(San Francisco, CA)- Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) works with more than 100 Bay Area artists to present a biennial exhibition and auction of original artwork of, or inspired by, trees. Proceeds from the event help fund tree planting and other FUF urban forestry programs.

Category: Special Events Fundraising
Originally conceived by a group of artists in 2002, Arcadia 2003 and 2005 increased the profile of FUF and its work as well as raising money to expand its programs. Arcadia 2007 attracted more than 500 attendees and raised more than $180,000.
Doug Wildman, FUF Program Director, emphasizes that Arcadia has been a great success not only because of its ability to raise money for the organization but also because it has allowed FUF to “have fun”, recognize its existing donors and cultivate new ones.
Founded in 1981, FUF provides financial, technical and practical assistance to individuals and neighborhood groups in San Francisco who want to plant and care for trees.
Each year, FUF helps plant nearly 1,000 trees. In 1995, FUF launched its Tree Care Program to improve tree health and to increase survival rates. FUF’s certified arborists, assisted by volunteers and trainees, prune and re-stake existing street trees.
FUF’s Youth Tree Care Program trains economically disadvantaged youth in planting and tree care. It remains one of the only paid urban forestry training programs in the United States.
Arcadia includes both a live auction and a silent auction of original artwork. In addition there is a separate children’s component that displays the work of young artists. The event also features music, drinks and passed hors d’oeuvres.
Planning for Arcadia, which is held in the spring of odd-numbered years, begins ten months in advance.
There are two event committees that oversee Arcadia. The working committee which meets monthly beginning eight months before the event has six to 10 members including at least one person from the Board of Directors, the Executive Director, the Development Manager, a curator from San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and a web designer.
The second committee is the host committee consisting of gallery owners and others in the arts community and is largely honorary.
Two concurrent types of activities take place – one focused on the logistics of the event and another on the fundraising.
Event Logistics
1. The first step is to reach out to the artistic community for participants. A committee composed of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art curator and artists sets the standards for the art that will be included in the auction as well determining which pieces will be featured at the live auction and which will be offered at the silent auction. In general, the works of well-known artists are featured at the live auction.
2. The next step is to find and book a venue that will show the art to its best advantage and also allow for socializing.
3. FUF then sends a Save-the-Date card to potential attendees three months in advance. Five weeks prior to the event, FUF sends invitations to its individual donor and volunteer lists as well as to foundation, corporate and government funders and other community partners.
4. FUF also builds a website for the event. This is an important piece of the program since it showcases all the art that will be auctioned as well as presenting artist’s statements and a link to the websites of participating artists when available. Bidding is allowed on-line as well as at the actual event. The website is designed and maintained by a community volunteer.
5. Participating artists frame their pieces, take digital photos of the art for the website and prepare artists’ statements to accompany the art.
6. The committee of artists determines minimum bids for the art as well as minimum amounts for bid increments.
7. FUF hires a professional auctioneer for the event. In addition, FUF works with an event planner to hire caterers and provide music. FUF also solicits donations for drinks.
8. The event planner plans a children’s component to accompany the auction.
9. A system for efficient check-out from the auction is set up including wi-fi credit card machines and volunteer runners who take the art from the wall to the buyers.
10. The night before Arcadia, a local curator and other volunteers hang the show. There is often a free pre-event affair that coincides with the hanging to allow people to socialize and view the art prior to the actual auction.
Fundraising Component
1. FUF develops a budget. FUF’s goal is to net at least $100,000 from the event so the budget is set accordingly.
2. FUF identifies a “presenting sponsor” that will be highlighted throughout the event. Esurance has been the presenting sponsor Arcadia 2005 and 2007. Ensurance donated $45,000 to the auction in addition to publicizing the event through its website and newsletters.
3. Next, FUF develops other levels of sponsorship that allow donors to participate in the event at differing levels with corresponding benefits. FUF has six levels of sponsorship ranging from a contribution of $350 to $25,000. The event planner works with a designer to create sponsorship packages. Each level of sponsorship receives benefits such as tickets to the auction and publicity in event literature and at the event itself.
4. FUF’s Executive Director and Board of Directors market the event to sponsors and individuals. Individual tickets to the event are $150.
5. FUF identifies a media sponsor to help market and publicize the event.
Staffing and overall coordination
The event can require up to 50% of the Executive Director’s time in the month prior to the auction. Also, FUF hires an event planner. Other staff helps as needed, especially with registration and set-up.
Arcadia 2007 attracted more than 500 attendees and raised $182,440. After expenses of $70,347, FUF netted $112,093.
In addition to raising money for FUF programs, Wildman says that Arcadia has helped FUF connect its message with the visual arts. “Having an event that bridges the environment with the arts allows people to discover how closely the two are related in terms of the priorities in their daily lives.”
1. The benefits for this type of special event goes way beyond the amount of money raised at the actual event. It gives your supporters a chance to network and socialize as well as offering your organization an opportunity to honor existing supporters and cultivate new ones.
2. Keep the event fresh by thinking of new ideas and angles for the future. For example, FUF is looking at the possibility of including different types of art at future auctions such as jewelry.
3. It only takes one artist to get the event started. The enthusiasm can quickly spiral out from a small, committed core of supporters.
4. Determine how many pieces you need to give the auction depth and variety without being overwhelming. FUF would recommend having at least 50 pieces and probably no more than 130. Arcadia 2005 included approximately 130 pieces and Arcadia 2007 had 112.
5. It is important that the artists who participate have a good experience so pay attention to issues like minimum bids and quality control. Identify persons who will get the ball rolling by bidding on pieces that have not yet received bids. You want all the pieces to be sold.
6. Don’t forget the importance of having fun. This is a great way to bring supporters together to enjoy themselves.
7. This is a wonderful way keep artists engaged in your programs.
Contact Information:
Doug Wildman, Program Director
Friends of the Urban Forest
Presidio of San Francisco, Building 1007
P.O. Box 29456
San Francisco, CA 94129-1404
Phone: (415) 561-6890 ext. 109
Fax: (415) 561-6899