Chapter 3: Getting It Together: Planning and Funding Your Project

Getting It Together: Planning and Funding Your Project

Are you getting eager to start remaking your neighborhood? Don't go any farther until you've read this chapter! It deals with time-consuming issues that, if heeded, will lead to a much more successful project with your long-term goals of tree survival and community enhancement standing a far greater chance of being reached. Successful tree events require careful forethought. Missing a critical step here could result in failure—no one showing up on the big day, people feeling alienated, weird press coverage—all through problems that could have been avoided. (The workbook contains checklists and room for specific notes to help you focus on your project. You'll have your own way of tackling the work in hand, so proceed now as suits you best.)


If your group is interested in a neighborhood planting, you've probably brainstormed a number of possible sites at your initial meeting. Did you overlook your own yards? There's no reason why this can't be a group project, buying in bulk and making light of some heavy work. Remember, one of the primary purposes of this book—and of urban tree planting as far as we're concerned—is to create community, and you can do that just as easily on private property. Again, you won't have to consider rules and regulations—just sensible locations!

I have a high regard for our species, for all its newness and immaturity as a member of the biosphere. As evolutionary time is measured, we arrived here only a few moments ago and we have a lot of growing up to do. If we succeed, we could become a sort of collective mind for the Earth, the thought of the Earth. At the moment, for all our juvenility as a species, we are surely the brightest and brainiest of the Earth's working parts. I trust us to have the will to keep going, and to maintain as best we can the life of the planet.


Mark Christensen and David Creigh, VIPs from the Southern California Gas Company and Hiuka America, dig in on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

Possible Locations

Perhaps you want to replace manufactured fences with living, green ones or create a new neighborhood identity. Consider planting for function as well as design. Remember, shade trees will help keep your homes cool and will transpire moisture, so look for spaces where they can block direct sun; three on the west and south sides of each house will do nicely. They'll create natural air-conditioning or cut artificial air-conditioning costs (and thereby carbon dioxide and other emissions from power plants). A species note for winter warmth: choose a dense evergreen to plant on the north side to block winter winds; choose deciduous for the south side to let in winter sunlight. If you want to intercept noise, wind, eyesores, or dust, think about planting in clusters or double rows. Always plant food-producing trees as far away as possible from streets or old refuse sites. Toxic lead does not decompose and may be drawn into the fruit. If you want to hold a slope, use closely spaced conifers.

There is no quiet place in the white man's cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in the spring, or the rustle of insect's wings . . . . And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the whippoorwill or the argument of the frogs around the pool at night? . . . Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know—the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. Like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth be falls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.


Once your yards are green havens and your patios and rooftops are converted and shaded, move on! Street parkways (the strips of grass running between the sidewalk and the street, also known as tree lawns, nature strips, and green belts) or paved street sidewalks are usually regulated by your local government. They're a good choice but will almost certainly require permits to plant, so consider first planting in front of houses near the sidewalk. It might achieve a similar effect, and you won't need anyone's permission but the homeowners', who are likely all on your committee.

Climbing the Infrastructure Tree

"City trees need attention—not just admiration. " So says the tree lady of Gainesville, Florida, who blew the whistle on her utility company, which was bypassing a local ordinance requiring replacement, inch for inch, of any trees removed because they posed a threat to its equipment. Inch for inch means replacing a mature tree with two or three smaller ones, if necessary, in an appropriate place. "Poems extol the virtues of trees, but who's out there protecting them?" she demands. Kay Hanna went from citizen activist to chair of the local tree committee, then had the whole of her committee boosted to City-Tree-Advisory-Board status, reporting directly to the city commission. The headline in the local paper read, "Lady Will Do Anything To Save Trees." You bet.

Consider also a median strip (the center of the street) or even traffic islands. These are regulated too, but they're one of the obvious choices in shading streets. Are there any undeveloped parklands or other areas of waste ground that have little foot traffic? They're probably in a more native state and may be appropriate for planting seedlings. Hillside slopes too steep for development can be planted to help hold the soil and add greenery.

Once you start looking, you'll be surprised at the nooks and crannies that can be made better by trees. Some are conspicuous, like planting in and around the stalls of a parking lot, or in a school yard, where trees will cool the blacktop and shade the kids from those extra ultraviolet rays we're receiving through the damaged ozone layer. But don't overlook the subtle locations either, like alleys behind houses or the spaces between buildings or those no-man's-land areas known as spandrels. Consider temples, churches, or other private buildings; vacant lots; city or county parks; flood control channels to combat erosion; landfills; railroad rights-of-way; graffiti-covered walls (try vines or espaliered trees); freeways to absorb fumes from traffic; industrial sites to combat pollution; or perhaps the bare strips of land beneath high-tension power lines.

What Makes a Site Practical?

As the American Forestry Association's Gary Moll says, giving trees a home means giving them space to grow both above and below the ground. First look up. Then look around. Are there overhead wires or obstructions that will limit the height or spread of the tree? Is it a place where spreading branches might get bumped by trucks or buses? Look down. Measure how much space there is for the root crown (the dimension of the trunk at ground surface). Think of the tree's root system and determine whether there's room for it to spread. Are there any underground pipes or utilities? These considerations are important. You and your neighbors won't appreciate a tree whose roots are breaking your pipes. Utility companies too are particularly concerned about tree placement. Original bad placement can lead to very bad feelings between communities and utilities who spend $800 million each year in this country just maintaining and removing trees that are interfering with overhead service.

A tenacious ficus hangs on in an inappropriate location, pruned by every truck that wooshes by.

Be sure that the trees you want to plant are appropriate for your location—the right tree in the right place (see page 50).

Check out the long-term availability of the site. It should be available and intact for a significant part of the trees' lifespan. Are they likely to be cut down in their prime to make room for development, expansion, or street widening? Property owners may encourage tree plantings to improve the site's value if they intend to sell the property. The trees' future would then depend on the next owner. This possibility may lead you to consider a temporary project using container trees that could be moved to a permanent location when the current site is developed.

You must get permission—and with luck, enthusiastic cooperation—from the property owner to plant trees on the site. Unauthorized plantings are illegal—and stupid! They provide no guarantee that the trees will be allowed to grow, and a full guarantee that you or your group will get a bad name. Government agencies have a right to, and will, remove trees for which permits have not been granted. TreePeople knows of at least one painful instance where an individual paid a professional contractor to plant seven beautiful, expensive trees—of the wrong species for that location. It was done in the spirit of helping the city, but in this case the city didn't appreciate the help.

Finally, the site should provide access for tree maintenance and periodic watering until the trees are well established and pose no unusual danger to volunteers or maintenance workers, such as a steep site that's extremely susceptible to slides.

I owe an allegiance to the planet that has made me possible, and to all the life on that planet, whether friendly or not. I also owe an allegiance to the 3½ (three and a half) billion years of life that made it possible for me to be here, and all the rest of you too. We have a responsibility to the largest population of all, the hundreds of billions of people who have not yet been born, who have a right to be, who deserve a world at least as beautiful as ours, whose genes are now in our custody and no one else's.


Taking Care of What's There

If you're interested in tree care rather than planting, you probably have in mind a problem site that needs attention. In a way, it's a much more mature route to take—recognizing that we should appreciate and care for what's already there before we add to the maintenance burden of the community.

