Maine’s only chapter makes 60 percent a habit
By Deborah Brae Tanner, Bugle Intern
You’d think elk would be a tough sell in New England, but Maine Chapter volunteers are finding it fertile ground in their fundraising, says Tim Foster, RMEF regional director.
Consistency and commitment characterize this chapter, says Foster. Twelve out of the last 13 years, their banquet has exceeded a 60 percent net-to-gross. Not bad for a chapter that is more than 800 miles from the nearest elk, in Pennsylvania. So what’s the key to their success?
“We have loyal supporters who have been here from day one,” says Ken Betts, chapter chair for the past 10 years. “Most of us are hunters” Betts says, who has only missed two elk seasons in Colorado in 25 years.
But not all chapter members are elk hunters. “One member who has been involved for 17 years has never been on an elk hunt,” he says. “He has stayed for 17 years because he believes in the habitat mission of the Elk Foundation.”
The longevity of volunteers is important to the chapter’s success, Betts says, and helps things run smoothly. At least six volunteers have been with the chapter for all 17 years of its existence. Some drive three-and-a-half hours to attend the banquet from as far away as Virginia and New York.
Tim Foster, who got his start with the Elk Foundation in the Maine Chapter, says the passion and dedication of the volunteers is infectious. This year, 16 volunteers worked year-round to organize, publicize and gather merchandise for raffles and auctions.
Relatively small, with only 118 people attending, the April banquet still raised $20,000 net and an additional $25,000 in habitat partnerships—the chapter’s most successful event ever.
The high bid of the evening was $3,500 for an elk hunt donated by Thunderbow Outfitters, from Condon, Montana, who have donated 61 hunts to the Elk Foundation.
“RMEF’s Progressive Gun and Archery Drawing programs have been very successful in Maine, particularly when we’ve sold them pre-banquet at the Maine Sportsman’s Show,” said Betts.
One reason for the banquet’s success is the generosity of its active donors, like Sea Escape Cottages, L.L. Bean, and local vet and RMEF life member Dr. Charles Ellithorpe, who has created and donated bronze sculptures for a number of years.
Betts says creativity can also help. Four years ago, someone suggested a dessert auction. Committee members bring in homemade desserts for auction, enough to feed a table of eight. “This year we made $500 on desserts,” he says. “One dessert went for $45.”
With soaring gas and food prices, these volunteers drive long distances through all kinds of weather, across a state where no elk ever set foot—all because they’re dedicated to the mission of the Elk Foundation and to helping protect elk country for future generations.