The non-profit American Whitewater group is sort of like public television, said John Weld, co-owner of Immersion Research: People value it and want to support it, but fail to write the check for some reason.
The group said it hopes to increase its flow of funds with the recently launched AW ProDonation program.
With the program, manufacturers donate a portion of money from each pro purchase to American Whitewater.
"It's always a challenge to connect paddlers with conservation organizations," says Weld, who helped pioneer the program. He told SNEWS® that he got the idea after buying a bike from Trek, which donated a portion of the sale to a trail organization. "I noticed a mandatory contribution to trails, and I was all for it," he said. "A day later I thought about how we get inundated with a dozen pro forms here each day. And these are passionate paddlers who should be contributing."
American Whitewater has approached about a dozen companies to participate in ProDonation, and a handful have agreed, says Risa Shimoda, the group's executive director.
"Companies have been enthusiastic and haven't raised any concerns," she said. "We're primarily approaching companies that do a significant amount of whitewater business, so that when a customer sees the donation on the pro form, it makes sense to them and isn't a non sequitur."
She said the structure of the program will not be formalized until early winter. "It's still a work in progress," she said, noting that ProDonation is intended to be flexible so each company can make its level of giving proportional to the amount of its average pro purchase.
Immersion Research implemented the program in July, and Weld said it has been well received.
Immersion Research Co-owner Kara Weld said the company adds a $5 charge to each pro purchase and donates this money to American Whitewater. The pro form has text explaining the donation and, "People can opt out of it if they order less than $50 worth of product," she said.
John Weld said the advantage of the ProDonation program is it reaches people while they have their credit card in-hand. Shimoda agrees, noting that it's difficult to reach potential supporters via traditional direct mail because people are overwhelmed with promotions and throw many of them in the trash.
Shimoda added that American Whitewater -- which operates on a $1 million budget each year to preserve and protect waterways -- has suffered like all non-profits from this year's lagging economy.
SNEWS® View: Kudos to American Whitewater for employing a creative way to drum up support and funds. This program targets enthusiastic paddlers who take -- or should take -- a vested interest in the welfare of whitewater areas. The program is flexible for all those involved. Any company can tailor it to its particular level of sales, and Immersion Research reports that it's a cinch to implement and manage. Those purchasing gear need only fill out an extra line on a form and make a modest financial commitment. Hey, this is a no-brainer, and every little bit counts for non-profits.