Starting A Wild Ones Chapter
Once you have a general idea about starting a Wild Ones chapter, read through the information below and then get ready to start on a new and rewarding adventure.
Your chapter will be officially chartered when the Executive Director receives the following information and notifies the national secretary of receipt of your application information:
- Official chapter name.
- Names of your chapter officers.
- Name and phone number of your chapter contact person (to be published in the Wild Ones Journal and on the Wild Ones website).
- Confirmed names of ten paid members from your locality.
- Calendar of planned events, educational programs, or both for twelve months with at least the first four committed.
All officers, board members and the chapter contact must be paid members. The goal is to have at least twenty paid members within twelve months of being chartered, and to maintain at least that number of members in order to maintain chapter status.
Your chapter should have a president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, and someone who will be responsible for membership. (One person may hold more than office.) These officers, along with your board members, will make up the core group which will be the backbone of your organization as it gets started. A year-end State of the Chapter Report must be submitted to the Executive Director.
If students would like to start a new chapter it needs to be affiliated with a school or some other local not-for-profit learning center. Because students are typically under the age of 21, the new chapter will also need to have a Coordinator from the school or the center – someone who will always be responsible for the chapter even though the students may move on. Students can join at the student rate, but if they continue to be affiliated with the chapter after they graduate, the rate would switch to household.
Membership dues are to be sent to Wild Ones at the mailing address shown on the Chapter Information Worksheet. To assist new chapters in establishing their presence and developing their programs, 55% is returned to the local chapter which is less than one year old. Thereafter the amount will be decreased by 5% a year until reaching a maximum of 25%. This applies to household and lifetime membership categories.
Dues for limited income or full-time student households are split differently. Because National needs to cover the cost of the Wild Ones Journal and its distribution, chapters subsidize these lower income categories. The chapters are reimbursed 10%. In the case of the affiliate business category, 25% of the dues are distributed to the chapter.
Wild Ones Natural Landscapers Ltd. has federal tax exempt status 501(c)(3) status, which means all dues are 100% tax-deductible for those who choose to itemize deductions for their annual income taxes. Donations to the chapters and funds raised by the chapters are also 100% tax-deductible, and are retained wholly by the chapter. Funds retained by National are used to defray costs for producing the Wild Ones Journal, chapter and member support, and for national administrative expenses, while funds retained by the chapter are intended to be used for their local promotional and educational activities.
A chapter checking account must be established using the name “Wild Ones Natural Landscapers Ltd.” and our FEIN number. Be sure to include the name of your chapter on the checks also. Details regarding this will be sent to you once your chapter has been chartered, along with your initial dues reimbursement check. An accounting of chapter finances must be submitted to the national Treasurer annually.
Our not-for-profit status allows us to buy supplies and services without paying local state sales taxes, where applicable. If you are chartering a chapter in a state in which does not currently have a chapter, we will need to apply for this exemption. Once your chapter has been chartered, please send the Executive Director contact information for the department handling sales tax exemption in your state.
On a quarterly basis, the Executive Director will send a dues reimbursement recap to the chapter Treasurer along with a check equal to the reimbursement total.
Your chapter should plan to conduct twelve educational events during the year, preferably monthly, which should be published on your chapter calendar webpage. Typically you’ll want to make most programs free and open to the public. There may be certain activities you’ll want to keep for members only as a benefit to paid members. In planning educational events, chapters are encouraged to be activity-oriented.
Chapters may choose to pattern activities after such events as a spring plant rescue, early summer “Show Me/Help Me Day,” fall seed gathering, winter seed exchange, anytime invasive species eradication, and summer tours of native plant gardens or nurseries—both private and public—as well as formal speaker presentations.
Events can also be going out into the public with a display to meet and greet newcomers who want to know more about native plants and natural landscaping. Examples of this are gardening conferences, garden and home shows, and Earth Day events. Events should focus on educating people and advocating for why and what can be done to naturalize residential, commercial, and public places. The online back issues of the Wild Ones Journal have lots of valuable information and activity ideas from other chapters, and are available in PDF form from National. Annual State of the Chapter reports also have excellent information and ideas and are available in the Chapter Guidebook.
National’s premier publication is the Wild Ones Journal. We encourage you to contact your local landscapers and nurseries who offer native plants, seeds and/or services about advertising in the Journal. This will be the best way to make your members aware of the various natural landscaping vendors in your area. Ad solicitation and rate sheets are available on the website. Chapters are also encouraged to publish local newsletters, either in print or electronically, to maintain communication with their members.
