Kankakee River Chapter Pioneers Success

Kankakee committee bird house

In spite of Covid-19 limiting its options, an Illinois Delta Waterfowl chapter perseveres to meet its fundraising goals.

BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA —Mask mandates, social distancing, venue capacity restrictions and outright prohibitions on public gatherings have hamstrung conservation fundraising efforts in 2020. Yet great organizations with excellent leadership and dedicated volunteers find a way to succeed.

The Kankakee Delta Waterfowl Chapter is a shining example.

Coming off a record-setting year for attendance and fundraising with their 2019 banquet, 16-year veteran Kankakee chairman Eric Weber and his committee were excited about prospects for their 2020 event in September. But by June, it became clear that COVID-19 restrictions in Illinois would prevent an in-person event.

Weber said, “At that point we had a meeting and said, ‘Okay, what do we want to do here? Are we going to do the bare minimum and make this year a wash or do we do something to live up to our commitment to Delta?’ To the credit of all my committee members, they said, ‘No. We committed to this. Let’s do something creative and make it work.’”

The result exceeded the Kankakee chapter’s goals, raising $20,000 in net revenue for Delta, with more than 200 members participating in a virtual event.

“This achievement took tremendous planning, dedication and hard work, said Brian Moyse, Delta’s regional director for Illinois. “On top of that, they’ve pioneered a successful game plan for other chapters to use. I couldn’t be prouder to work with these guys.”

Weber and his team recognized replacing the in-person event with a virtual event would take more planning. They elected to move it to the second week of October to give them more time. Sending invitations, for example, is normally handled by Delta’s Bismarck, North Dakota, headquarters, but Weber knew to be successful the chapter committee would have to be hands-on when selling tickets, promoting and explaining the new event.

The committee decided to split the regular event package into two, 15-prize raffle groups — one for regular members and one for sponsors. They sold memberships and sponsorships, and used the membership cards as raffle tickets.

“We are really fortunate our membership here is fantastic,” Weber said. “I’d say 90 percent of the people were on board, and we had no complaints from anybody.”

The chapter normally sells regular membership for $50, but this year raised the price to $100.

“We were sure upping the price to $100 wouldn’t be a big deal, and it definitely wasn’t,” Weber said. “We kept our sponsorship price at the same $225 as usual, and we actually picked up 10 new sponsors by doing it this way.”

To comply with COVID-19 restrictions, the virtual event took place at a local firearm dealer’s store with just a few committee members present. Winners were drawn and called, and arrangements were made for them to pick up their prizes.

In facing the reality of the pandemic, the chapter had hoped to make $10,000 to $15,000 for Delta, but their efforts netted more than $20,000.

Weber credits the success to outstanding members and his dedicated, hard-working committee. He also applauds Moyse and Scott Terning, Delta’s regional manager of event fundraising, for their faith in letting the chapter test this new path.

“They had the trust in us to let us do what we wanted and take a flyer on something like this,” Weber said. “When I brought this idea up to them, they said, ‘Man, you’re right on. Let’s see how this works.’”

Moyse, and all of Delta Waterfowl, applaud the efforts of the Kankakee Chapter.

“Eric (Weber) and his guys pioneered a blueprint for success that other Delta chapters can call on to create more success and continue to set the bar higher and higher,” Moyse said. “I’m so excited that the Kankakee chapter broke this new path.” — Bill Miller

To become a member of Delta Waterfowl today, call (888) 987-3695 or visit deltawaterfowl.org/memberships.