Be realistic. Leave the pruning of large old trees to professional tree trimmers. Instead, concentrate on finding sites where your group can pull weeds and water trees or remove stakes and ties that are strangling trunks. This activity will have a significant impact, and the trees will love you for it at least as much as the community will. Younger trees are usually a good bet for maintenance as they require great care during the first three years following planting. Even drought-resistant trees need consistent watering while they're sending down roots and becoming established. Pruning is also more manageable with smaller trees and can be a worthwhile project. If maintenance is a big problem in your city, find out why. What's the city's tree maintenance budget? Don't automatically point the finger at the responsible department. Perhaps they need help from citizens to advocate more training for employees or a bigger budget to hire more trimmers. Have your role be one of assistance, rather than hindrance, to a well-managed department.

Your group may be interested in looking after neglected trees on private land. Make sure you don't end up simply being a replacement for the local tree trimmers. The goal here is to improve the quality of community trees. Can or should the landowner take care of these trees? Your first step is to contact the person or firm that owns the land and explain that the trees are in need of care. This step may even involve showing a representative or the groundskeeper what's needed. Depending on the reaction, you have several options.

You may decide that you'd like to take charge of caring for the trees; perhaps the community enjoys them and would be interested in doing the work. Maybe you can help the landowner develop a maintenance schedule and train the employees (or a recreation, horticulture, or garden club set up for employees) to care for the trees. Yet again, the best solution may be to refer the landowner to an arborist who can care for the trees.

TreePeople knew of an enterprising and concerned arborist who created a Tree-In-Trouble report slip that he would fill out and slip in the mailbox on any property where he spotted a tree that needed help. He suggested he or other professionals do the work.

However you work with landowners, approach it as a mutually beneficial partnership. Don't provoke a confrontation. Chances are, the landowner will be as interested as you in improving the appearance of a valuable property and will appreciate your concern if it's tactfully expressed.


Choosing trees should be one of the most difficult yet rewarding processes of your entire project. It's vital you choose a tree that both meets your goals and can thrive within the constraints of the planting site.

Fall in Love

The fact is, this relationship is like a marriage. With luck, it will last as long—in fact longer—than most marriages. Ideally, we marry people we're in love with. Thus we need to embark upon a love affair with trees, allowing ourselves to be seduced by their magic. The really marvelous part about this relationship is that you don't need to restrict your affair to one tree! Most tree lovers have a healthy list of their favorites and, like a good marriage, they've come to love these trees because of their finer points and regardless of their drawbacks. Knowing the good and bad of your favorites means you'll be able more skillfully to match the tree with the location. You'll know not to recommend a deciduous tree to an obsessively tidy lawn fanatic, or a tree with buttressing roots for a sidewalk planting.

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way. Some see nature as all ridicule and deformity . . . and some scarce see nature at all. But by the eyes of a man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.


But there's more to it than that. Expecting any book to provide the definitive guide to the best trees is like asking a mentor for a list of the best people in the world. Fortunately, that list would be different for everyone. There's no such thing as a perfect person. We're loved for who we are, in spite of our weaknesses.

It's the same with trees. Nobody can really explain why his or her favorites are on a pedestal. They just are.

Before you fall in love with just any old oak, pine, or spruce, it's important to know a few things about yourself. What are the qualities you like in a tree? Do you want it strong and independent? Or do you want it to be more sensitive and vulnerable, dependent on you for loving care and attention?


It was Saturday morning. Katie was deep in the heart of the manuscript for this book when Andy burst in through the front door: "I need your help—quickly!" Her husband's face was trickling blood all over his hands. "The chorisia!" he panted.

The Floss Silk tree, Chorisia speciosa, is Katie's favorite. It's tall and elegant with bright green leaves and showy pink flowers in the fall. It also has a fat, spiny trunk, so it's not good around kids. In 1985, she'd planted a seedling in the garden of a rental property. A vigilant neighbor and TreePeople volunteer called six months ago to say the tree was going to be removed; the new tenants were afraid of its spiny trunk. At the Lipkis's request, the neighbor containerized the tree, and it was moved to their present house. During the move, this twelve-foot beauty flipped its trunk in Andy's face and cut his forehead. Bad tree? Silly Andy? Or the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time?!

The Case for Natives

If you like an independent that doesn't require much attention, look for native species that are meant to grow where you are. In fact, if you're planting in a natural area, use only natives. They are environmentally sound, provide and maintain food supplies and habitat to native birds and wildlife, and have the least impact on resources. Don't introduce exotic species in forests or undeveloped urban areas. They may grow well but could require extreme amounts of water or care that make them an inappropriate choice. They may drop leaves that inhibit the growth of other vital plants. In working to restore damaged ecosystems, native species should be given the highest priority. If natives won't suit your location, look next for trees from similar climate regions.


There are tree-selection and planting guide books available for most areas. (See Resources.) Consulting them is a vital piece of the selection process as you'll get a good idea of what's appropriate or historic for your area. But books alone are not sufficient. Learning characteristics—even viewing illustrations and photos far superior to those provided in this book—can only give you limited experience of a tree you might be spending the rest of your life with.

The best way to select a tree is to personally meet its family before you make a commitment. Unlike choosing a mate, you have a chance to see how your intended will behave and what it will look like after one year or five, ten, twenty-five, or even fifty years. Go out looking for trees that attract you. You can cruise the streets for an idea of those that seem to do well or are accepted in your community. Go to your planting site and see what thrives around it. If you don't recognize the species, cut a sample or take a picture and ask a nursery for identification. Or go to where you'll find variety, panache, and labels—the arboretum or botanic garden. Often a college campus or regional park will have a large selection of trees. Check them out. How do they look? How do they behave? Do they drop leaves, fruit, branches? Do they have potentially damaging roots? Ask the grounds personnel what it's like working with specific trees. What about their long-term care including pruning and feeding? Do they have any personality problems?

Go to those who know. Ask your city, county, or state forester. Quiz botany or biology teachers, garden-club members, or certified arborists. If you don't get anywhere, go back to books that can help you identify the trees in your area. Books that lead you through a series of steps to determine the species are called keys. Ask an expert for one that will work locally.

If your site includes overhead wires, call your utility company. Many are now publishing excellent free booklets to help you choose trees that won't grow past thirty feet in twenty-five to forty years. If you want to plant larger trees, see if you can set them to one side or the other of the wire, and choose a narrow or conical tree.

If you're planting street trees on public property, you may have the entire selection procedure made simple for you; your city might have a master tree plan that specifies the kind of tree for each street or determines the species based on what's been planted in the past. Save yourself hours of frustration. Check first. In special situations, officials may consider a newer tree if they're convinced of its safe attributes and good chance of survival.

Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done.


Maidenhair Tree
(Ginkgo biloba)
zones 4 - 9

Basic Prep

Get to know the planting site and the qualities that will limit or guide what you ultimately select. Once you've found some trees you like, go back and recheck how they'll fit your site. If your site's already chosen, look at it now through different eyes. What light—both natural and man-made—does it offer? Is the site in full sun or partially shaded? Is it completely shaded by a tall building? Does it receive artificial light from street lamps all night long? Is it in a spot, such as against a white wall or in a parking lot, where it would receive an extraordinary amount of reflected sunlight or heat that could scald? Is the site vulnerable to turbulent wind or constant wind from one direction? Are your trees likely to have to stand up to fog or salt?