As a Wild Ones chapter you are expected to contribute occasional articles to the Wild Ones Journal. These articles should be specific to your area, your chapter activities or both. Articles from your chapter members are the best way to make certain appropriate articles for your area are included in the Wild Ones Journal.
The Wild Ones network lists are made up of all members who maintain email addresses. Wild Ones National from time-to-time will communicate personally with its members via these networks. It is crucial in order for Wild Ones National to communicate with members that members provide their email address. Without this email address, members will not receive the Wild Ones Journal, which is published electronically, occasional important messages from the president and executive director, and membership renewal reminders.
The Wild Ones Chapter Guidebook contains policies, bylaws, procedures, program ideas, and a variety of other information that will help your chapter grow. Also included is a copy of our federal non-profit certification indicating our FEIN as mentioned above in the Finance Section. You will need this information for your bank. Here is where you will also find state sales tax exemption certificates. The guidebook is available on the Wild Ones website members-only webpages and is made available to all board members upon chartering. During the organization process for your seedling chapter, the contact person will be given access to the Chapter Guidebook so they are able to answer those frequently asked questions.
The Wild Ones headquarters staff maintains the overall membership database for Wild Ones that is uploaded regularly to the members-only webpages. It is, however, each chapter’s responsibility to maintain their chapter membership for their own mailings and other needs through the copy and merge functions available on the database website. The membership data is available on the web site to authorized chapter board members, but is password-protected. It is the chapter membership chair’s responsibility to ascertain that the information contained in the chapter membership database is accurate and timely.
We will list your chapter name, location and basic contact information under the Chapter listing on the national website so potential members can contact you directly. We will also set up a sub-domain URL where you can create your custom website once you have a webmaster. Rather than going to the expense of using outside Internet service providers (ISP) and web pages that do not have the same look and feel of the national webpages, chapters are strongly urged to use the free Wild Ones website template and subdomain. Your website will have the look and feel of the national website so that visitors will recognize that you are part of a highly recognized national organization.
Easy to use templates, which were created by a professional web designer in WordPress, are provided. Your webmaster does not have to be an expert in order to create and maintain your web pages.
Wild Ones Natural Landscapers Ltd. is incorporated in the State of Wisconsin. The words “Wild Ones®” are a registered service mark. Please refer to the logo guidelines for use of the Wild Ones name and the Wild Ones logo. To ensure our trademark is being used appropriately, chapters are required to submit copies of all branded materials, such as brochures, fliers, clothing, sineage, created by them to the Executive Director.
HOW TO GET STARTED
At this point you may be asking yourself, “OK, so where do I start?” Here are some suggestions we think will be helpful:
After you have contacted the Executive Director to make him or her aware of your intention to start a Wild Ones Chapter, he or she will officially register you as a Wild Ones Seedling Chapter and create an Internet and Journal presence for you. Then you should contact other people within your area who are like-minded in their enthusiasm for natural landscaping to see if they would be interested in helping you organize a Wild Ones chapter. If you are not aware of any in your community, you might check with the Wild Ones Executive Director to see if there is a listing of members in your area. Upon your request, the Executive Director will send them a notice about your organizational efforts. Also ask if there is a national board member or someone from a nearby chapter who would be willing to give a presentation at your organizational meeting. National may also have a list of chapters that are willing to be mentors to new chapters.
Is there a nature or environmental center in the area? You could ask for time at one of their meetings to generate interest in a chapter. Even a local garden club might have some members looking for something other than the traditional.
Then set a meeting date to get together to discuss the details. Ask the invitees to bring other acquaintances. Make it a fun meeting. Look at it as an opportunity to do some first-contact networking. From this meeting you should get a feel for a few dependable, enthusiastic people to assist in the start-up efforts.
At this meeting, decide on a date and place for a public organizational meeting and who to specifically invite to this meeting. You might decide to invite representatives of chapters of organizations such as the Audubon Society, Master Gardeners, Woodland Owners, Prairie Enthusiasts, municipal tree or park board members, teachers who mentor school botanic clubs, and members of the local garden club, nature center and botanical garden. This will provide a way to “cross-fertilize” all of the groups in the area who are interested in the environment and biodiversity.
Once you have confirmed the meeting place and time, publicity is the next (and very important) step in the process. Besides sending a Press Release to the media, you may wish to put up posters. Places to publicize your meeting include the local nature center and botanical garden, local university extension office, DNR office, technical college, library, park department, and retail shops such as nurseries, grocery and hardware stores, copy shops, and banks.
Flyers are also important. Make up an invitation flyer that you can drop off at these same locations.
