Beyond Membership – Contributing to Something Great!

Written by Ken Leinbach
    Monday, 03 March 2014
Beyond Membership – Contributing to Something Great!

Fifteen years ago a movie cost you on average $4.50 (now $8.20), a gallon of gas cost $1.06 (now $3.75), a dozen eggs went for $1.09 (now $2.50) and an Urban Ecology Center membership cost $25 (still $25). What? The crazy thing is that while our membership rates remained the same for 15 years, our offerings increased by at least a factor of ten if not a hundred! 15 years ago we had only one center — a single, double-wide trailer in the then run-down Riverside Park. Our lending program consisted of just a few canoes and our program offerings, while always of the highest quality, represented just a fraction of the number of what we can offer now.

As a member, you are making a statement that you believe in growing natural green
spaces in the city, ... that urban kids need a chance to experience nature first hand every
day of their lives, and that having a place that inspires sustainable choices in our neighborhoods is ... well ... pretty darn important.

Today you can borrow a whole lot more than just a few canoes, gain access to over 60 programs a month through our bimonthly newsletter and website, get significant discounts on program fees like our fast filling Summer Camps and visit any one of three vibrant community centers each with either brand new or vastly improved natural areas to learn from, work in or explore. So starting on April second the individual membership rate will be $35, the family membership will be $45 and the student rate will be $30.

With such a modest rate increase we are confident that this is still one of the best deals in town. But we know that getting a deal isn’t the only, or even the primary, reason that approaching 4000 households have joined the Center. Our members (you) care about our mission, want to support our work and we thank you for this.

Because of this “join the cause” concept that so many have been telling us is the motivation to join us, we refer to members as “contributing members.” Most members contribute well beyond our basic rates (again we thank you). They know that all funds provided contribute to the good work we collectively are doing through our staff and the ever growing ranks of volunteers (over 4000 recorded last year!).

As a member you are making a statement that you believe in growing natural green spaces in the city, that protecting our water by naturalizing our shorelines is essential, that urban kids need a chance to experience nature first hand every day of their lives, and that having a place that inspires sustainable choices in our neighborhoods is ... well ... pretty darn important.

You are a member of something amazingly unique, something many cities across the country and even the world would like to have.

This is something that sets Milwaukee apart. Something that we collectively created and can take great pride in. How many memberships give you that?

I remember 15 years ago when we raised our rates from $7 a member to $25 we all held our breath, wondering if people would still join.

In short order we could breathe easy. Not only did we hardly lose a single member, it was then that our growth curve really took off. Our membership number grew, our waiting list for schools grew and our need for a facility became clear. In 2001 we announced our first building campaign to our approximately 400 members (this seemed like such a big number back then!). In 2004 we opened our doors and membership doubled almost overnight! Fast forward to today with three vibrant centers spread throughout the city and a still growing membership measured in the thousands. Wow!

We are proud of these changes and hope you will be too. We are not holding our breath this time around because this time we are confident in our offerings and our delivery.

Our new rate structure sets our value more honestly in the community. Members of the Center get a deal, you know it and we know it. But lets not keep it a secret. Four thousand member households is still only a small fraction of the 1.5 million people within our metropolitan region. Perhaps you can help? Please take a moment in your busy day and think of someone you know that should be, or could benefit from being, a part of this community and give them a nudge to join. The more members we have the more good work we can do so help us spread the word! If every current member could bring in just one additional person to join this vibrant community ... well ... think of how much more we can accomplish!

Note: We are not changing our scholarship policy. Thanks to generous donors we are able to offer need-based scholarships for memberships. For more information and to apply, please contact our Membership Staff at (414) 964-8505. Please share this with people you know that might have this need.

Ken Leinbach

Ken Leinbach

Ken is a nationally recognized educator and leader in community-based environmental education. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the Urban Ecology Center. With his contagious energy, Ken speaks on a number of topics including: urban education, community organizing, environmental issues, finding abundance, the power of story, sustainable design, the need for "near-by" nature, leadership, fundraising, and green living. Ken holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Antioch College in Ohio, a Masters degree in Environmental Education from Prescott College in Arizona and received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Milwaukee Instituted of Art and Design.

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