As a long time fundraising consultant for non-profits, I never thought it would be this hard to raise money in a community that has such great demographics. Most serious 4x4 users are financially stable with moderate to large discretionary income. But we can't get them to part with it. Telling them about the good work in Washington DC or good meetings with Regional FS reps is like selling Internet access to homeless people. It's pointless. We need to find another way to reach our target market with an appeal that they can't say no to.
There is a point for consideration about "demographics". I have been spending a considerable time on those issues for the past few years. The USFS Southern Research Station has some interesting studies about various recreation trends http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/trends/
I have a lot of information gleaned from there and US Census studies about the shift in demographic.
Basically, the assumption that "most serious 4x4 users are financially stable with moderate to large discretionary income" is partially correct. And, appealing to altruistic values is a hard sell.
Now, the real issue is defining the "target market" for the "product" you are trying to sell.
For example, the UFWDA programs are spelled out quite clear. The condensed version is:
UFWDA provides the following services to members:
4WD Awareness Program - This program is designed to instill responsible off-highway driving skills through education and instruction to novice 4-wheel drive vehicles owners, teaching owners about the components of their 4x4 vehicle, proper off-highway driving techniques, proper vehicle recovery, courtesies related to four wheeling, and environmental awareness.
Volunteer Trail Patrol - This program is to establish a formal network for concerned recreation and conservationists to communicate with other recreationists and law enforcement officers regarding crime-related, user ethics, and environmental problems.
Organizational Incentive Program - The purpose of this program is to generate support funds for partner organizations. Participating members “check the box” to send a portion of their UFWDA membership revenue to one organizational partner of their choice.
Communication and Education - UFWDA provides global communication with other four wheel drive enthusiasts, with local, state, and federal land managers, and with local, state, and federal legislators.
Legislative and Legal Advocacy - UFWDA members have access to the corporation’s full-time legislative advocate and nationally-recognized attorney working exclusively for four wheel drive enthusiasts to protect access and prevent road and trail closures. UFWDA continually monitors, tracks, and combats federal legislation that would affect four wheel drive motor vehicle users. In addition, UFWDA partners with other champions of OHV access to protect access rights in the states.
Now, how do you "sell" these to members?
Starting with the 4WD Awareness class, it is structured so that an organization can sponsor it as a "fund-raiser" or at least a benefit. Keep in mind, everything has a price -- there are no "free" rides. As the Awareness has a cost, by approaching a local business for sponsorship, the organization can underwrite the all or a portion of the cost.
Further, people tend to value what they pay for. Providing "free" classes is an altruistic, feel-good effort. But, the general public is pressed on a daily basis to take advantage of a "free" offer only to find that they will pay in the end.
As such, a class where the major costs are underwritten by a sponsor AND attendees pay a resonable amount can change the dynamics of the cost factor.
That same effort applies to the VTP or the other education programs available to members of UFWDA.
The core point is borne out by a catch phrase used by the environmental movement: "Think global, act local"
In other words, the efforts at the "national" level have a direct impact on what you do at the "local" level. And, what is done at the "local" level has an impact at the "national" level.
For example, when an area in Utah is proposed for wilderness, the SUWA spends a majority of its resources advertising the need for that wilderness protection not in Utah, but in the "vote rich" environemnt of the northeast and mid-Atlantic states.
That is a classic example of "Think global and act local".
Within the 4x4 community, UFWDA does provide a voice for 4x4 concerns at a level that is not reached by the local club or association. Because we can provide "numbers of perspective voters" (or buyers) we do command more attention than a small organization. That equates to a focused demographic across a broad geographic spectrum.
UFWDA was an exhibitor at the Spring SEMA show. The Southern Four Wheel Drive Assoc provided a display vehicle and some folks to help staff the booth. That provided the local association an opportunity to advertise THEIR association (and their alliance with UFWDA) to a demographic that sells product to their members. In other words, SEMA is a trade show not open to the general public. Everyone attending the trade show represents a specific demographic that is looking at the products offers by the manufacturers and evaluating how they can "sell" that product to their customers.
That demographic now is aware of UFWDA and Southern as organizations that provide a linkage to their customers.
Due to Southern's support, I was able to attend a couple of meetings with SEMA and the Light Truck Accessories Alliance. That effort resulted in SEMA (their Marketing section) picking up the ball to develop economic indicators that will reflect a economic impact of OHV recreation. That is a valuable bit of data that is not available. And yet, every land mangement decision is required to use economic impact data in the evaluation of alternatives. We will now have valid data to submit.
There are ways things can be done. The success at SEMA was due in part to the support of the local association. And, the locla association felt very positive about the benefits and exposure they received. Their efforts to get the same type of exposure at SEMA was going to cost them over $1500. They got it for nothing. UFWDA has been a guest of SEMA for a number of years.
Again, think global, act local.....