Yes! It's true! Life is just one thing after another. When you deal in the petty, your problems are petty. When you choose to have your life's purpose be about something other than yourself, your problems tend to follow suit—they become big, beautiful, and worldly! When President Kennedy declared that Americans would be on the moon in ten years, there was no preworn path to follow. What the president created through this declaration was a mass of problems. Those problems defined the job to be done. Had he not made the commitment and created the problems, America would not have made it to the moon within the decade.

Community forestry is fraught with problems. But you'll be that much nearer to achieving your goal once you recognize that these very problems are in fact gifts—there to be confronted and solved. Problems often bring with them special energy. When solved creatively, they can move your project closer to reality than you could ever have imagined. The bigger the problem, the more energy it has to propel a committed individual toward the goal.

After three years of developing his project, Andy Lipkis was ready to go. He'd lined up hundreds of summer campers who were ready to plant 20, 000 seedlings that he'd located in a state forestry nursery: But there was a hitch: he had to buy the trees, and as a student he didn't have the required money. The trees couldn't be given away, and any surplus trees were to be destroyed to clear the seed beds for the next season's crop. When Andy checked with the nursery, he discovered they'd begun plowing the trees under—killing them. It looked to Andy as if his project were washed out. Three years' effort was down the drain! After several minutes of mourning, he decided against throwing in the towel and mounted a media rescue effort that saved 8, 000 of the trees. The resulting coverage attracted enough donations, equipment, and volunteers to powerfully launch the organization and complete the first year's program.

Now that your vision's out in the open, lack of funding, bureaucratic resistance, neighborhood apathy, and your own insecurity or weaknesses can all look like problems that are saying stop! Usually, they're just telling you what needs to be handled next.

List all the constraints, then think of the shapes and qualities you're after. For example, if you require a tree to grow in the shade of a tall building, think about seeking out a true understory forest tree—one that grows to medium height under the largest trees in a forest or rainforest.

Goodies for Gophers

When Culver City acquired some wild land for a park, city hall officials asked for TreePeople's help to build it and to involve kids so they'd have an investment in protecting it. We talked with every student at every Culver City school, and the municipal bus company brought the kids to the park for a half day of planting. The educational and logistics aspects of the program were successful, but survival proved a problem. Due to inadequate site preparation, we discovered too late that the apparently vacant hillside was actually high-density housing for hungry gophers! The city's promised irrigation system never materialized, so we spent several years hand watering the site as, cartoon-style, trees were pulled underground and devoured. Still, a number of trees, transplanted by TreePeople into wire-mesh baskets, stand as testimony to the stundents' accomplishment.

Do you want a tall, columnar tree or one with an oval or spreading, umbrella-shaped head? Do you want it to let in winter sunlight but also provide summer shade? Do you want flowers, fruit, nuts, scent, birds, butterflies, wildlife?

This may seem arduous but it pays off. Even with twenty years of planting experience behind us, when it came time to replant the Lipkis driveway, we went through the process above. It actually took a couple of visits to our favorite trees to get to know them and their finer habits—looked at afresh as we tried fitting them to our specific site. Trees that were Andy's favorite just didn't work along the driveway. We finally settled on five species that are working wonderfully.

Specimen Selection:
Choosing Your Trees at a Nursery

Growing trees in containers can be tricky. When you're purchasing, remember the old adage: Buyer beware! Check the following.

Size. Small, younger trees are the more vigorous. When comparing all the trees in the nursery of the same species and container size, choose a specimen somewhere between the smallest and largest. If the size is disproportionate to the container, it may be because the roots are insufficiently developed or potbound.

Caliper and taper. Six-foot-tall container-grown specimens should have a half-to-one-inch trunk caliper (diameter) at six inches above ground level. The central leader and branches should be smaller than the trunk. The tree should be able to stand without its stake, perhaps bending at some level but not from the soil.

Foliage distribution and branch structure. Half the foliage should be on branches growing from the upper third of the trunk, half on branches on the lower two-thirds. The lower trunk should display foliage on short shoots. Large vertical branches should be at least six inches apart.

Roots. If the roots are visible where they attach to the trunk, the tree has been planted too high. If you can't see a root crown at the soil surface, it's been planted too low. Check for injuries or abnormalities there and for thick circling roots near the trunk that would indicate a potbound tree; a few flexible circling roots within the pot can be redirected on planting day. Lift the unstaked specimen by the trunk and note if it moves up before the soil does. If so, you've discovered inadequately developed or badly circling roots.

Working with Agencies and Officials

* Work with individual city or county employees.
* Realize that agencies and officials exist to help, not hinder. (It's their job to create and maintain sound tree management practices over time.)
* Get a local leader or politician to send a letter of introduction for your group. (This may only require a phone call or perhaps a meeting.)
* Have officials explain the permit process and constraints of planting trees.
* Keep agencies and officials informed of your efforts and up to-date through frequent meetings or phone calls. (Try to avoid surprises.)
* Let officials get to know and trust you as a group that meets its responsibilities and lives up to its promises.
* Know the necessary time requirements so you don't create unnecessary pressure.
* Ask for the city or county's help in getting the job done.
* Involve officials in your project.
* If someone says no, find out what changes are necessary to make your ideas acceptable.
* Find out if there is a way that you and your project can help officials meet their goals.


There's no site that isn't owned or administered by someone. The process of gaining permission goes far beyond convincing that person of your wonderful idea to plant trees. Your job is one of education and enrollment. Your ultimate goal should be for a commitment not only to allow but also to assist you to plant, including permission and help with long-term care. Whether permission is given by a private individual, a group, a public agency, or a corporation, our experience proves time and again that thriving trees are those receiving the care and blessings of the people around them. Trees need guardians. Even if the owners of a property, or an adjacent property, can't help physically or financially, try to involve them in your project in some way. Simply talking someone into letting you plant won't guarantee that the trees will be appreciated and cared for. Save yourself heartache; stop before you get to the arm-twisting stage.

Each property owner will undoubtedly have a different view of trees, and you may need to provide different kinds of assurances and paperwork before you'll be granted planting permission. Policies around the country differ. In many cities, the county tax assessor's office is able to provide the name and address of the owner of the land, but they rarely give out such information over the phone. You'll need to go into the office or write a letter and pay a fee for the service. If you don't have a street address for the site you're interested in, you'll find that most tax assessors' offices will use or give you access to a well-known local street guide to provide information about the parcel of land in question.

Public Agencies

Most cities and agencies with active tree-planting programs have an established permit process. Some city agencies, such as those of Los Angeles and Atlanta, have extensive requirements and a long permit process. You may live in a part of the country that is more flexible, like Sacramento or Austin. However, as urban forestry becomes a popular issue with citizens, more city agencies are tightening their planting regulations in an effort to avoid badly-planned plantings that will cause trouble in the future. Seeking official approval, whether or not it involves paying a permit fee, is well worth your while. City and county staff are a great source of information and usually know which species do well under particular conditions.

The only way to find the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.


Private Owners

Land nowadays is a valuable commodity with a variety of potential uses. When you want to plant on private land, you may be surprised by the opposition you face from hesitant property owners. Remember, your job is not to convince but to educate.

