Author: Cassie Gasaway
Ask yourself: What does conservation mean to your business? Is it a buzzword, or is it your mission?
For years, archers and hunters have said they contribute to conservation through the Wildlife Restoration Act, aka Pittman-Robertson Act, which raises money for conservation through taxes on firearms, ammunition, archery and hunting equipment. Still, Jared Frasier, executive director for 2% for Conservation, said that’s a passive act toward conservation, and we must do more to ensure wildlife and wild places exist for future generations.
“I pay a tax on my property and that goes to my kid’s school, but I don’t say I’m an educator,” he said. “Hunters said they pay that tax and that makes them conservationists. To some degree it does, but it’s also kind of done by accident. The tax carries a lot of weight, but it’s not enough. Conservation organizations are trying to fill the gap, but there simply isn’t enough time or money going into the ground toward conservation. We’re going to have to step up and go above and beyond if we’re going to continue using the resources as we have.”
The 2% for Conservation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that certifies individuals and businesses that give 1% of their time and 1% of their money to fish and wildlife conservation. It started as an internal program for Sitka Gear but became its own entity in 2016 after competitors and other organizations wanted similar programs. Now, the organization has certified over 1,000 individuals and 100 businesses. Frasier said many ATA members care deeply about conservation so becoming certified is a no-brainer.
Let’s look at the 2% for Conservation certification requirements and perks, as well as how to become certified.
2% for Conservation commits to volunteer work to aid in conservation efforts. Photo Credit: 2% for Conservation
The 2% Certification and Commitment
The organization doesn’t collect donated time and dollars from members; it certifies that individuals and businesses donate 1% of their time and 1% of their income annually to conservation in one of four categories including on-the-ground work, education, advocacy and access. Individual participants must earn a membership. Businesses must earn certification the same way, plus pay yearly membership dues that correlate to the size of their business, starting at $300, unless the business is in its first year of existence, in which case the first year is free. The business member dues structure can be found on its website. The funds are used to promote member businesses and support conservation efforts.
Here’s how the 1% time and 1% money donation works, and some examples of each way to contribute.
- 1% Time
A business must commit 21 man-hours to conservation through the course of a year. It doesn’t matter how the company breaks up the man-hours. For example, one person can commit three seven-hour days, six people can do three and a half hours each, or a company with 21 people can have each employee work for an hour. Additionally, the hours can all go toward one project or multiple projects. Either way, the organization must volunteer at least 21 hours doing something that impacts conservation, like picking up trash, fixing or creating trails in public parks, teaching archery education, removing fence posts out West so migration animals can move more freely, etc.
- 1% Money
A business must give 1% of its annual gross income to a conservation effort. Companies can make the financial commitment in many ways. For example, it can write a check, donate products to groups or conservation banquets, buy conservation organization memberships for its employees, waive presentation fees or other fees for conservation organizations, etc. The financial donations are sent directly to the conservation organizations, not to 2% for Conservation.
Many members like the organization because of the freedom it allows them to choose how to donate their time and money. They can select efforts that matter most to them. Businesses must simply obtain written proof of their donations from the conservation effort project leader (game warden, park coordinator, conservation organization representative, etc.) as verification for 2% for Conservation. Frasier is happy to work with businesses to ensure the conservation donations are acceptable.
Why Become Certified?
Dan Johnson, owner of Sportsmen’s Nation and 2% for Conservation board member, built the 2% for Conservation commitment into his business plan when he started SN in 2017 because it’s a way to give back to the resource his business is made on. He encourages all ATA members and outdoor recreation businesses to do the same.
“I walk through the ATA Show floor and I see all these companies profiting off of a natural resource, but I don’t feel like enough companies are giving back to the thing that is making them money,” he said. “I look at it like, ‘I’m taking away from the landscape every time I hunt, but what am I doing to give back to that landscape or ecosystem?’ It’s common sense. It’s your duty to give back to ducks, turkeys, deer, elk, land or whatever natural resources you promote (your customers to pursue).”
Joining 2% for Conservation also does more collectively for wildlife, wild places and our natural environment by encouraging and motivating individuals and businesses to take a proactive approach to giving back.
“You’re in this community of like-minded individuals who actually care,” Johnson said. “The bigger that community gets, the more people that come together under the umbrella of conservation, the more things we can do and the bigger the projects we can undertake. Together, we’ll accomplish so much more than the things people can do by themselves.”
Frasier said the commitment and certification are validating, too.
“When businesses show up and volunteer, it adds validity not only to the necessity of the project being accomplished but also the overall community engaged in it,” he said. “It shows validity that we come and take care of it. We don’t just make money on this resource, but we’re here as stewards of it, too. We’re doing work beyond ourselves, and that kind of brand authenticity can only be earned. It can’t be bought.”
The organization gives out Conservation Media Awards every year. Photo Credit: 2% for Conservation
Johnson said people and businesses should get certified because it’s rewarding and “the right thing to do,” but becoming certified has additional benefits, including the following:
- Use of 2% logo: Certified members can use the logo digitally and in print. The organization even has incentives for using the logo and offers discounted membership dues from referrals.
- Quarterly marketing opportunities: Every 2% brand gets to market to the organization’s followers quarterly, no questions asked. They get creative freedom in marketing content as long as it’s paired with a story of how they’re giving back. The organization uses geofencing to do local marketing efforts for businesses.
- Podcast appearance(s): Each member gets featured on the “The Average Conservationist Podcast,” which shares stories from outdoorsmen and women about their work to help protect and conserve America’s lands and waters. The podcast launched in June 2020 and had over 60,000 downloads last year.
- Faithful customers: The 2% certification draws in conservation-focused consumers who like to support businesses that support the causes they care about. It also gives shoppers confidence because they know each company had to work to earn the certification.
- Option to use the 2% job board: The organization is launching a job board in October to help connect individuals and businesses with a heart for wildlife and wild places.
Each year, 2% for Conservation also recognizes one business or person with its Conservation Media Award. The award highlights brands focused on spreading the conservation message. Members and nonmembers are eligible to win. The organization is also launching a Community Partner Program on Sept. 1 that allows businesses to find involvement opportunities for conservation projects they care about.
Giving back and getting certified is easy and straightforward. Johnson and Frasier agreed many ATA members are probably already 2% for Conservation organizations; they’re just not certified. For a business to change that and become certified, it needs to hand in the 2% Business Application Packet, which is available at the bottom of the business certification webpage.
Frasier said it takes 15 minutes to complete. Then, later that membership year, the business must complete the paperwork needed to confirm the 2% donations, which takes less than an hour.
“We keep it as simple as possible,” he said. “If a business knows — or doesn’t know — how to donate their time or money, we can help. We love to hear what they’re about and help them be as efficient as possible in giving back. We can help them hone in on the things they really care about so they’re making the most impact with what they’re already giving.”
If you have questions or want to get involved, choose one of the three ways to connect:
1. Call (406) 221-3102.
2. Fill out the “contact us” form on the 2% for Conservation website.
3. Send a message to one of the organization’s social media accounts, including LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook.