An Appeal to Invest in the Product
1% for the Planet - in Montana
6th February 2019
Dear Park County Neighbors, Friends, and Tourism & Recreation Business Owners,
Sorry for the somewhat formal nature of this letter, but my reaching out is hopefully interpreted as a genuine, very personal appeal (and argument) to leverage your great business acumen and drive positive change in Park County that impacts not only our businesses but our rural way of life. Rick and I are reaching out as co-chairs of the Tourism and Recreation Committee of the UYWG. I’m also reaching out in my new role on the Governor’s Outdoor Recreation advisory council, so that I can listen to you and represent you at the State level.
We are all busy...so, why would I waste your time and ask you to consider this proposal? The goal isn't to ask you to give more money...the goal is to coordinate efforts so that our dollar goes further.
The underlying premise is simple: All of our businesses rely upon tourism in some way. Tourists visit our area in large part due to the wild places in which we operate. And, we all share a vested interest in protecting that “product”. Furthermore, we all share a personal love and respect for these wild places...regardless of our business interests.
For context, below are the business categories our customers spent money on in tourism-related activities across Montana in 2016 -- to the tune of $300M total in Park County. Next to that graphic, on the right, is how the State spent the sales tax generated on just the lodging portion of that spend. In 2017 across Montana, anglers spent $919M, hunters spent $389M, off-highway vehicle users spent $208M, and alpine skiers spent $83M (in 2010).
Challenge One: How to invest the profits we make on tourism. We're not the only ones interested in the profits of tourism. As you know, there are several tax proposals flying around Helena trying to address general budget issues and to address issues that are unique to the tourism-dominated economies like Park County. It is uncertain whether these taxes generated by our businesses will be spent based on our input. The lodging industry, for example, already pays a 7% “sales” tax. None of that money goes towards protecting the wide open spaces and clean water -- i.e. in business parlance, “the product”. Roughly half goes to state’s general budget and the other to marketing Montana. Most of us wouldn't spend half of our business's operating budget on marketing. I’m not opposed to taxes; but, if I’m expected to collect them as a business, I expect to have a say in how they are spent...regularly. One area we could spend some of our profits on is protecting, preserving, and actually improving the product itself.
Challenge Two: How to scale the investments from our profits so they matter. As you know, there are a plethora of great conservation groups – many of whom are bi-partisan and apolitical – who are constantly soliciting us for our time, interest and money. Frankly, it is difficult to keep up...especially when we are busy running businesses. Furthermore, it is difficult to formulate an ROI on our charitable investments from a holistic perspective. But, perhaps most importantly, it is difficult to really scale our individual "spend" so that it actually makes a difference...the kind of difference great businesses can make.
Is there a way for us to work together to address these challenges?
Last Autumn, several of us sat down informally and discussed launching 1% For the Planet in Montana as a way to invest in Park County’s open spaces and natural ecosystems...by doing so, we are investing in our business, but also in our quality of life and those creatures, children, and neighbors who call this place home. So, we are now reaching out to all of our contacts to share additional details, sign-up local businesses and launch the initiative in Paradise Valley in April.
As many of you know, 1% for the Planet is a global movement inspiring businesses and individuals to support local conservation solutions through annual membership and everyday actions. Started in 2002 by Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia and Montana’s very own Craig Mathews, 1% for the Planet has certified more than $200 million in giving from its members. Of local relevance, the initial impetus was driven by the need for conservation along the Madison River in Montana. You’ll see some familiar Paradise Valley scenes in this video describing the initiative.
Businesses that join 1% for the Planet commit to supporting approved conservation and social-benefit nonprofit partners by donating the equivalent of 1% of sales (overall or of a specific product category) through a combination of financial donations, in-kind products and services, and approved advertising contributions. For more information, here is a basic member fact sheet and a more detailed member guide.
What do you get in return:
A simple process, based on an audited, predictable, annual (I.e. one-time) charitable donation. This third party certification brings integrity and authenticity to local community donations, is easy for customers to understand and appreciate, while streamlining business donations to community NGOs. (additional details here)
Local impact – we annually choose NGO’s who have proven to do local work.
A trusted brand we can leverage in our own business marketing to communicate impact with your customers (e.g. add the 1% for the Planet in Montana brand to your menu or signage or website).
Choice: The model allows businesses to direct giving to any of the approved nonprofits in the network, or recommend new ones. Any current giving, volunteering, and/or certifications with approved (or approvable) organizations will count toward a 1% for the Planet commitment.
We would like to launch 1% for the Planet in Montana initially as a Paradise Valley led initiative with commitments from at least 15 local businesses. The undersigned NGO’s are registered with 1% for the Planet and officially endorse this coordinated donor outreach with local businesses; contact their leadership for validation of their support.
If we get a critical mass of local businesses committing, 1% for the Planet will assist with the press, marketing and communications for a public announcement. We’re currently targeting end of April or May for a launch event and will confirm details soon. The goal is to launch before the tourist season begins, so that you can leverage with your customers this season.
Montana’s outdoor recreation economy generates $7.1billion in consumer spending, and more then 71,000 jobs, so this coordinated model just makes good business sense. Park County alone captured roughly $300M of that revenue in 2017, which is higher per resident than any other county in Montana.
Please join Park County businesses in leading the way as we launch 1% for the Planet - in Montana. If you are interested in participating, please feel out the form below or email me directly and I'll have someone help get your question answered and get enrolled.
A sincere thanks for considering this proposal. Note: I have no financial interest in this effort; my intent is to simplify my charitable giving to Park County and to form a coalition that scales with my fellow business owners and friends.
cc: Rick Wollum and Lara Birkes