Landowners may believe that future income-producing uses of the site will be limited by the presence of trees. They may be concerned about added expenses resulting from cracked sidewalks, damaged utilities, leaf litter, and liability for tree-related injuries and damages. And if they're unwilling to provide maintenance, they may worry that the responsibility will revert to them if your group loses interest in the project. In circumstances like these, you have to think carefully about the consequences of going ahead. Trees are meant to heal relationships as well as the environment. If the opposite happens, something's gone wrong.

Groups that successfully plant trees on private property avoid potential problems by considering the particular concerns of property owners. Before you approach a property owner, improve your chances for success by making sure you can show how and why the site will be improved by your project. Some private, corporate, or institutional property owners may need to retain an option to develop or change a site at some point in the future. In this case, they may require a deal where use of their site for landscape purposes is leased on a month-to-month basis. This may seem tenuous and far from ideal, bearing in mind the long-term needs of the trees, but such arrangements often last for decades without interruption. You may want to either live with the uncertainty or investigate landscape easements, in which the owner signs away development rights and gets a tax deduction from the city or county.

(Celtis occidentalis)
zones 2-9

Developing a Proposal

If you're required to write a proposal describing what you want to do and why, remember to make it as interesting and complete as possible—and not too long. Yours may be just one of many proposals the landowner is considering.

The proposal should include your background, your community group's history, and any community projects you've done. If you've received training for tree work, say so; it will add credibility to your background. If you have support from any officials, mention it; it could influence the final decision. Now give a description of your project. You might include a drawing—to scale if possible. Indicate what you require—money, permission, and so on—and state how the project will benefit the landowner, the site, and possibly the public. Finally, reiterate how the trees will be maintained and how you'll keep the promises you're making. Include endorsement letters from public officials or prominent people to help gain access and credibility. Then keep your fingers crossed!

Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance.


Planting Permits

As difficult as it sounds and as time-consuming as it can be, the permit process should ensure that appropriate trees are planted in the right place. It also makes possible uniform plantings so a design or species mix can be carried down a street or throughout a neighborhood. (The older communities in many of our towns reflect this, just as they reflect the days before air-conditioning when trees were used to keep homes cool.) Furthermore, during the permit process the agency should research and identify all planned developments, street widenings, and excavations that could have an impact on your plans in the coming years.

Below are some of the typical steps in the permit process based on our experience in Los Angeles where regulations can be complicated. Your city may not follow involved procedures, but these examples should prepare you for what's ahead. In every case; don't write a proposal or proceed with other preparation until you've made an initial phone call to gauge interest. Find the receptive ear first, then put all your enthusiasm into gaining permission.

Open Space with a Difference

Planting trees in the older section of downtown Atlanta poses unique problems for Trees Atlanta. The entire area is riddled with an underground and unmapped, maze of coal holes from days gone by. In a display of creative though ill-planned initiative, the more modern town planners simply paved over the chutes. The result? Those digging through the cantilevered sidewalk never know when they're going to hit thin air. Who's responsible for filling in the hole? How can permits be issued when the world beneath the sidewalk is a mystery? Isn't this taking the concern of supplying air to the tree's roots just a little too far? Trees Atlanta puts a special contingency clause in all its funding proposals to account for thin air, brick walls, dead gas lines, and other unknown obstructions that may come up against a shovel at any time.

Parkways or median strips

Call the city or county agency responsible for your street trees and ask for a permit to plant. An inspector may be required to check out your site, in which case you'll need an appointment. If you have to leave a message, call back and be persistent but polite. Understand that the growing public interest in urban trees is overwhelming many cities' capacity to respond appropriately. If someone's gruff with you, bear in mind that they may be having an exasperating day just like you!

At the same time, be sure you have your neighbors' support. Collect the signatures of property owners who want trees adjacent to their property. If someone on the street is not interested or doesn't want trees, leave that name off the petition and ensure no trees are planted in front of that property. Draw up a planting plan showing the frontage of each property along the street and where you want to plant trees. If you'll be cutting through concrete, you or the agency will need to check on underground utilities.

Counting What's There

In 1979, David Schrom realized there were no young trees in Palo Alto. "Let's line the streets with food!" he thought. The loquat seedlings he planted generated a demand from the city attorney that he remove them immediately or face a lien on his property to pay the costs of removal. Did he give up urban forestry? No. Riding his bicycle, equipped with a map and a punch ticker, he counted trees along every linear inch of every street in Palo Alto. Twelve neighbors formed a tree committee and conducted a competent amateur inventory, reporting diameter-at-breast height, height estimate, vigor, and location suitability on all 35,000 trees Schrom had counted. They drew up with each resident a three year maintenance contract on trees in front of dwellings and made a recommendation for a shade ordinance: that at twelve noon on the summer solstice, 50 percent of the public pavement would be shaded by public trees, on a block by block basis, in perpetuity. In David's words, he met with "nothing but obstruction." Nevertheless, with 35,000 trees with a forty-year life expectancy, Palo Alto should be planting 750 trees a year. In 1979, they were planting 100. Now they are planting 750. David? He's the head of Peninsula ReLeaf!

If an inspector is sent out to your site, he or she will take note of existing trees, parkway size, utilities present, and consider the tree master plan for the city if one exists. It is best to be present at this inspection and show your map and the signatures of property owners. You can discuss possible species at this time. Cities will differ in what they check. In Seattle, for example, the inspector takes note of the historical character of the neighborhood and whether a neighbor's view will be blocked, as well as width of the planting strip, existing trees in the neighborhood, and overhead utilities. Seattle also actively promotes heterogeneous (mixed) planting.

You may be told what species you have permission to plant or given a few choices. In Seattle, three to five choices are offered following the inspection. Ask if the agencies require any particular supplies, such as special stakes or ties. Los Angeles requires all trees on city regulated property to be planted with root barriers, which are thought to prevent lateral roots from pushing up through the pavement.

If you've obtained written permission from all owners of property adjacent to the planting site and the site has been approved, the inspector will mark the locations for each tree. Then the final tree selection must be made, and your permit will be issued.

City parks

City parks are usually the province of your local city parks and recreation department. They may be accustomed to channeling planting requests through their own tree-dedication program, if they have one, and planting the trees themselves. Give your reasons for wanting this planting to be a community participation event and invite them to be directly involved. Be sure to develop your plan with their guidance and input.

Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come.


Private land: vacant lot, parking lot, industry

If you don't know who owns the land, ask attached businesses or neighbors or, as stated above, contact your local county tax assessor's office in person or by letter. If you need a legal description of the location, contact city hall. Once you've identified the owner, try to set up a meeting at the site. Be professional. Use recognized procedures, like a proposal (see Developing A Proposal above), and your request will at least be taken seriously.

We'll mention again how important it is to establish credibility. If you or any of your group have special training with trees, it's likely to set you apart as someone who knows a thing or two about the subject at hand. If you've been working with your city-government representative, don't forget to mention that you also have support there. In fact, an introductory phone call or letter from a higher-up never goes astray. Be cooperative. Remember, the final decision will be made by the owner!

Australian Pine
(Casuarina cunninghamiana)
zones 4-7


They break up the sidewalk!
Not if we plant the right kind of tree.

They block the view!
If we plant beautiful trees, you'll still have a beautiful view.

They ruin cars!
The city won't even give us a permit for trees that stain or injure cars.

