Giving the Most for our Mission
RMEF’s distribution of funds for projects has been honed to perfection by trial and error
By Steve Decker, RMEF Vice President of Marketing
Since the RMEF first began to take shape in the founders’ living rooms, there’s been one idea that’s remained constant—the desire to devote as much money as possible to on-the-ground projects in elk country. Charlie Decker and Bob Munson would have it no other way. But getting to that perfect equation while also keeping the lights on in the office takes some fine-tuning, no matter what business you’re in.
At RMEF, we never let up on that fine-tuning until we found a strong, effective model that has served us for 10 years and counting, one that is still alive and well today.
One of the most unique, time-tested and successful programs at the RMEF is the Project Advisory Committee (PAC) process. The volunteers and staff who work so hard to raise funds at the state level are the starting point that allows PAC meetings to take place. These are meetings that involve wildlife professionals and other key stakeholders who review and recommend how to distribute funds raised by states for quality conservation, management and research projects.
The PAC process is nearly as old as RMEF itself, and its early success led to the State Grant program. However, the way we distribute funds for PAC and State Grants has changed a few times over the years. Similar to the PAC, State Grants allow staff and volunteers more flexibility to fund a wide array of worthy projects and programs.
In the beginning, it was simple. PAC accounts received 50 percent of net dollars raised by each state. But as RMEF grew, so did the complexity of the split. The original division failed to account for many costs—to service memberships, produce support materials for the chapters, cover operating costs and more.
So in the late 1990s the allocation of funds shifted to a 70/30 split, with the states getting back 30 percent of their event net for the PAC. After a few years it became obvious this split was flawed as well. In an attempt to fix the issue, RMEF returned to a 50/50 split, with money raised from membership revenue and major gifts removed from the equation. Very quickly we saw a decline in both of these areas and knew we would need to look for a more efficient way of doing business.
At that time I was asked to work with a group of staff members to define a fiscally responsible allocation process for RMEF. So we set to it, and our approach was really quite simple. We created a system that includes revenues generated by a state, then subtracted all the state’s expenses to arrive at a true amount that could be allocated to projects. This included the creation of a national project review committee to oversee the distribution of funds and kept the PAC and State Grants in place. With a 10-year tested model, the PAC and State Grant programs will be around for many more years to come.
All of this fine-tuning was a healthy process for RMEF to undertake. Under previous processes, we had found a number of states were actually operating in the red. And many of the most successful states were making up for those not performing as well, but they were seeing smaller allocations. The new model rewarded each state with higher allocations for their efforts to grow revenue and control expenses. This allowed RMEF to operate like every business should.
I still serve on the National Project Review Committee and it is amazing to see several states with all-time high allocations in 2016. It is also rewarding to see nearly every state not only operating in the black but seeing larger and larger allocations returned to them to complete our mission. There is nothing more powerful than watching the folks who raise the funds get the chance to participate in how those funds are spent.