XXX significant donors for $1,000,000
      • Ask XXX significant donors for $100,000
      • Ask XXX significant donors for $10,000
      • Ask XXX significant donors for $5,000
      • Ask XXX significant donors for $2,000
      • Ask XXX significant donors for $1,000
      • Public/Private partnership programs between corporations or non-profits and government
      • Ask tax collectors about reassessment based on their unreasonable demands
      • Check out environmental transfer credits for large public works projects, new apartment developments, etc.

      There are endless ways to engage people in activities and causes that excite them and give them a vision about how their community can be improved. Here are a few:
      • Offer sports challenges, contests:
      • Bike ride along the creek, lake or waterway
      • Sailboat race

      • Community builders:
      • Front lawn tea party
      • Community wide "Make space for the Bluffs" "We're calling their bluff…ours"
      • Crossword puzzles, trivia game, jigsaw puzzles, calendar
      • Collection boxes for individuals/children (drink water instead of soft drink/coffee)
      • Create "Nature's own" cup sleeves
      • Donation jars in all businesses

      Engaging artists is a powerful way to both tell the public a visual story...and raise funds through events, sales, auctions, etc.

      • Giant art along the ditch of favorite natural neighbor (plant, animal, formation)
      • Walking tour of the neighborhood -- treasure hunt of natural wonders
      • Photography contest of native wonders
      • Poetry
      • Music
      • Essay
      • Children's drawings
      • Build a book: Perspective essays by stakeholders:
      • Realtors, property owners, children, pet owners (speaking for the pets), seniors, naturalists, ecologists, developers, government officials, spiritual leaders, gardeners, wildlife biologist, anthropologist, community development, father/mother, former resident,
      Best wishes to all who talk, share, contribute, and promote the healthful conservation of our open spaces.

      For more articles about URBAN NATURE

      Urban Agriculture for Outdoor Adventure
      Earth's Most Successful Life Form
      Kudzu Grows a Foot per Day
      Meow How? Should I keep my cat indoors?
      Habitat on Your Balcony and Garden Patio
      Keeping ants in nature where they belong