Criminals can hide behind them!
Gang activity gravitates toward poorly maintained neighborhoods. If we keep our neighborhood clean, paint over graffiti, and do things like planting trees to show the neighborhood is united, we can beat gangs and crime. And crooks have to be pretty skinny to disappear behind a tree.

Cats will get stuck in them.
It will give the fire brigade something to do between fires.

They make the street dark!
Permits regulate tree spacing so there'll be plenty of room for sunlight.

They use a lot of water.
Not drought-resistant species! What's more, providing light shade to lawns or even replacing some lawn space will save water, as lawns are the really thirsty part of a landscape. Trees can help reduce runoff, which will hold more water in the soil. Looking at the big picture, we can ultimately help create a wetter climate and help stop the spread of deserts by planting!

They block my business sign.
They also improve the quality of the street and attract more people. You might want to add a new sign!

They drop leaves and make a mess.
There are lots of trees that don't drop anything.

Birds sit on the branches and do what birds do—all over everything.
You mean sing?

Churches, synagogues, or schools

To avoid wasting time, try going to the top when you first contact an institution. Your suggestion, which may sound strange to a receptionist, could strike just the right chord with the person who ultimately makes decisions. Again, a proposal will probably be expected. Tailor your planting proposal to include the planting plan, the cost and liability of the project, benefits to the constituency, how members or students can be involved, and as much as possible on how the project meets the establishment's needs or goals. Furnish progress reports and final plans. Try to enroll a leader from the institution early on to help develop the plan. If you wait too long, leaders may be reluctant or threatened.


Call or write your county sanitation district about the location and site you wish to plant. They may have a master plan that determines what can be planted. They should also have a list of trees that can tolerate the heat and methane generated by landfills. The soil at the landfill should be tested for depth arid toxicity. If your local agency has neither the expertise nor personnel on hand to work with you on planting design and specifics, try checking with a sanitation district in a nearby, larger county.

Flood-control channels

Flood-control channels are usually administered by the county. Trees planted here must comply with agency requirements, which vary substantially. Meet agency representatives to determine the issues that would need to be addressed in a proposal if one is needed. Then develop a planting plan and submit a proposal that includes site address and location; flood-control channel name, file code, and station; the landowner's name if the site is an easement; and a drawing of the site and proposed tree species. As with landfills, the soil along a flood-control channel may be contaminated—in this case by herbicides—and need replacing. When plans are final, a permit will be issued.


You need to do some detective work to ascertain which railroad currently owns the property you would like to plant and what their long-term plans are. Start by asking your local council representative. The railroad leases out rights-of-way, so you may want to start by trying to get the lease turned over to the city. Develop a proposal that includes the purpose and goals of the project, its area and location, a detailed planting plan that meets all railroad restrictions, your selected tree or shrubbery species, and a timeline for the project. Establish credibility with the railroad (see Private Land above).

This visual appeared in a press advertisement developed by McCann-Erickson for Louisiana Pacific, sponsor of the first Marina Freeway Tree Run.


Don't let impatience kill your good ideas. Give them time to develop. Ideas are like seeds that need the right conditions to sprout. Some conditions happen of their own accord while others will be brought about by your actions. Having the patience to wait for the sprouting is one of your greatest challenges.

Break your big goal into bite-sized chunks to help you take action and to have many points of celebration along the way. These points will sustain you when your larger goal seems elusive. Each step, no matter how small, is a step toward the goal.

In building TreePeople, the successes were often as simple as the planting of one or two trees. Even when suffering defeats on larger goals, little wins can give you hope and energy. During a particularly challenging time, it's helpful to reflect on the fact that, instead of standing still, you're on your path taking it a step at a time.

In 1983, TreePeople learned of a downtown parcel of land that was slated for future development but would be lying idle for a number of years. What about—roll of drums—a temporary urban forest! We developed a plan to show how the planting of donated large trees, the construction of paths and a waterfall, the planting of community gardens to be tended by retirees living in an adjacent high-rise, and the placement of an environmental education kiosk could become a haven for office workers, a teaching tool for inner city youth, a source of food, and a creative demonstration of temporary land use. Our proposal laid out the plan for the removal and relocation of all plant material and other resources. Schools, homeless shelters, and other parks were lined up to happily receive them at the end of the tenure.

As the proposal began attracting widespread publicity and support, the future developers of the site began to fear that they'd never be allowed to build. Despite our pledges of a positive outcome, the proposal was killed after a year. We were heartbroken. Many other projects had suffered while we put all our creative energy and much of our time into this vision.

Six months later, the Community Redevelopment Agency in the neighboring city of Glendale wrote to thank us for our vision. They'd read about it and created a number of small parks right in their central business district. The parks lasted a number of years, and the public was thankful. Our failure became their success.

One of the biggest challenges is the fact that the soil is probably sterile and possibly toxic. Most railroads have sprayed the areas under and around their tracks with a variety of defoliants. Plan to conduct a soil test. Very few species will grow or thrive on the treated and sterilized land without replacing the soil.

The Rails to Trails Conservancy is a nationwide network of groups working to convert old railroads into recreation lands. If a local group exists, they may have a plan under way. (See Resources for more information.)

To ensure safe street and highway plantings, always contact the appropriate agencies for assistance in defining and marking boundaries.

Freeways and highways

Your local highway department may have an adopt-a-highway program. If not, suggest it to them. In California, participants, including civic groups, churches, corporations, and schools agree to plant at least five acres of drought-tolerant, urban-tolerant tree seedlings and establish them for two years. The program is available in many other states, each with its own conditions and requirements.

National forests, national parks, and wildlands

In the case of forests and wildlands, you'll be relying on the planting or care prescription of the responsible agencies' resident experts. Forestry and restoration are complex fields requiring a fair amount of training and experience. Agencies like the U.S. Forestry Service often welcome volunteer participation.

Maintenance Permits

Your city tree department may welcome street tree-maintenance assistance if you can prove your commitment, knowledge, and ability; however, as with plantings, there may be a permit procedure.

Large, mature trees need professionals with proper equipment. Where the government is responsible for maintenance of street trees, the homeowner takes on liability when choosing to have the trees pruned by someone other than the city. An inspector will issue a permit for you to prune a small tree—one whose limbs are reachable when you're standing on the ground—if you can offer assurance that you know how to do the job.

You may want to stage an event, working with other individuals knowledgeable about pruning. Consider putting on a training event, bringing in government trainers or private arborists. A few years ago, the Los Angeles City Street Tree Division of Street Maintenance trained TreePeople staff members who, in turn, trained volunteers who went ahead and set up maintenance events. The project did wonders not only for the trees but also for public-private relations. (See Chapter 7 for more on tree care.)

Ye who would pass by and raise your hand against me,
Harken ere you harm me.

I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights,

The friendly shade screening you from the summer sun;

And my fruits are refreshing draughts quenching your

Thirst as you journey on.

I am the beam that holds your house,

The board of your table,

I am the handle of your hoe, the door of your homestead,

The wood of your cradle, and the shell of your coffin.

I am the gift of God and the friend of Man.

Ye who pass by, listen to my prayer . . .

Harm me not!



Whether you're working with paid employees, volunteers, agency personnel, or politicians, acknowledgment of everyone's contribution is a crucial part of completing every task, project, and event. If your work becomes an ongoing concern, volunteer acknowledgment and coordination takes on greater importance.

