Exiting Through the Gift Shop: Using Interpretive Principles to Strengthen the Park Store

Telling the story of your conservation, wildlife, or park non-profit is critical work.

Storytelling can include a wide range of activities: interpretation, outreach, communications, nurturing donors, engagement, development, and more. Ultimately, they all funnel into one significant opportunity to connect your message with audiences at your organization’s gift shop or store.

Stores provide an important and often critical source of funding for parks, zoos, museums, education travel, nature centers, aquaria, botanical gardens, conservation organizations, and historical sites. The products sold must be meaningful so they allow for emotional and intellectual connections to be made (think interpretation) and is key to communicating why your organization’s mission is important.

How can store products be strengthened through interpretation?

Here are six principles of interpretation developed by Freeman Tilden and re-stated by Larry Beck and Ted Cable in their book, “The Gift of Interpretation.” I’ve included questions to ask when thinking if a product is appropriate for your audience/store.

To learn more about Interpretation visit the National Association for Interpretation online, www.interpnet.com.

Article originally published June 2014; updated November 2020.

The Nature Nonprofit’s Most Important Audience: Job Seekers

Prospective employees are a nonprofits most important audience – even more important than donors. Why? This group of people is genuinely excited about what your organization does. And they want to work for you – to help you succeed. Dismiss or treat them badly at your own peril. Applicants understand they might not be selected for a position, but they do want their time and efforts acknowledged. Here are 2 simple steps that can help –

Respect the Applicant’s Time on the Front End

Set expectations that you respect an applicant’s time up front. Give them information about how long the effort might take and when you plan on making a decision. If you’re not able to respond to each applicant, say that. Doing so shows professionalism, and allows the job seeker to move on after a specific date. Here’s some sample text to use on your website or the job description:

“We anticipate a high number of applicants for this position and we will not be able to respond to each application. We will be contacting first-round applicants the week of [date] to conduct initial phone interviews. We understand that your time is important and we thank everyone for their hard work in submitting an application.”

If the position will be open for an extended time, say that too. If the hiring process will take 6 months, also say that. A little information goes a long way for all involved.

Respect Their Effort

Obviously, not everyone who applies for a job gets the position, and communicating bad news to a number of people can be very awkward. How can this be handled well?

Here is a classy response to a “you’re not hired” situation; it respects the job seekers effort while being empathetic. Responding to applicants with an email might cost your organization 1 hour of time, but what might you get from these people in the long term? I came across this several years ago; edit it as needed for your organization:

Good afternoon.

I greatly appreciate your interest in private lands conservation and the [Name of Organization] in particular. Including yours, we received [# of applications] very strong applications for the [Name of Position]. Unfortunately, our hiring team has not included your application in the next round of consideration.

I apologize for the anonymity of the response; in the past, I have always tried to contact each applicant with this news directly, but the good fortune of having many applicants makes that logistically difficult for me this time around.

Hopefully, the quick turnaround on the outcome is at least some consolation. From experience I know that it is very trying to be left hanging about a position, wondering for a long time about the hiring process.

I hope you will continue to pursue career opportunities that further the protection of clean water, fish and wildlife habitat, and special lands; no shortage of work to be done along those lines.

Thanks again for your time, the effort you put into your application, and your interest in the work of the [Name of Organization].

Best wishes,

[First Name of Executive Director]

This empathetic response leaves the door open for a future relationship by acknowledging the applicant’s time and efforts. It also shows that your organization is run by humans who care about the nonprofit’s mission.

Job seekers want to work for your organization and help your mission succeed – what better group of supporters is there? Don’t undervalue this great audience. Always communicate effectively, if possible at the front end of the hiring process and show empathy.

An Affordable and Easy Way to Measure Nature Advocacy Events

blog-2015-10-09-img-01When I ask conservation advocacy organizations – and I’ve talked to a lot of them – about how they measure the success of their events and campaigns I what to hear numbers. I generally hear that the events were “OK,” or “well attended,” or that they just “don’t know.” I find this frightening because the organization is spending time and money, which they cannot justify. How do they know if their outreach and advocacy are really working?

For $3 and change, you can start your organization on a path to better information; that is with a crowd-clicker (aka a tally counter).

As an example, last year I volunteered at a local arboretum’s annual festival. Attending were 4,000 people who were ecologically minded and happy to be outside in the rain no less. It was a great audience for the sponsor and the other conservation nonprofits that were onsite. Of the 12 nonprofits, I asked about how many people had stopped by their booths; 11 booths had no clue, though some of those groups did have an email sign-up form.