Talk to your local newspaper about doing a feature article on natural landscaping and Wild Ones. A newspaper article with photos prior to the meeting would be ideal. Also send meeting information to your local public radio station.
Step 4: Planning the Agenda
Besides a presentation on what it means to be a Wild Ones chapter, you might include some discussion around the need for such a chapter. By having representatives of like-minded organizations at the meeting, you’ll be able to rule out any duplication of efforts. Once you have an idea of how many people might attend your meeting, request additional handouts from the Wild Ones Executive Director. If you feel it would be helpful to your organizational efforts, a member of the National Wild Ones board or the Executive Director will be happy to participate in a conference-call discussion with your interested members. Depending upon the location of your chapter, we may even be able to have someone from National attend your meeting. Upon commitment to start a seedling chapter, the designated contact person will be given access to the Chapter Guidebook which will help you answer a myriad of questions which certainly arise from members as well as potential board members.
Once attendees have agreed to organize a Wild Ones chapter, the next step is to collect dues and elect officers. Designate someone as interim membership chair and treasurer, so while people are getting refreshments, you can offer them the opportunity to join Wild Ones. Encourage people to join by letting them know that their dues will go toward enabling the chapter to bring in speakers to help them learn about native plants and natural landscaping, and toward conducting activities that can raise awareness of related issues. Joining now will also provide them with the other benefits of membership such as the Wild Ones Journal and other member-only functions found on the website and within the community. If they didn’t bring money to pay the dues, send a membership application along with them—filled in with your chapter name. They can mail the application either to your new membership chair or treasurer or directly to Wild Ones National. It is important to get membership information into the Wild Ones headquarters office as soon as possible, so while you’re still organizing your chapter, your members can begin participating in members-only privileges.
Election of Officers
Once you have ten or more members, the next step is to elect officers. You will need to fill the president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer positions, as well as having someone take on the responsibility of membership and Journal contact. Other chairs and officers which you might wish to add to your board include dig chair, publicity chair, newsletter editor, and program chair. In the beginning it’s common that some officers handle multiple duties. Upon development of your board, board members will be given access to the Chapter Guidebook so they can start learning about the in’s and out’s of running a Wild Ones chapter.
During the meeting, you should ask for ideas for the twelve annual educational programs. Your board and your program chair can use this list to set up the schedule of planned programs for the year. You do not need to have commitments from program presenters, yet. If possible, decide on the first four programs that night, so the program chair can get started right away with setting these up. Regardless of the number of members you may have, Wild Ones cannot charter your chapter without knowing your planned educational programs and the first four must be scheduled. See list of ideas below.
Following the meeting, submit the Chapter Information Sheet to National along with the membership applications and full payment of the dues. All dues will be kept in escrow under your seedling chapter nomenclature until such time as all charter requirements are met. Once your chapter is chartered, 55% of your member dues will be returned to you to be used for chapter expenses, and all board members will be given access to the Chapter Guidebook.
The last step is to “carry on.” From the Chapter Guidebook materials, you will be able to get specific information about time frames and responsibilities. For example, a quarterly mailing goes out from National with membership updates and dues reimbursement checks. There are bi-monthly national board meetings and an annual conference in which chapter presidents are encouraged, but are not required, to participate. We make web conferencing available to make this easier.
The Meeting Place coordinator for the Wild Ones Journal will contact you regularly for any changes to your chapter contact information. Once a year, requirements are the year-end Chapter Financial and the State of the Chapter Reports. Also, an article for the Wild Ones Journal is appreciated. Other projects may include Seeds for Education project assistance or sponsorship of national meetings.
You’ll find that you will want your chapter to participate in community events and other like-minded organization events. Developing a display to take to these events will be something you’ll eventually want to create. Participation in such events are considered fulfillment of both the educational and advocacy part of the Wild Ones mission and can be counted toward the twelve annual educational activities.
Spread the word. As your chapter matures, and you take on more prominence in the community, you will want to participate in home and garden shows, community plantings, and maybe even a conference. Remember that all funds and donations you collect (except dues) are wholly yours to keep for your chapter’s use in accomplishing your Wild Ones mission.
Starting a chapter takes time, dedication, passion and persistence. It also brings satisfaction, new friends, and balance back to the environment. So have fun and enjoy the rewards. Work at spreading the word, but have a good time while you’re doing it!
Suggestions For Programs
The following ideas have proven helpful for a number of established chapters. Please share ideas that are successful for your chapter with Wild Ones National.
- It is helpful to hold your meetings on the same day every month. Members will know when to anticipate a meeting and get into a routine of attending. Unfortunately, whichever day you select, some people will not be able to attend.