TreePeople is a volunteer-based organization. Although it has a sizeable staff, traditionally every staff member's job has included preparing projects, educating, facilitating, supporting, and acknowledging volunteers in accomplishing the mission of the organization. TreePeople's success is not simply a matter of raising enough money to hire a sufficient amount of people to plant and care for all the trees. Our success has also been in engendering voluntary citizen action.

Teaching Forgiveness

Some people come to TreePeople's Citizen Forester Training knowing more about trees than the trainer. Such was the case with Sylva Blackstone, who arrived at the training and immediately jumped in to help Cor Trowbridge, the trainer, explain the technical aspects of tree planting and care. After the course ended, Sylva became active in a neighborhood planting project. The technical aspects were already well handled, so Sylva found herself training, recruiting, and acknowledging volunteers.

Later, Cor joked that she wondered what an expert like Sylva could possibly gain from taking the Citizen Forester Training. Sylva's response? She learned forgiveness—to accept people's shortcomings and support them in accomplishing their goals.

Although most TreePeople staff members work with volunteers in some way, someone has always had the specific job of coordinating volunteers. The job includes recruitment and orientation, facilitation, support, and acknowledgment—acknowledgment being prime on the list of responsibilities. The coordinator makes sure that volunteers are thanked by the project leaders and produces an annual volunteer awards bash.

A number of good models are available to guide you in recruiting and supporting volunteers, and it is not the purpose of this book to be a primer on the subject. A good source of information and support is the network of Voluntary Action Centers. Most major cities have a center, and the national office is in Washington. The local centers maintain a list of people who have contacted them expressing interest in volunteering.


The most powerful form of recruitment for TreePeople is word of mouth. People have a good time, feel needed, feel a sense of community, family, and accomplishment. They share their excitement with others and bring them along for more.

People find TreePeople in a variety of ways. Publicity about our events attracts new volunteers, but for the most part we recruit in a steady low-key fashion. Volunteers and staff regularly address groups, clubs, and churches. An outreach team staffs information booths at fairs. Public service and media calendar announcements invite new volunteers to a monthly orientation meeting or a bimonthly community gathering.

At the gatherings, both volunteers and staff members report on and celebrate recent results and recruit people to assist with upcoming events. Every month we publish a summary of upcoming events in our membership subscription newsletter, Seedling News, and produce a more detailed flyer that can be distributed or mailed to those interested in getting involved. Volunteers choose where and when to participate and sign up in advance.

Upon first contact, volunteers are guided to an orientation meeting or spend time with the volunteer coordinator. This meeting is almost like a job interview. When they've found their area of interest, they meet the project leader and sign up. In the days or weeks leading up to an event, a phone team recruits or confirms the participation of those who have expressed interest.


People volunteer for their own reasons. If your organization provides opportunities that fulfill their needs, you've got a match. Some want a one-time experience of planting a tree; others are looking to make a serious lasting commitment to a cause. Some come in on a whim and stay for years. Others profess undying loyalty and never show up. There is a whole gamut of reasons, attitudes, and purposes, and TreePeople provides a broad range of involvement opportunities to satisfy them. Ultimately though, no organization can meet everyone's needs and expectations. Many people will be attracted to your work. Some will find exactly what they were looking for and stick with you. Others will move on. Providing you have a stable flow of volunteers with a range of experience, and you make sure they feel wanted and appreciated, you've got nothing to worry about.

Ohio Buckeye
(Aesculus glabra)
zones 5-7

Wise Use

Volunteers represent an energy force or resource similar to money. If you have a clearly defined project and clearly defined needs, resources appear, as if magically, to meet those needs. Your challenge is to recognize the resources when they show up, and make effective use of them. For a time in our history, TreePeople staff would spend hours worrying about not having enough volunteers in the organization. We were dealing with the issue in the same way as we would talk about money in the bank. The fact is that during that period we had stopped defining jobs and roles for volunteers and didn't know where to place people when they offered to help. Once we defined the job to be done, the right volunteer usually walked in the door.

Similarly, volunteers don't show up or stick around if they're not needed. Once we had a conscientious staff member who personally covered all the bases at every event. This person often complained of a lack of volunteers that could play a leadership role and was frequently let down by volunteers who didn't show up at events. In follow-up conversations, the volunteers gave the message loud and clear: "You did so well at the events, I figured you didn't need me, and it wouldn't matter if I didn't come."

Life is short and so is money.



Before you even look at how to fund your project, try to work on exactly what you're going to need—in resources as well as money. Remember, the more time, talent, supplies, and equipment that are donated, the less money you'll have to raise. People are your greatest asset. Find out what each person or group can contribute. It may be extra soil, volunteer time, scrap lumber, a contact in city hall, or goods for a bake sale. It may be a large, unexpected check. Remember, your personal relationships are the basis for success.

When you first get a neighborhood group together, have everyone present write down their business and organizational affiliations as well as their addresses and special-interest or talent information. Often we overlook a big personal resource simply because we're too close to it. If you see that happening, don't be afraid to ask. The worst that anyone can do is say no.

We strongly encourage donations from as many sources as possible. TreePeople's annual budget in dollars has always been artificially low when compared to the amount of work the organization accomplishes. The reason? At least as much is donated in volunteer time, materials, services, and supplies. From a good deal on a load of gravel to having a video produced gratis, donations can really stretch your dollars, whether your budget is $100 or $1,000,000. It's usually much easier to seek in-kind donations than cash. What's more, every penny saved is one penny less you or your committee will have to raise, so be tight with that cash.

Before we get down to it, here's another piece of advice. Don't make the mistake of thinking publicity will handle fundraising. After some disaster relief work we coordinated in the early eighties, TreePeople's name became a household word in Los Angeles. Even so, we were still putting staff on the Salary Savings Plan (meaning nobody got paid) during the lean summer months, because people just didn't know we needed money. Unlike the for-profit world, getting your name out is not the same as getting the money in.

Paying for Stamps

How do you find the money that's not for trees or stakes but for stamps and the telephone bill? Administrative support, as it's called, is hard to come by. Tucson Clean and Beautiful put together its recommended planting list for the desert environment, then offered endorsements to nurseries that agreed to stock those species and disseminate information about their program. The participating nurseries win because their names appear on a $10 tree certificate that can be bought from Tucson Clean and Beautiful and redeemed at their counter for one of the selected species. The public wins because it receives guidance. The environment wins because the right trees are planted. And Tucson Clean and Beautiful? They get $1 back on every certificate!

Analyzing Costs

Tree planting isn't free. In our experience, it costs $100 to $300 to plant a street tree; the larger figure includes concrete cutting and well covers. It typically costs even more when it's done by local government or private contractors.

To help you figure costs we've formulated some rules of thumb. Take into account that different planting sites require varying tree sizes and equipment and that these are average 1990 figures. In budgeting for your planting consider all possible expenses, then turn that into a per-tree amount to use in proposals.

