[INTERVIEW] How One Tree Planted is Marketing Environmental Conservation
One Tree Planted is a nonprofit organization based in Vermont. A relatively new organization, OTP’s mission is to drive reforestation efforts and promote awareness and education about the importance of trees for our planet and future generations. Its service is simple but powerful: for every dollar donated, OTP plants a tree in a specific location in the world that needs support.
We spoke with Matt Hill, founder of OTP, about how he approaches branding, marketing, and fundraising to rally supporters around the organization’s environmental cause.
How did One Tree Planted get its start?
I was a sales rep for Eco-Products, the largest manufacturer of food packaging disposables. I met with Directors of Sustainability for grocery stores, businesses, even individuals. Over the last 4 or 5 years, I found that people were wishing they could more for the environment, but they wondered what percentage of their donations were actually going to the cause. They also wanted to do the help themselves.
Add that to the fact that most people just don’t realize how important trees are to the environment. They sequester carbon from the atmosphere, clean the air, supply clean water, and provide habitats for 80% of species on planet. So, I came up with the idea for One Tree Planted. Give a dollar, plant a tree. We make it simple for people to do more for the environment.
What sets OTP apart from other environmental organizations?
We want to make it simpler and more straightforward for people to help the environment, while having the hands-on experience of doing it themselves. To differentiate ourselves, we focus on:
How do you approach fundraising and getting supporters engaged in an environmental cause, like planting trees?
When I ask people to get involved, the number one question I get asked is, “How do I know my trees are being planted?” Educating supporters and simplifying the process is key. As for OTP, the UN hosts the Billion Tree Campaign, which is planting 12 billion trees. We work with different NGO’s within the UN’s environmental program, and they’re the experts in the field helping us plant the trees in different regions around the world.
As for rallying people around our mission – in short, we’re storytellers.
When I ask people to plant a tree and help the environment, they want to know where their tree is being planted. That’s why we offer 4 different regions from which to choose and rotate: North America, South America, Asia, and Africa. We then develop stories centered on each location and its respective need for attention. For instance, trees are needed in Asia – specifically Indonesia – for palm oil. We’ll develop a story around the universal importance of palm oil, and then maybe the donor will decide they want to plant a tree in Indonesia after learning how integral this resource is in their life.
What marketing or branding tools are you using to enhance your storytelling capabilities?
We’re creating a lot of cool videos. Most videos about the environment can be monotone and unexciting, so to differentiate our style and content, we’re creating dynamic 3-minute videos that capture why forests are so important to our ecosystem.
More importantly, we’ll be telling the different stories of species and resources pertaining to different regions. So when a donor finds out the particular region where their tree will be planted, they’ll know exactly the specific species they’re helping to protect.
As a young nonprofit, what marketing channels are you using to build visibility for OTP and raise awareness for environmental preservation?
OTP’s Reforestation Campaign is looking to plant 1 million trees in 2014. Do you have any upcoming smaller projects, or specific approaches, to help you hit this goal?
It’s a lofty goal, but I believe we can do it! We have 3 main approaches to meeting our campaign goal:
- SCHOOLS. The university/student demographic is really engaged. They are the grassroots movement. In September, we will be going to different universities in North America, especially those with sustainability programs and associations, and we’ll be hosting a contest to see which school can plant the most trees. The winning students will win a two-week trip to Costa Rica to study one of the most environmentally protected areas in the world.
- BUSINESSES. Many businesses have a corporate social responsibility and would like to do more. We want to give businesses the opportunity to plant 25,000 trees, 50,000 trees, or however many they want, and we will provide the turnkey solution for the company. They can then have tangible results and know they’re planting X number of trees, providing employment, sequestering carbon, and helping the ecosystem.
- INDIVIDUALS. This approach will happen organically as individuals get involved, numbers build up, and our brand builds.
At the end of the day, we want to make it as simple and straightforward for people to do more the environment. By branding and marketing OTP’s cause and directly involving supporters, we believe we can make this happen.
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Image Credit: Mr Tin DC