One booth gave me a great answer,

“284 visited her booth, 63 signed-up for the email, she had great conversations with 24 who wanted to come to future events – half of those half wanted information about next month’s meeting, and 8 wanted more information about volunteering.”

It was a great answer that she can take back to her boss and use the data as a baseline for next year’s event. Her secret for knowing the 284 count was that she used a crowd-clicker, and she diligently documented the rest.

At the end of the day I checked in with her again, she had shared her organization’s message with 400 people; that is 10% of the event’s attendance!

I get it, nonprofits are stretched for resources, but do yourself a favor, get a crowd clicker. Start measuring your events.

How to Create Identity Guidelines for the Nature Nonprofit

Outdoor and nature organizations often encounter a drifting of their message; over time their imagery, colors, and fonts can appear differently across different media. This causes confusion for your supporters and donors – don’t disappoint them, stay on message – use Identity Guidelines (also known as a ‘Style Guide’).

Identity Guidelines are the design elements that serve as your organization’s visual signature, this can include: graphics, colors, and typography.

Creating such a document is often a time-consuming endeavor; it doesn’t have to be, use my free example to help your organization stay on target with your visual signature.

>> Download My Identity Guidelines Example PDF

Related: Learn about how to properly use trademark and copyright symbols in your nonprofit.

Stop Selling: Tips for How Nature Nonprofits Can Strengthen Outreach Programs

earthNature nonprofits wrestle with an everyday problem, how do they get their message out to the public? Many struggle with this challenge.

This article can help. For an eco-organization to communicate their message it will involve creating development and marketing strategies, investing in the organization’s infrastructure, and most of all will require you to stop “selling” your message.

A common outreach practice for many organizations is to “sell” their message to potential supporters. Methods to “sell” are based on casting a wide net in the hope of capturing one or two donors, and can include activities such as: attending a generic event and handing out fliers to hundreds of passersby; opening the phone book and randomly calling multiple businesses; or by knocking on doors, then the second, and the third, etc. These activities are NOT outreach; these are the poor uses of time, money, and resources, they are known by un-glamorous names: “shotgunning,” “cold calling,” and “door-to-door.”

All of us have casually ignored the person handing out leaflets at an event, felt ire when interrupted by a sales phone call, and closed the door on door-to-door salesmen. In such a setting where people selling a message are so easily dismissed, what is a nonprofit to do?

Part of the problem comes from thinking of outreach as a function of sales. To be more productive nonprofits must differentiate between outreach and sales.

Know Where Outreach Ends and Sales Begins

Outreach and sales are different; never confuse the two as being the same thing.

Outreach includes all of the engagement activities that you do in your work to help create an emotional connection with the donor. Outreach continues up the point where you ask a donor to cross a decision threshold, the moment where you ask for them to commit to your product/services in the form of time or money; aka “asking for the sale.”

This is where the art of sales begins. Sales include activities that are about helping your donor to cross that decision threshold. This might include some negotiation. Moving over the threshold should only occur after a period of nurturing and trust has been crafted.

That’s where nonprofits run into problems, they beg for money by shotgunning, cold calling and using door-to-door tactics, methods that push donors across a decision threshold they are not yet ready to cross. Donors don’t want to be forced into a decision; they want engagement.

To be successful in your outreach, all of your engagement work must have one foot in development (building relationships) and the other foot in marketing (helping the donor to succeed in what they want to do); first let’s look at development.

One Foot in Development

Your outreach program should have one foot firmly planted in a development strategy.
Development (also known as fundraising) is about developing relationships, hence the name. Would you take your sick child to someone who claims to be a healer, or hires someone who claims to be qualified for a job, or gets married without knowing more? No, you would develop some type of relationship first; maybe the relationship is just informational or is about common interests or something more compelling like shared goals. Nonprofit donors need a healthy relationship based on a compelling message, time, and trust before they will even think about helping your cause financially.

The Other Foot in Marketing

Marketing is about helping people (donors) succeed in what they want to do.

I like a plan that is SMART: Sensible, Measurable, Affordable, Relevant and Timely. All SMART plans should include real human elements of storytelling, seeks a collaborative solution, and have a desire for mission success.

A marketing strategy will help with: forecasting lead opportunities such as events, field trips, webinars, and other campaigns; integrated planning, identifying audience opportunities, creating organizational identity guidelines (fonts, colors), utilizing automation tools for engaging and nurturing leads, qualifying potential donors, and measuring the results for improvement. Marketing is not about glitz, glamour, or arts and crafts; marketing really is a lot of unflattering work as working with spreadsheets, web site automation, studying data, and measuring results against goals. Marketing actions should always support the generation of revenue.