Tree expenses

Seedlings and quarts 12" or less: $1–$5

1–5-gallon containers 1'–5': $3–$15

15-gallon container 6'–10': $35–$75

1" caliper balled and burlap 6'–8': $150

2" caliper balled and burlap 8'–12': $200

24" box container 8'–15': $130–$180 (wholesale)

36" box container 12'–18': $400–$500

Related expenses

Stakes (metal): $10

Vinyl tree ties (4 per tree): $0.40 (each)

Soil amendment: $3

Root barriers (15 gallon): $25

3/4" crushed gravel: $3 or $12 per skip

Cutting concrete

Concrete cutting (36" x 36" hole): $90.00 (the price will drop for large orders)

Concrete aggregate tree-well covers: $30.00

Other tree-related expenses: transplanting solution, wire cages, and permits. General expenses: photocopying, telephone, stamps, gas and transportation, equipment rental, recruitment costs, and publicity. Amenities: film for cameras, water, cups, name tags, and refreshments.

Go Shopping

How do we open an office?

Start one in the comer of a supportive business—or in your own living room.

Where do we get office furniture?

From a large company that's retrenching or upgrading.

What about vehicles?

Become a nonprofit. Donating a used car or truck is a great tax deduction!

What can we plant seedlings in?

Milk cartons! Get misprints or those with expired universal product codes (computer stripes) from your local dairy.

How can I afford printing?

Ask big printing firms if they'd be willing to tack your artwork on the end of a big job, to make the use of the excess paper that would otherwise be scrapped. Don't be fussy about paper or colors!

If a big company can't give you a donation, ask if they can let you use their copy machine or their print shop if they have one.

Cash for Tree Care

Analyzing costs for tree care and getting it funded are not necessarily easy, but they are straightforward, so we'll deal with them right here.

Tree care for young 'uns is fairly inexpensive; much is done simply by volunteers from a community. As a tree gets older and needs more pruning, expenses grow. These costs are extremely variable but are only incurred every three to seven years, and by the time public trees are this large, many cities assume responsibility. However, if you don't want to leave it to chance, or if your trees need special care, consider raising money for their longterm welfare. Here are several options.

Annual collection from homeowners.

* Initial, one-time payment of fee.
* Trust fund: A 1990 estimate is that $115 invested when a tree is planted is enough to care for it for life. The investment, plus interest, that property owners make up front will keep those trees in the manner to which we'd like them to become accustomed!
* Assessment district: Business assessment districts can be set up by business owners to fund improvements such as planting or, in this case, maintaining trees. Each business owner or tenant pays a certain amount into the fund every assessment period. Either the interest or the principal from the fund is used as needed toward the maintenance of the trees.

Taking Care of the Mascot

The coral tree is the official tree of Los Angeles. In 1982, a violent storm decimated one of the city's most spectacular displays of coral trees on San Vicente Boulevard. City budget constraints had made pruning possible only every three or four years, so the tree committee of the local property owner's association took on the task of raising an endowment for an annual pruning of these trees whose brittle limbs require meticulous care if they are to survive such storms. The campaign focused on a highly visible cause and a well-defined geographic area. Families and businesses were invited to adopt trees. To get neighbors involved and to bring even more attention to the trees, organizers tied huge red ribbons around each trunk and held a rally beneath the trees where they sold T shirts, visors, and refreshments. It took a year, but ultimately they raised more than $125,000, and the trees are now receiving the special attention they need.

Borrowing and Bartering Equipment

Equipment is reusable. You'll not need it forever so try not to buy too much of it. You'll limit your creativity if you think in terms of having to raise cash to buy everything (see page 89). Equipment can be borrowed from many sources. The more creative you are, the easier it will be to find what you need.

Does someone owe you a favor? If they have something you need right now, now's the time for them to be magnanimous!

Contact a local tree-planting group if one exists for help with equipment, supplies, obtaining trees, getting permits waived, and other services. Existing groups have been through this before. You may not have to reinvent the wheel.

Other important sources could be the state, county, or city forestry departments. Your street-tree division, street-maintenance department, fire department, parks-and-recreation or public-works department, or general services may also come through for you. Don't view them as strangers; they're there to help and might loan equipment such as shovels, hoses, brooms, trucks, water trucks, skip loaders, bulldozers, augers, jack hammers, and even helicopters! Do you have a state or local conservation corps? In California, the CCC and local corps have a terrific reputation for volunteering support for environmental causes. Utility companies, providing phone, gas, and electricity, are often very interested in getting involved in tree projects. As we've stated, the proper placement of trees affects their ability to function. They may be pleased to have a part in supporting your project by providing manpower, donating printing, or loaning equipment.

When all else fails, of course, send in the marines! Our armed forces are often there to help. They have enormous amounts of manpower and equipment that can be tapped if you take the time to ask.

Neighborhood Tenacity

What began as door-to-door recruiting for a Saturday neighborhood-cleanup operation turned into the formation of the 5ive Points Community Association. The low-income residents arid workers in this mixed manufacturing-industrial district of south-central Los Angeles realized the next step was tree planting. Undaunted by the fundraising challenge, they suggested each family make a five-dollar per month contribution to pay for trees. This was ultimately supplemented by a Community Development Block Grant and funds from a department store whose warehouse was in the district. They constructed their own water truck, using two fifty-five gallon drums strapped to a trailer and hitched up to a car, then went on to organize outings for their kids, graffiti paint-out projects, murals, and ongoing meetings with business people, schools, and police.

Begging and Buying Resources and Money

May I borrow a face tissue? We all know how ludicrous the request is. Who wants it back? It's the same with supplies. Supplies are used once and can't be returned. They're not as easy to come by, but you can still get them. Many businesses will be happy to make in-kind donations to your project.

For the times when you actually have to shell out some cash, we want to make a radical suggestion: pay for it yourselves! It's amazing how many resources exist within a community. You have to dig a bit to find them, but by preparing a list of your reeds and circulating it to all neighbors and participants, you can garner a tremendous amount of support. You can either raise cash or cut costs significantly by trying some of the following suggestions.

Get everyone to chip in so you can buy needed supplies. Whether it's $1 or $1,000, we should all look into our purses as well as our hearts to support something we believe in. Even Andy and Katie are dues-paying members of TreePeople. If you can't rely on your closest circle, how can any of them ask others to give? Giving time is great; giving money at some point becomes essential. Raising money from your own circle also reduces the amount you need to raise from the outside.

You'll receive wholesale prices if you buy in bulk. If money up front is a problem, try spreading out payments over several months. What seems like a lot of money may, in fact, be easy enough to raise if everyone in your tree-project group gives a small monthly amount. For example, five dollars per month for seven months buys a tree.

Too many people fail to realize that they actually have within their grasp the means to pay for their project. Discovering your financial power is just one more important facet to all you're discovering right now. What's more, it can become a good test of a group's commitment.

Even so, hold on to as much of that money as you can for the things that are not donated. See if you can interest a supplier or nursery in donating resources. Perhaps you can interest a sponsor. Think about what's in it for them. Nowadays, businesses everywhere, big and small, are looking for ways to show their commitment to the environment. Tree projects are a safe and popular option. Businesses don't donate time, money, or materials to individual property owners to enhance a private residence, but if the plantings benefit an entire community, businesses can be persuaded to support the cause.

Likewise, local developers who have an upcoming project may also be looking for a way to give back to the community. Are there any other advantages for businesses? Invite them to tell you what they'd like. Offer media exposure, their logo on your flyer, their banner at your planting, an on-site plaque or acknowledgment sign (build in the cost), or a commendation from the mayor, who should be accessible if you're doing neighborhood improvement. Remember to have the acknowledgment fit the contribution. Also, be prepared to say no if you sense something fishy (see page 127).

