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Fundraising and Membership

This section describes how GIS can support membership development and other related fundraising.

Fundraising from individuals and from foundations and public agencies is absolutely critical to almost every land trust.  Although GIS can’t solve major fundraising challenges by itself, its use in fundraising is often overlooked or not even imagined by non-profits. Here are four ways it can help:

1. Membership support:  GIS can quickly locate where members’ addresses are, creating a “point” layer of all members that can be displayed on a more general map.  Using this data, GIS can be used to produce maps that allow your land trust to see its overall distribution of members, or to guide members to events, or educate them about land trust holdings.

It can also be used to quickly choose members close to a property or other natural feature (for example, selecting all members of a certain type who live within a mile of a particular holding and inviting them to help with a stewardship effort).  Within a few seconds, the selected members can be exported from the GIS as a mail merge data file and immediately plugged into a word processing or label making program.

2. Membership acquisition:  Many commercial businesses target people based on GIS analysis.  While land trusts may not want to fully adopt these practices, there is much that GIS can do to help identify new supporters.

For example, if you have a list of people and addresses available, you can create a GIS analysis that identifies what protected lands are near to them and include these specific places in a mail-merge type letter for each person. If there are not protected areas nearby an address you can flag that information as well.

GIS can also be used to rank such address lists against underlying demographic factors (e.g., “find all on my list who are also in a Census Block Group where median income is above a certain level”).  Voting patterns can be integrated into this analysis (e.g., “...then find all of those so identified who are also in voting precincts where the margin of support for a recent parks bond issue was 55% or greater”).

The Land Trust of Napa County has used this approach of evaluating public ownership data in determining who to invite to local information parties, hosted by their members. Invitations are sent to those who live near a member, based on certain factors (home value, length of time in the community, etc.). Those who respond positively are further evaluated using this public data so that at the event connections can be more effectively made with them.

3. Major donors:  For supporting those who make significant gifts, GIS can add the capacity to generate personalized posters of a basic map of a land trust’s turf and holdings (e.g., “To Mary and Richard Bolton, supporters since 1994”).  It can also be used to establish better online viewing of a land trusts’ holdings, either through a dedicated map server(link) or by using a service such as Google Earth(link). 

Another approach has been used by the Vermont Land Trust which produced a 40-page GIS-based atlas of its 800 properties, that was then given to major donors as a special gift.  Such documents can be sent over the internet to online printers who can make high quality, short-run publications very quickly.  LEARN MORE about finding on-demand printers... 

4. Grant proposals:  Using GIS to better analyze goals for land acquisition and stewardship can improve the willingness of some funders to consider a funding proposal (the competitive standard for a good proposal has been increasing as more land trusts apply GIS to their work). 

5.  Capital Campaigns:  For land trusts seeking to mount major capital campaigns for funds to acquire one or more properties, GIS can be invaluable. Poster maps for targeted donors, maps that analyze demographics of beneficiaries, map images for brochures and presentations and interactive maps can all be critical to educating potential donors.

For example, the Palos Verdes Land Conservancy (near Los Angeles) used GIS maps as a key part of its campaign to raise $17 million for its 1,200 acre Portugese Bend Preserve.  Shown at right, the maps included a showcase area map, development in the area and a demographic analysis map.

6.  Targeting:   Using GIS to identify individuals to whom you want to provide information is a valuable approach.  An interesting case study is available from Directions Magazine (deals with GIS) describing how a political party used GIS to enhance its fundraising outreach. 


Ebase, low cost, non-profit membership database

Groundspring - Focuses on online fundraising and action strategies 

TechSoup - online knowledgebase plus software donations

GetActive - online resource for fundraising and grassroots action

© Land Trust GIS 2006