Working with the Olympic Games to Plant Trees

When a Major Event Comes to Your Town- Part 1 of 3
(Atlanta, GA)- Goals, results, and funding differ depending on local and state priorities and the sports organizations involved. When Atlanta hosted the 1996 Olympic Games, Trees Atlanta helped secure $4.5 million from public and private sources to plant approximately 2,000 trees in the areas surrounding the Olympic Games. If you visit downtown Atlanta today, you’ll see the dramatic legacy of the Olympic tree planting campaign.

Category: Partnerships
Although you might not associate trees with sports, the arrival of a major sports event to your city can mean an opportunity for significant tree planting. Several organizations that are members of the Alliance for Community Trees have partnered with major league sports and the Olympics to plant trees to beautify the areas surrounding the events or to offset the increased greenhouse emissions resulting from the events.
When Trees Atlanta learned in 1991 that the 1996 Olympic Games were going to be held in Atlanta it immediately sprung into action. Already in the business of planting trees downtown, Trees Atlanta gathered a team of landscape contractors and landscape architects to establish an inventory of every spot in the Olympic ring downtown that needed trees. This inventory was instrumental in helping Trees Atlanta advocate for federal and private monies to fund the plantings.
Working with congressional staff, local corporations and foundations, Trees Atlanta assisted in raising $4.5 million that was used to plant 2,000 trees along the Olympic corridors and venues. Approximately half of the money came from federal funds and the other half from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, an Atlanta funder. Although original plans called for these trees to be planted on public land, they were planted on private property and private parking lots because of issues with city permits that would have caused significant delays.
The funds allowed Trees Atlanta to purchase the trees, hire landscape architects to develop the plan and engage landscape contractors to do the planting. The funds also allowed for administrative costs.
Since many companies want to be associated with the Olympic Games, Trees Atlanta also used this opportunity to get sponsors for other small green spaces near the Olympic venues. For example, they received $100,000 from Chevrolet for a tree planting project in a nearby park.
1. Pay attention and know what is going on in your locality. Trees Atlanta was able to get in on the ground floor for Olympic planning because it already had a reputation for working on beautification issues and was cognizant of what was being planned.
2. Ask for what you want. Back your request with specific information and a strategic plan. Pay attention to “how” you ask.
3. Network, network, network. Get as much buy-in from as many people and organizations as you can. The business community and congressional staff can be especially helpful.
4. Utilize the expertise and connections of your board members.
5. Cultivate the media.
6. Take “before” and “after” photos, slides and videos. Organizations often remember to take the “after” but forget the “before” pictures. These will be extremely valuable to your organization in subsequent fund-raising efforts.
7. Do not forget to budget for overhead costs.
8. Remember to thank your partners, your supporters and the media. Written thank-you notes are essential.
9. Know your capacity. Although it is important to dream big, have some humility about what you can do and what you know.
10. Plan as early as you can and be flexible. Allow for many contingencies. Not everything works out or comes to fruition.
11. Choose your battles.
Contact Information:
Marcia Bansley, Executive Director
Trees Atlanta
225 Chester Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30316-1205
Fax: (404)681-3927