Natural Lands—the region’s oldest and largest land trust—works in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey to save open space, care for nature and connect people to the outdoors. “Lands for life” and “nature for all” are the two simple, but powerful motivations at the heart of Natural Lands’ mission. The organization has established itself as a robust and trusted presence in the region through a track record of success in permanently protecting natural areas and by helping communities preserve more of their land.
As the organization completed a new strategic plan it saw the importance of examining and refreshing its Development operation to ensure that fundraising efforts were aligned and prepared for an eventual campaign.
With a solid understanding of its own strengths and challenges the organization sought S&W’s recommendations to elevate its membership program, philanthropic messaging, and digital engagement while fine-tuning the deployment of its Development staff.
Strategy for Growth
Through targeted assessment and planning the S&W team responded to the organization’s immediate needs with a realistic and thoughtful approach. Recommendations for growth were actionable and implemented as the process unfolded.
In addition to strategically integrating philanthropy into its planning, Natural Lands was also seeking to leverage a period of exceptional growth. The COVID pandemic had created a surge in visitors to the organization’s preserves and Natural Lands was looking for both technological and messaging solutions to convert visitors to members. In light of that growth and with a campaign on the horizon, the effective deployment of Development staff was another key consideration. Refreshing the membership model also had become a priority—including members benefits, renewals and fulfillment. The organization was also reflecting on how to position its case for support relative to larger cultural issues and audience interests.
S&W recognized the strong and vibrant culture of philanthropy already present among the board, leadership and staff of Natural Lands. With that in mind, the recommendations were centered on growing a fundraising infrastructure that would rise to meet that culture and create strategies for donor pipeline development that would match the aspirations of the organization. Staffing recommendations which redeployed staff to operational needs and prioritized individual giving supported and maintained Natural Lands’ relationship-centric approach to fundraising. Digital strategies were designed to activate the collection of preserve visitor information, strengthen tactics and messaging for member conversion, and improve email communication platforms. To address the membership program, S&W conducted member surveys and applied the outcomes to fine-tune membership, annual giving, and upgrade messaging.