The Ruffed Grouse Society holds a distinct reputation among conservation groups, and with that, a unique responsibility. I’m reminded of our duty every time an issue affecting forest wildlife comes up, and someone asks, “… what does RGS & AWS think?” We’re front-of-mind when it comes to forest wildlife among our agency, business and NGO partners.
Of course, you and I believe this is as it should be. We are proud of RGS’s character built on 60 years of forest management leadership. Yet, we know this is no time to rest on our laurels. We’re at a conservation crossroads. Our beloved ruffed grouse and American woodcock are listed as species of conservation need in more than half the states that make up their native ranges. They’re the bellwethers, and their status illuminates the plight of many birds and mammals of the forest. There’s much work to do, and it’s our responsibility to lead.
Carrying the water for forest wildlife is a significant obligation. So, above all else, we need to ensure we’re fully equipped to deliver on that mission. As a non-profit, that means securing sustainable funding. No margin, no mission. About 90 cents of every dollar we raise goes toward our mission. For the fifth consecutive year, we’ve received a 4-Star Charity Navigator rating, a feat rarely accomplished. We have a sound foundation and are poised to make a difference for grouse, woodcock and all forest wildlife.
But ultimately, we need to grow, and not only for the sake of growth, but to fulfill this massive responsibility. Our impact is directly correlated to annual operating funds. Every increment we grow revenue from our current $5 million mark will mean more significant habitat work on the ground.
Through 2019 and continuing into 2020, we’ve moved to strengthen our business model. No longer can we depend on events for the lion’s share of the revenue. We’re pursuing larger grants, better leveraging locally-raised funds and incorporating working forests into our portfolio. Does this mean we’re abandoning banquets? No way! But, if there’s one thing COVID-19 has shown us, it’s having all your eggs in one basket is a risky proposition.
Our goal through the pandemic is to emerge a more robust organization. As Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” COVID-19 presents opportunities along with its challenges. Even during tough economic times, people still support causes in which they believe. Now is the time to adapt so we can ensure RGS & AWS is a leader in the business of forest wildlife conservation.
As I write this, we’re pursuing new business partnerships and conducting a feasibility study to determine our readiness and your support for a capital campaign. We’re crowdsourcing ideas for a new fundraising program that’s disease-resistant. I refuse to accept that our inability to hold banquets is the death knell of this organization. Our responsibility to forest wildlife conservation is too great. Conservation isn’t canceled, and there’s much work remaining for us to do. If not us, then who?