Others that might consider taking you under their wing and raising some change for you include local business associations like chambers of commerce or Junior Achievement; service clubs such as the Rotary Club or Kiwanis; campus organizations like sororities or fraternities; and religious groups like the Knights of Columbus, Scottish Heritage Club, or Hadassah.

Fundraising events, too, can be a relatively easy path to quick clean money, especially if you have a couple of people with a little experience who will take responsibility for it while you're organizing the rest of the project. How about selling tickets for a car wash? If you want to go bigger than a donated parking lot, try talking to a neighborhood gas station. They could promote the event to their customers and perhaps recruit new customers on the day, especially if they can offer special deals.

Try sponsoring a bake-off or a garage sale. Choose a house that's on a main thoroughfare or post signs at the nearest intersection. Use the occasion to recruit volunteers and to advertise what you're doing. Start a recycling program for cans, newspapers, and bottles. By turning in these items for cash, you've both raised money for your project and helped the environment.

Parties are another painless way to bring in funds. You could throw a block party or organize potluck dinners or spaghetti nights with a ticket price. Raffles are also a time-honored tradition. Try offering small trees or handmade items as prizes.

You could even try an auction. People like a deal. Gather donated products or services like babysitting, home-grown plants, or dinner for two at the current local hot spot. If you really go to town with the auction concept and have a lot of merchandise, you can charge admission too. Ask business contributors for an all-out donation. It's better than having to return the wholesale value to them. It also gives them a full tax refund. Offer them a complimentary admission to your auction. You might even serve or sell refreshments.

Think media. Put together a commemorative magazine, newsletter, or book and sell ads to businesses and individuals. What about selling T-shirts, visors, or buttons with your community-group logo? Haven't got one? Get one!

Quick Thinking

The Global ReLeaf fund of the American Forestry Association had a $5,000 corporate contribution that had to be used for citizen tree planting in Seattle. For a number of reasons, the chosen recipient—the Washington State Nursery & Landscape Association—had only two hours to put together a program. It pulled $2,500 from its promotional budget, and the City Arborist pitched in $2,500 of his own. The resulting doubled amount—$10,000—was used to fund 500 Washington ReLeaf certificates, redeemable at participating nurseries, that were good for 50 percent off the cost of a Seattle-approved street tree, up to a maximum of twenty dollars. Each citizen was eligible to obtain three certificates and, after a well-covered press conference, they went like hotcakes. Got a promotional idea for the WSNLA? Great! Can they have two hours to think about it?

The Fairy Godmothers

Recommitting ourselves to improving the urban environment affords us the chance to recapture our power and self-sufficiency. With such an ingrained history of expectation that government will meet our needs, it can be a challenge to redirect our attention to our own resourcefulness. Given the global-warming debate and the so-called peace dividend, the 1990s are likely to see more government and foundation funding available for urban forestry. There will never be enough, however, to meet the needs of all communities. Never. You heard it here.

Contact local corporations, foundations, and small businesses (the more local the better) to see if they'll entertain a proposal. You could be lucky! The bigger the entity, however, the more time it will take. Allow at least six months for a corporate giving program or foundation to review and make a decision regarding your proposal. Visit your library for foundation directories that can lead you to sources. Bone up on their giving programs. How much do they usually give? Who have they funded in the past? Would a proposal from you make sense? Add every endorsement for you and your group that you can muster. Raising money is just like getting approval to plant. You've got to sell yourself. Don't send anything cold. Phone before you write. You might be able to have your request squeezed into an upcoming meeting—or you might have just missed one.

Your city or state department of forestry may also provide funds for tree projects. Don't overlook the obvious. Beware the trap, though! The apparent availability of grant funds can sometimes lead you to forget about your ability to raise the money from within your community. We all have a tendency to call mom before handling our responsibilities. Grant funds are always limited and usually don't cover your entire project. What's more, communities can lose motivation as a consequence of either receiving or not receiving a grant. If a grant is awarded, if money appears to flow, there's a danger that people power will drop away, and people power is precisely what's needed to accomplish the task. If a grant application is rejected, organizers may lose heart so much that they overlook the possibility of turning back to the community to find the resources and energy for the job.

This advice may sound a little like humbug, and we don't wish to appear hypocritical. TreePeople certainly receives very large corporate contributions every year. But it's not our only source of money, and we still try to maintain the thrift ethic in the organization. The point here is, don't get stuck on how to get the money. Stay creative.

With money in your pocket, you are wise and you are handsome and you sing well too.



Kentucky Coffee Tree
(Gymnocladus dioica)
zones 4-8

Eyeball to Eyeball

Without a doubt, the most successful, and the most difficult, way to raise a large amount of money in one fell swoop is to make what's called a face-to-face solicitation. The thought of such a confrontation is so daunting to most of us that we will go out of our way for years to avoid taking the one single most effective tack to enrolling others in our work. We know! TreePeople avoided it for years! We finally understood that asking for large sums of money is rather like asking for small amounts of donated items or requesting volunteer help on a planting—and we were very good at that. The only difference is that the stakes are higher, and it involves that touchy subject—money. Your best resource is a small paperback entitled The Art of Fundraising by Irving R. Warner. (See Resources for further information.) Are you up to it? Fantastic!

Who are your prospects? Work with your committee to identify them and try to get as close to them with your contacts as you can. Does anyone see them on the golf course or sit on another committee with them? How much should they be asked to give? This figure should be realistic. Don't insult them by asking for too small an amount, but don't show your ignorance by being in fantasyland about it either.

Here are some rules for you or for the person who makes the solicitation. When you set up the meeting, let your prospect know you're coming to talk about the project. It's not fair to place an unexpected request on someone from whom you hope to gain support. Don't try to turn yourself into a super slick salesperson. Your openness, commitment, and knowledge will influence your prospect far greater than a canned performance. What is your motive? It's more than just the funding of your project. You want to inspire your prospect and find a way to share your vision so that it becomes real for both of you during the meeting. Breathe deeply. Take some props if you like: maps, drawings, photographs, news clippings. Do more listening than talking. Answer questions. Acknowledge any idea your prospect may have. If they're good, pursue them. If they're red herrings, try to bring the conversation back to the issue at hand. Turn around objections, which are a natural part of the process. Remember to tackle the objections, not the prospect! Once you've made your specific request, stop talking. Wait for a response, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel. Try to leave the meeting with a commitment—and thank your prospect regardless of the outcome. The absolute sign of success is to witness the transition from you and me to us. This transition, however, may take more than one meeting.


Carolina Poplar
(Populus canadensis)
zones 5-9


People do not just give to causes on the basis of objective assessments. Your prospect may have more than one reason to consider contributing to your project. Try to uncover his or her motives and needs and respond to them. In the early part of your conversation, have your prospect speak about those things he or she enjoys or thinks are important or perceives to be wrong. At least one or two of the following points will probably emerge as your prospect's primary reason to give.

* to help save the planet
* to help create a better environment for children or grandchildren
* to help ensure the future health of children or grandchildren
* to help conserve energy
* to increase property value or attract business
* to reduce dust and dirt
* to beautify the neighborhood and promote wildlife
* to achieve immortality
* to gain public recognition
* to participate in a historic undertaking
* peer pressure
* peer competition
* to save on taxes
* to further networking activity
* to promote community spirit
* to achieve popularity