- Meeting locations vary. Some chapters have a loose association with nature centers in their area and use their facilities for meetings. The nature centers benefit by the exposure to a larger populace and meetings can be published in the nature center’s bulletins. Other chapters use meeting rooms at local universities or colleges, libraries, arboretums, or botanical gardens, or community buildings such as senior centers or municipal meeting rooms. It is highly discouraged to hold meetings in private homes. This is for the safety and security of the homeowners and some people are not comfortable meeting in private homes.
- Publicity for meetings, activities, and projects is most important, and local newspapers and media should be contacted. Be sure to download and use the available press releases (see below).
- Open your meetings to the general public for free. Besides educating your community, attendees often join the group so they can learn more and be part of the group. A great way to increase membership! However, do keep some of your programs for members only to encourage membership rather than occasional attendance. Examples of members-only events are plant rescues, seed collections, a Show Me/Help Me Day (see June under Spring below), annual pot luck combined with a seed exchange, and a tour of a members yard combined with a social event (see July under Summer below).
- Because many new (and longtime) members come to the programs for “how to” information, it is helpful to keep any business activities before the programs short and concise. For this reason you may find it helpful for your officers and committees to have the business meeting separate from the regular meeting. These meetings may be held directly prior to the general membership meetings, or they could take place on a different day entirely. This gives the officers a chance to discuss such things as news from National, future programs and field trip logistics, plant rescues, sale of promotional items such as yard signs and t-shirts, ideas for chapter fundraisers, reports on chapter natural landscaping projects, etc. The business meeting helps set the agenda and announcements for the general meetings, so information is disseminated efficiently to the members. To keep the business portion of the regular meetings short, you may wish to use a chapter newsletter to communicate more in-depth information to your members.
- Enlist help from members by asking for door greeters, hospitality (refreshments, if appropriate), etc. Not everyone wants a position for a full year, but small bits of help may encourage more participation in the chapter functions.
- Name tags are a great social booster. You may wish to use paper name tags or more durable forms.
Purpose of Programs
- Help promote Wild Ones philosophy.
- Help members design natural areas.
- Help members learn to identify native plants and their companion plants.
- Help members learn identification of alien species and the problems they create.
- Help teach methods of planting, propagation of native plants, and maintenance of naturalized areas.
- Help promote camaraderie and helpfulness between natural landscaping enthusiasts.
Programming Ideas by Season
You will find the cold weather monthly meetings are well attended when there are speakers and visual presentations. Historically, membership increases dramatically.
- November is the beginning of a long winter, and a colorful slide presentation is welcome. It’s also a good time to get together to clean the seed that members have gathered earlier in the year in anticipation of an annual seed exchange.
- December is a good month for a holiday party and sharing of collected seeds. It is also a good time for a photo contest.
- The months of January through April are opportunities for visual presentations to learn plant identification and methods of propagation and maintenance. Encourage questions. Remind the presenter that some people are just beginning to learn about natural landscaping.
You can avoid winter doldrums by attending a natural landscaping seminar. If there is not one planned in your community, suggest that a nature center, university extension office, state DNR office, or local nursery plan such an event. Attendance at this seminar could take the place of one of your regular meetings. Or your chapter could set up a display at such an event to promote native plants and natural landscaping. Some larger chapters sponsor their own seminars as an educational activity for the entire community. This can be a tremendous opportunity to spread the word to many people and at the same time boost your membership.
Warm weather monthly meetings are the time for hands-on activities.
- May reveals the woodland and shade-loving flowers, so it is a good time for a field trip to a woody natural area or shady garden spot. Consider sponsoring a sale of native plants with a local owner. It’s also a good time to get outside and help members identify invasive weed species by doing some weed eradication as a group project. Or just as rewarding, designing and installing a community native plant garden as a group project. This project could be more than one educational activity during the year. And then there’s always plant rescues, which actually can occur just about any time of the year.
- June is a good month for a Show Me/Help Me Day. Members visit other members’ projects, sharing ideas and solutions for problem spots. If a professional landscaper or designer is available and willing to help, that’s great! But many times members have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share. The program chair should visit these locations first to make sure the visit will be educational. (For example, a newly seeded prairie that has not developed enough to identify the plants would not be a good location.) Plant ideas, plant identification, weed identification, and other helpful ideas evolve from this event.
- July may be a good time to visit a native plant nursery, private yards, or other restorations. It’s also a time when that a community garden may require some maintenance. Maintaining a native plant garden is just as good a learning experience as designing and installing one. Also consider having a members-only and invited guests social snack pot-luck and yard tour at a member’s yard where there are plenty of native plants to show off.
