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How Non Profits Can Raise Funds, Awareness, and Make a Multi Stakeholder Impact

| Wednesday January 14th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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What do you do if you’re an environmental non profit to raise funds and build awareness in these turbulent times? If you’re SYRCL, or South Yuba River Conservation League, you do put on the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, the country’s biggest environmental/green/outdoor adventure film festival.
While you’re at it, you make a traveling version of it available for other non profits to raise funds and new membership signups in their area as well, 90 expected for ’09. And to really make an impact on people that will be even more effected by the health of the environment then us, make it available to high schools and colleges as well.
The festival, like the organization, aspires to be inclusive of as many people possible. As they said in the recent festival’s program,
Our collective task is to knit these individual stories into a broader narrative for our times; to unite our various movements in a coherent call for change.


In this spirit, films range from the activist oriented Fighting Goliath: Texas Coal Wars to an entire morning devoted to childrens animation like the hilarious Zoologic. For me, being a sustainable business consultant, I was incredibly moved by So Right, So Smart, which strongly made the case for green business, using for some the well trod stories of green business practitioners like Ray Anderson of Interface, but in a fresh, vital, powerful way. Seek it out.
While some others felt that film too corporate/business focused, that’s just fine, there was something for all there this weekend. I suspect many people saw/heard something that was beyond their current sphere of belief, and are looking further into now, after returning home. And that’s what this festival is about, while at the same time building broad awareness about SYRCL, helping further it’s own cause – protecting the amazing South Yuba River “from source to sea.” They’ve done a terrific job, thanks in part due to the increasing success of this film festival.
They take it far beyond being just a screening of films, offering free workshops throughout the weekend, educating budding filmmakers, activists, and for me, learning about a unique initiative being spearheaded by Patagonia, the Freedom To Roam project.
What is it? As they put it so well,

Freedom to Roam is an initiative of environmentalists, businesses, outdoor recreationalists, ranchers, hunters and anglers, urban folk and rural folk joined together to create continental corridors so that wildlife can survive on a warming planet.

What are continental corridors? Basically, the same way we have interstate freeways, animals have these thousands of mile corridors they live and migrate on. And climate change, road and building development serve to truncate or break up these corridors. I never knew about this, despite my deep involvement in the sustainability realm. And I likely wouldn’t have come across this in my other activities. A clear benefit of attending this festival.
Patagonia’s success at this using a multi-stakeholder approach is something others , business or otherwise, trying to affect change could do well to learn from: Get all parties seeing where they benefit and how their supposed opposition has more common desires and goals then you thought, and progress becomes much easier and faster.
At first, Patagonia’s willingness as a for profit business to take an active role in something that, on the surface, does their business no direct benefit, would seem to be fiscally wasteful. However, step back and look for a moment, and you’ll see that those same corridors they’re seeking to protect and reconnect are also frequently good places for humans to recreate in the outdoors. And use Patagonia gear while they’re doing it.
So while times may be tough, creating events and linking up with multiple interest groups beyond your immediate cause is an example your organization may want to follow.

Readers: What other innovative ways do you see non profits, NGOs and others raising funds and awareness in these times? Comment below please.

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is “bottom lining” complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.


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