Bird City Wisconsin has always worked hard to keep the program’s fees as low as possible, something we have been able to accomplish thanks to additional outside support. Unfortunately, we have to admit that our financial model is no longer working. Indeed, we find ourselves in a position where we cannot continue on at the $125 level. As a result, we are immediately raising application and renewal fees for only the second time in the program’s 12-year history. All new applications and renewals, which are due January 31, 2022, are now $175.
We are facing the most difficult financial period in our history. For much of the program’s life, we received generous annual support from the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin’s Bird Protection Fund, and we remain truly grateful for our good relationship with NRF and all that it has helped us accomplish. However, we are no longer receiving those funds, and, quite frankly, we’ve struggled to replace them.
We put the funds generated by new applications, renewals, and fundraising primarily toward the salary of our part-time director, who manages the application and renewal processes and handles all communications with Bird Cities and the public, including our newsletter and social media presence. (If you don’t follow us on Facebook and Twitter, please do!) The funds also cover expenses for our website; keep our street signs, mini-signs, and flags in stock; and pay for postage, office supplies, and our mailbox.
Over the past two years, Bird City Wisconsin has also spent some of its money providing small grants designed to help Bird Cities create and preserve bird habitat, address threats to birds, and educate residents about birds. To date, these funds have come from our general operating funds. We are working to find a sponsor for our small grants, so that we can continue this worthwhile and popular program in 2022. The fee increase greatly increases the likelihood that we will again be able to offer small grants next year.
Raising fees will also help us continue to help make Wisconsin communities healthy for both birds and people. As I write this, Bird City Wisconsin has 97 active Bird Cities that complete over 1,000 conservation and education actions each year.
You should feel tremendous pride in all that you have accomplished over the past 12 years, and I hope you are as excited as I am for what Bird City communities will accomplish in the future. As someone who has been closely involved with the program since 2014, I can say that I am proud of the difference that our communities are making.
I am also proud that others have noted our communities’ successes. Not only is Bird City Wisconsin fulfilling its founders’ ambitions through its success in Wisconsin, but we’re also working to realize the founders’ desire to see the program spread beyond Wisconsin.
Right now, though, what Bird City Wisconsin needs to do is to refine the model that has made it so successful, so that it includes a more secure financial footing. The fee increase will make a significant difference for our solvency, but the revenue generated will not support the program for a full year. To do that, we will have to continue to keep our costs as low as possible while seeking additional funding sources, including gifts from conservation-minded donors. If you are in the position to help us by making a tax-deductible donation, please visit our donate page today or send a check to this address:
Bird City Wisconsin
4230 N. Oakland Ave., No. 219
Shorewood, WI 53211
As we approach the end of the year, if you are considering a donation and you have a required minimum distribution from your retirement account, please keep in mind that this money would make an immediate, much-appreciated difference for Bird City Wisconsin while potentially offering you a significant tax benefit.
I speak for the director and Board of Directors when I thank you for understanding the reasoning behind the fee increase. And I thank you even more strongly for all that you do to build stronger communities and a stronger Wisconsin.
-- Bryan Lenz, Ph.D., Chair