Communicating an organization’s outreach message without a foundation in development and marketing is deadly; to survive and thrive your organization needs to embrace essential technology and create measurable processes.

The Essentials of Successful Outreach

A great outreach program needs a robust infrastructure to maximize success; best of all, these suggestions can support your entire organization. Here are some essential elements:

  • Utilization of an industry-leading database (like ‘Salesforce’ with a ‘Classy’ web skin for marketing activities). NOTE: of all the tools needed by a nonprofit a quality database should be the number one priority. Your mission is critical to good data that can be segmented and reports generated. Invest in a good database; used effectively it is an investment that pays returns many times over.
  • The Outreach Manager/Specialist must “own” or at least have access to the database..
  • A well-defined marketing/development strategy for the entire organization.
  • An outreach plan that is SMART:
    • Sensible.
    • Measurable
    • Affordable
    • Relevant
    • Timely
  • A plan for a nurturing campaign via email, snail mail, social media etc. that allows people who are interested in your organization, but not ready to engage, to remain aware of your message on a weekly or monthly basis.
  • Use of more inbound vs. outbound marketing tools, such as using a blog to tell your story and use of social media tools as LinkedIn and Facebook.
  • Marketing call-to-actions on your website that allow you to “capture” the email addresses of interested people (like signing up for a newsletter), a big “Donate Now” button/form so you can collect donations, ways to signup for events, webinars, download an information sheet, etc.
  • Strong use of Board Members’ business/community relationships to help generate new contacts and strengthen relationships.
  • Create defined and well-told stories about your organization that communicates:
    • How did you start?
    • What are your impacts?
    • What are your values?
    • How are you improving?
    • Where are you going?
  • The will to move forward by the organization’s leadership.

Outreach is not about “selling,” it’s about engagement. Quality engagement comes from jettisoning outdated ideas, identifying solid marketing and development strategies, and investing in modern infrastructure to accomplish your outreach goals. Only then can outreach truly and successfully communicate your organization’s important mission.

How to Improve the Nature Nonprofit’s Development Strategy

I once worked with an environmental nonprofit who appeared to have their fundraising (development) act together: they had a bulletproof strategy, multiple income sources for generating funds, great people, a solid database plus the skills to use it effectively; but they were still coming up short. What was wrong? The organization was reluctant to embrace what is at the core of fundraising – the art and skills of sales.

“Yuk!” you say. Believe me, I understand the revulsion to sales. Sales are often associated with a sleazy or annoying person that pressures others into spending money on things they do not want or cannot afford. Sadly, we have all experienced this sinister side of sales when purchasing a car, which leaves the purchaser mentally frustrated, physically exhausted, and feeling emotionally cheated.

The true art of salesmanship is not about cheating anyone, it is about common goals; for a nonprofit, these goals help donors achieve something that is emotionally fulfilling, and that helps to further your organization’s mission.

The primary skill that nonprofits need help with is actually asking for money. Many people are timid about this, but to close-the-loop on all of your hard work, you must ask.

A frustrated donor once said to me,

“I love this organization, they do fantastic work, but my time is important. Whether I am wined and dined at a gala, or attend a small event, I know that at some point I will be asked to make a donation, and I’m OK with that. But too often they don’t ask. I am given hints and suggestions about writing a check, but never a direct request. … To me it’s about respect – for me personally; for my time – my money. If I‘m not asked directly, I either give less than I should, or I just don’t donate.”

Just remember that asking for money is not about you; it is about asking for money to help the nonprofit – an important mission that needs funding to succeed.

Do not be afraid to ask donors for financial help. The process of mastering the art of skills of sales takes time, be patient, do your homework, and when the time is right, ask.

How Not to be a Turkey in Nonprofit Development

Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to introduce the turkey-ideas of nonprofit development; ideas frequently held by small organizations about raising money that could be considered as “bird-brained.”

When I started helping nonprofits with fundraising strategies I was surprised at how many became uncomfortable when the topic of raising money was mentioned. After introducing the subject I felt that some social pleasantry had been violated; like an obnoxious relative who talks about a sensitive subject during the Thanksgiving feast. It was obvious that just asking about money had struck a raw nerve. I understood the frustration but needed to know more about the source of their angst.

