How to Raise Money Through Holiday Cards and Tribute Gifts

(Atlanta, GA)- Trees Atlanta offers holiday, memorial and honorarium cards to help support its extensive tree planting program. Cards, which require a minimum contribution of $25, tell recipients that a tree will be planted in their honor. The trees planted under this program are not specifically recognized with markers or otherwise identified.

Category: Fundraising
In 2006, Trees Atlanta raised $92,000 through all three card programs and planted 3,680 trees. In addition to increasing revenue for the organization, the cards have raised the visibility of Trees Atlanta throughout the community.
Trees Atlanta was established in 1985 by Central Atlanta Progress (a downtown business association), the Atlanta Commissioner of Parks, and the Junior League of Atlanta to improve the green space in downtown Atlanta. Its original focus was on planting large street trees with contractors in the downtown area. About 10 years ago, Trees Atlanta decided to broaden its scope beyond the downtown area and began planting in the surrounding neighborhoods with the help of community volunteers.
In 1994, inspired by a similar program operated by TreePeople in Los Angeles, Trees Atlanta began offering commemorative and honorarium cards to help fund its burgeoning tree planting program. In 1998, Trees Atlanta expanded this program to include annual holiday greeting cards.
Since its inception, Trees Atlanta’s accomplishments include:
* More than 20,000 large shade tees planted in downtown and midtown Atlanta
* More than 68,000 young shade tees planted and distributed by volunteers in metro-Atlanta
* Hundreds of trees saved through partnerships with community groups and stronger tree protection laws
* More than 8,500 volunteers have given time and money to the organization
Card design and message
Trees Atlanta currently offers three types of cards: holiday cards, memorial cards and honorarium cards. Each is available for a minimum tax-deductible contribution of $25.
The design on the holiday card changes each year. Trees Atlanta selects artwork that is nonsectarian and has broad appeal. Typically the design is the work of a local nature photographer who is credited on the card. The greeting on the card announces that a year-old shade tree will be planted in the recipient’s honor thanks to a contribution to Trees Atlanta. The name of the donor appears on the card. Donors can either request that the cards be sent to them for addressing or they can request that the cards be mailed to recipients by Trees Atlanta.
Memorial and honorarium cards were recently updated to feature a watercolor illustration of a tree, donated by a local artist. The message on the memorial card notes that a donation to the Living Legacy Fund for tree planting has been made in the recipient’s name. The honorarium card announces that a tree will be planted in the recipient’s honor. All three cards include Trees Atlanta’s mission and contact information. Trees planted under this program are not specifically identified or marked.
Trees Atlanta markets the cards in a variety of ways. The greatest success has come from tapping into its membership and customer base. Each November a holiday tree greeting card solicitation letter with an order form is sent to everyone in Trees Atlanta’s database. This list currently has approximately 8,500 persons.
In addition, the organization actively engages its corporate partners and board members in marketing the cards. Every year the board of directors challenges each of its 25 members to buy five cards and send them to prominent local residents. Several corporate partners advertise the cards on their websites and in internal emails to their staff.
Trees Atlanta also issues a press release each fall to local media outlets, including neighborhood newsletters. In 2001, a volunteer for Trees Atlanta developed a press list and timeline for developing and marketing the cards. The same volunteer explored options for offering the cards online.
After evaluating various internet options, Trees Atlanta decided to offer cards online at its website ( and to use a third-party site,, for the financial part of the operation to ensure security for buyers. Transaction costs are $1.95 per card.
Holiday cards are also available at certain retail outlets in the area, including REI and Patagonia.
Costs and staffing
Trees Atlanta estimates that approximately 20 percent, or $5, of every $25 gift card contribution goes toward administrative costs. This includes the cards, envelopes, postage, staff time and website transaction cost (of approximately $1.95 per transaction). As a result, for program support in 2006, Trees Atlanta netted approximately $73,600 from $92,000 in card sales.
Tree Atlanta’s holiday/memorial/honorarium gift card has grown consistently over the last decade. In 1998, the first year all three cards were offered, Trees Atlanta raised $46,000, selling 1,840 cards.
In 2006, Trees Atlanta raised $92,000 through this program and planted 3,680 trees. This represented the sale of 1,680 holiday cards and approximately 1,000 memorial cards and 1,000 honorarium cards.
Buyers often donate more than the $25 minimum contribution required for each card.
In addition to raising much-needed revenue for the program, the cards have raised the visibility of Tree Atlanta throughout the metro area.
1. Keep it simple. Do not promise too much. Trees Atlanta found it was better not to designate a specific tree or location for donations. This can lead to logistical problems, including recipients worrying about the health of their specific tree. Placing tree markers and cataloging trees planted also requires staff time and often requires approval of local municipalities.
2. Stay on track with the programs and mission of your organization. First ask yourself if the cards support your existing programs or create a new one. Be clear on how the cards fit into your existing organizational structure and staffing.
3. Market the card program as a unique gift option to people who are not already your members. Holiday cards are especially attractive as a gift for the person who has everything or as a client appreciation gift. Mid-size firms that serve business clients in the local area (legal, accounting, etc.) are good targets for outreach.
4. The card program is not “one size fits all.” Each organization should tailor the card program to best promote its strengths and achieve its goals.
For example, a number of organizations in the NeighborWoods Network have similar programs but tailor them for their specific needs. These organizations include TreePeople (Los Angeles), Friends of the Urban Forest (San Francisco), The Park People (Denver), Friends of Trees (Portland), Trees for Houston (Houston), and Shreveport Green (Shreveport, La.).
Although these programs share many similarities, they also have local variations. For example, TreePeople offers certificates for people buying a grove of six trees as well as cards for those who buy just one. Friends of Trees invite all who purchase or receive commemorative trees to plant trees at their annual commemorative planting. The Park People allows individuals to buy engraved bricks for its Tribute Garden.
Likewise, pricing varies from program to program. The key is to design the program with your organization’s specific needs and goals in mind.
5. Make sure that the card design and message have broad appeal. Trees Atlanta solicits feedback from several different sources, including volunteers and corporate sponsors, on the design and message of its cards. The cards should be nonpartisan and nonsectarian.
6. Work with people who already support your mission and organization when you promote the cards. Your current supporters are often your best advocates. Find out how they can help you publicize and market the cards.
7. The benefits of the cards go beyond the revenue raised. They are an excellent way to introduce the community to your mission, which often results in additional contributions of time and money.
Related Resources:
Greeting Card Letter (PDF)
Order Form (PDF)
Contact Information:
Cheryl Kortemeier, Director of Communications/Administration
Joe Staley, Membership Manager
Trees Atlanta
225 Chester Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30316-1205
Fax: 404-681-3927
(c) 2007 Alliance for Community Trees