Less can add up to more when building donor base

Organizations that depend on public donations to pursue environmental goals find themselves in a crowded and highly competitive field.

Pollution Probe has discovered that less can add up to more when it comes to their public stakeholder base.

Pollution Probe is an advocacy group for the protection of the environment, a coalition-building organization that researches environmental issues and brings government agencies, businesses and other organization together to build solutions.

During its 35-year history, Pollution Probe has tried different methods of building a donor base. At one time, the organization had some 18,000 members with donations collected in door-to-door canvassing.

Today the organization has a membership of about 7,000 people and has dropped the door-to-door canvassing in favour of telemarketing and mail outs to past members and on-line invitations to potential new members.

It helps that Pollution Probe has a “brand name” that is easily recognized and has developed a very good reputation as an effective advocate, says. Ken Ogilvie, Pollution Probe’s executive director.

The organization now raises about $400,000 annually from what Ogilvie describes as a solid base of committed donors who are concerned about the environment.

“Door-to-door canvassing is an expensive way of raising funds,” Ogilvie says. “While we raised more money that way, our assessment was that there was not a good business case for canvassing because the administrative costs were too high.”

Pollution Probe recognized it was important that people donating know that administration costs are being kept down and the money they are donating is being used for the purpose intended, he says.

“Our donors care about environmental issues but don’t have the time to do the research and advocacy required to advocate for changes that will benefit the environment,” he says. “They invest in us and we act as their surrogate.”

Ogilvie admits Pollution Probe would like to increase membership but points out that would require an investment and “this is a tough field. We don’t generate a profit,” he says. “Our real job is to move policy on environmental issues.”

The organization keeps members informed through newsletters, public forums and publications.

Along with numerous detailed research reports, Pollution Probe has produced eight educational primers on subjects including drinking water, mercury and the environment, child health and the environment, source water protection, climate change, technologies of renewable energy and smog. More than 40,000 copies of these primers have been distributed, Ogilvie says.

The primers as well as reseach, workshop and conference reports are available at www.pollutionprobe.org