The Placer Nature Center (PNC) is a non-profit located in Auburn, California that teaches environmental education to children and families. I recently had the privilege of speaking with PNC’s Executive Director, Megan Krekorian, about PNC, nature, social media and online fundraising for non-profits. The insights she gave were valuable on a number of levels, so I’m splitting the interview into two parts – the first will put the spotlight on PNC and the second will get into online non-profit fundraising.
PNC is run by and for the local community. They employ 4 part-time staff members and get the rest of their work done with volunteers. This includes a variety of educational programs, including guest lectures on topics from environmental migration to mountain meadow restoration to mushrooms to outer space and technology and workshops to help middle & high school teachers incorporate nature & the environment in the classroom. The center also offers summer camps for kids aged 6-12, internships for college students, and hands-on outdoor activities for over 3,000 school field-trippers a year.
The nature center encourages the local community to get outside and truly embrace how important and affirming it can be to co-exist with our surrounding ecosystems. Megan told me that, “understanding the connection to natural resources in my daily life has always been extremely important, from where I spend my money to how I use utilities…The nature center’s programs help people become aware of this connection and support a growing respect and caring toward our planet which ultimately results in stewardship.”
For those of us who grew up appreciating the outdoors this is all obvious, however it’s not always easy to convince & convert people who don’t have time or experience doing things like camping, hiking, gardening, or composting. Economic restraints limit both the number of people who have funds to donate as well as people who can afford membership fees. Simply put, lower-income families don’t always have the emotional energy to encourage leaving the house after returning from a long day at work or school.
PNC strives to lower the barrier of entry for environmental education & appreciation. However, Megan pointed out that “Aside from animal services, environmental education is the last niche in the nonprofit sector to receive funding. I started with PNC at the beginning of the recession and although we have been slowly raising individual donations and memberships, I don’t think the support represents what would be happening in a regular economy.”
In a perfect world, PNC would have the funds to do more community outreach – to get families outside again with programs like family camping nights and renting out sites at local state & national parks for family activities. These are fantastic ideas, but to take action on them PNC needs fulltime staff, more volunteers, and more resources. From here, my conversation with Megan turned to non-profit fundraising. Stay tuned for part two, and be sure to visit PNC’s website and YouTube channel and connect on twitter @PlacerNature!