American Forests is the country’s oldest conservation organization. Founded in 1875, it has been witness to and participant in the long history of forest preservation in the United States. The organization has been in a growth phase over the past few years, focusing on expanding its programming to address reforestation, climate change, and social justice, while diversifying revenue streams. As this expansion meant that their current staff did not have enough time to meet all of their expanding fundraising needs, the Vice President of Philanthropy reached out to Elevate to support its philanthropic foundation and then corporate foundation fundraising efforts.
American Forest’s Elevate two-person team began with six weeks of onboarding with weekly meetings to meet the development and program staff, learn about their priority programs, and establish foundation targets. Focusing on key programs and regions, such as landscape restoration-based American ReLeaf in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas, the Elevate team began work with a combination of prospect research for new funders and initial proposals for new support. Over the first few months, Elevate established a strong working relationship to provide support to American Forests’ staff, including the CEO, to encourage outreach to and relationship-building with well-aligned foundations.
In addition, the Elevate team worked to build out American Forests’ grants calendar, combining newly identified opportunities with long established private foundation funders. During the first year, Elevate assisted American Forests in winning $1M in grants, including four grants over $100,000. American Forests was in the process of selecting a new CRM platform for its internal use and Elevate provided counsel on how best to track foundation information and opportunities.
At the start of the second year of our partnership, American Forests decided to consolidate their external fundraising support and expanded its contract with Elevate to include corporate foundation fundraising efforts.
Elevate added another member to the team — a dedicated Grant Writer — to provide additional writing and research capacity. The new three person Elevate team, together with corporate development staff from American Forests, added additional prospecting and proposals to its scope of work. Also, during this time, Elevate grew its support of American Forests’ programs
to include all organizational priorities. Moving beyond place-based reforestation initiatives to national and international climate change mitigation and social justice advocacy, the scope of the Elevate team’s prospect research and proposal development has expanded.
Under new leadership, American Forests’ budget has grown almost $5 million dollars over the past two years, in great part due to increased foundation support. In FY19 alone, American Forests brought in $4 million dollars in foundation support, exceeding their $2 million dollar target.
In 18 months of partnership, Elevate has provided over 70 prospects and written more than 50 proposals for support. Elevate has helped American Forests bring in over $200,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, $400,000 from ClimateWorks Foundation, and $100,000 from the Meadows Foundation. In addition, Elevate supported and drafted a proposal for a $52 million dollar grant for an international reforestation initiative with a major credit card company.
American Forests creates healthy and resilient forests, from cities to large natural landscapes, that deliver essential benefits for climate, people, water and wildlife. We advance our mission through forestry innovation, place-based partnerships to plant and restore forests, and movement building.
We originally brought Elevate on to help us rethink our foundation strategy and add this missing leg of the stool to diversify our revenue streams. As an ambitious organization — with plans to grow and the right leadership in place to do it — American Forests was in need of expert advice and grant writing capacity to help us meet our goals. The Elevate team quickly became essential to our fundraising operation. We have been impressed with the quality of their research and writing, their ability to quickly learn and translate our programs into effective proposals, and their systems approach that keeps us all on track.”