- August is a great month when prairie flowers are in full bloom. Consider a car caravan or a bus field trip to several homes that have been successfully landscaped with native species. The program chair should visit these locations first to make sure each site is appropriate, scout the route, and plan time for each creative homeowner to speak with the group. A knowledgeable group leader is helpful. Avoid locations that have too many exotics mixed in with the native species. Any exotics should be pointed out to participants.
- September is for another field trip, or have a “Share the Plants In My Yard Day” when we are “too successful” with our plants. Other possibilities are aster and goldenrod (Asteraceae family) digs on lots that are scheduled for sale or development. These species are easily transplanted throughout the season. The best way to learn plant identification is to grow them! NOTE: You must have written permission to dig on all private property. Refer to the Chapter Guidebook for more information.
- October is a good time for seed and plant collection, another opportunity to see landscape projects, or just to learn plant identification. Places to gather could be public sites such as schools, nature centers, or yard projects that are well established (with permission as above). This is a good time to provide information to new members about storage and propagation of the seeds they collect.
Pre-Charter Program Activities
- Wild Ones members panel discussions of “How I Got Started” or “Things I’ve Learned” are great icebreakers. You can even team this up with a video borrowed from the Wild Ones library. Remember that networking is the key to making the chapter work.
- Don’t forget! Many of our members do not know plant identification. At least one program per year should include a slide presentation that facilitates identification.
- Why use native plants? Ecological, functional, aesthetic, historical perspectives.
- Overview of native landscapes, public and private (schools, corporate, restorations, etc.).
- Personal success stories: how and why I developed a native landscape.
- How to attract butterflies and other insects that appreciate native plantings.
- Creating a bird and wildlife habitat with native plants and shrubs.
- Dealing with wet and soggy areas—the wetland plants.
- Building a pond or water feature into your landscape.
- Planning and planting a woodland garden.
- Sunny and dry? Try a prairie!
- Design tips—where to start.
- Maintenance of natural areas.
- Alien species and what is wrong with using them. How to identify them. How to eradicate them. Invasive plants. What to avoid.
- How to collect, store and propagate seeds, transplanting techniques.
- Native grasses and their use in the landscape.
- Companion plants, ecosystems.
- Native trees and shrubs, identification and qualities.
- Coping with critics. What about my neighbors? Predicting and preventing problems.
- “Weed” ordinances, prejudices against naturalized areas, obstacles and solutions.
- Environmental landscape practices: saving water, windbreaks, “organic” gardening ideas.
- Art in and from your landscape.
- Edible and medicinal native plants: ethnobotany.
- Nature photography—sponsor a photo contest.
- Burning a prairie—do’s and don’ts.
- Endangered species: biodiversity.
- “Natural” lawn care tips.
- “Things I Wish I Hadn’t Done.” Question and Answer discussion with an expert.
Some of your members may be experts. Seek them out. Consider plant propagators, nursery owners, educators (university, nature centers, etc), authors, landscape designers, DNR personnel, school project designers, artists, photographers, environmental activists, and county extension agents. Discuss programming with them and make it clear that you want the program to concentrate on the use of native plant materials. We encourage you to offer an honorarium to all your speakers; even your members who give presentations. This encourages others to give presentations, and to return at a later time. It is best to establish a standard guideline for this, and don’t hesitate to accept if the speaker wants to return the honorarium.
It’s important to get out the word about your new chapter, and one of the best ways to do that is through properly formatted and interesting press releases. It will take some time to put together, but getting your message into the newspaper, radio, television and online media through a press release won’t cost you anything. Follow five main points.
- Follow proper format.
- Address it to the editor of the newspaper, magazine, or other publication you’re sending to.
- Write an interesting headline. A headline like “Wild Ones Organizational Meeting” won’t get an editor’s attention. Rewrite to “Wild Ones to Help Homeowners Learn About Wildflower Gardens.”
- Include all the information an editor will want to have before putting an article into the newspaper, including your contact information.
- Wild Ones National makes it easy for you to get a great press release by just downloading our two sample press releases, and then add your own information into the “contact” area and the “time and location” areas. You can’t miss.
Chapter Information Sheet
Download the Wild Ones Chapter Information Sheet, print it, and fill in the blanks with the names of your chapter officers, etc. Then mail it to the address shown at the bottom of the form.
Wild Ones business cards will identify you as a member of a national organization and are important to help promote your chapter, and name tags help people connect at meetings. Be sure to review our graphic standards for business cards and name tags and our suggested design templates to get you started in the right direction.