When I politely inquired about why the subject of fundraising was viewed negatively these same three reasons appeared across multiple organizations:

  • Money was seen as contrary to the nonprofit’s mission – they are, after all, a nonprofit organization
  • Making money was viewed as a shameful act
  • Money reflected everything that is wrong with society

I always felt these fear-of-money reasons were turkeys, ideas incongruous with the hard work these organizations were attempting to accomplish. So I created a more profitable interpretation of these concerns. Here they are:

  • Money is not contrary to an organization’s mission, rather it is the lifeblood that supports programs, public engagement activities, and helps to communicate the nonprofit’s important mission. Money is needed for the success of an organization.
  • Making money is not shameful; money is neither good or bad, how it is used should be the focus. What is shameful is not allowing an organization’s mission to thrive.
  • Money is not reflective of everything that is wrong with society. Yes, greed and financial inequality exist in society, but these issues are distractions in the conversation. Rather, focus on how your organization views money – see money as potential energy. Then ask, how can this energy be harnessed?

One final thought: we have all heard that money does not grow on trees. True. Money is not easy to come by because it must be earned with patience even creativity – to think otherwise would be a turkey. Happy Thanksgiving!

Image: Missouri State Archives

What are the Three Poltergeists of Nature Nonprofit Marketing and How can They Be Exorcised?

Halloween is a great time to write about the three dangerous poltergeists of nature nonprofit marketing. At first, these spooks might appear as harmless annoyances but left to fester these poltergeists can poison and eventually kill your environmental nonprofit. What are these three marketing poltergeists and how can they be exorcized?

Poltergeist #1: Stopping New Leads

The first poltergeist thrives when you stop developing new leads.

New leads must flow into your nonprofit to grow support, expand your donor base, and replace former members that did not renew. This flow of leads must be continual for your organization to remain vibrant. Sure, there will be ups and downs in the numbers, but the leads must flow and you must always have a solid plan to bring in new leads.

When an organization stops lead generation activities a poltergeist will take up residence at your nonprofit; without new leads, programs will diminish, community involvement will atrophy, and the mission will starve.

Exorcize this fury before it makes a home. Always have a marketing plan that is forward facing, engaging, and will bring in high-quality leads.

Poltergeist #2: Trivializing Your Audience

The second poltergeist revels when your audience is trivialized.

Recently the development director of an environmental nonprofit mentioned her organization was not attending a celebrated annual community event because “it always had the same people and they would just be preaching to the choir.” I was momentarily stunned because she was missing a superb low-hanging-fruit moment for engaging with donors and nurturing future members. It was obvious the second evil spirit, the trivializing your audience poltergeist, haunted this nonprofit.

The event was a community favorite; with attendance over 3,500 people each year it had a well-attended history dating back over three decades. The audience was passionate about environmental issues and very much in line with the nonprofit’s mission. The event cost nothing for the nonprofit to attend, and offered direct contact with individuals from ages 1 to 100 with attendance weighted toward retired folks. The only investment for this organization was setting up a tabletop display, 8 hours of time from a staff member or volunteer, and any communications they chose to send. This was a low investment, high engagement opportunity to interact with a receptive audience and nurture future donors/members.

At the end of the day the nonprofit had passed up an opportunity to shake hands with 350 individuals; half being new leads and who signed up for an e-newsletter. Plus there were two dozen new volunteer signups. (Source: Results from similar nonprofits who attended the event.)

So why did the “preaching to the choir” nonprofit not attend? Because they were not interested in the life experiences of the people who would be most receptive to their message – they had trivialized their audience. When your audience is trivialized you open the door to a poltergeist that will create havoc and confusion within your organization.

Exorcize this demon by not just working for your mission, but working toward your mission; be involved in what your supporters are interested in, be a part of their life experiences.

Poltergeist #3: Being Unresponsive

The third poltergeist is nourished by nonprofits that are unresponsive.

If a person knocks on your door, makes a phone call, or emails about participating in your nonprofit you should answer, right? Sadly, many organizations do not respond. Just from my own experiences, I have been repeatedly disappointed by unresponsive nonprofits.

When an organization is unresponsive it tells the interested person they are not important, it also says your organization does not care about the mission. The frightening part is that the poltergeist does not move into your office, it moves into the mind of the individual. When that person wants to write a check to help a good cause, will they think of the non-responsive nonprofit? Yes, but they will write a check to your competitor.

Exorcize this phantasm from your operations by being diligent about responding to those who are interested in your cause.

Banish this trio of frightening poltergeists away from your nonprofit by keeping the flow of leads open, be engaged with your audience, and always be responsive to people who are interested in your mission.

Cleaning Up the Nature Nonprofit’s Outreach and Communication Files

Your organization’s outreach and communications should be treated like gold.

Everything that your organization produces: brochures, fliers, fact sheets, signage, trade show booth layouts, newsletters, volunteer materials, signage, web content, graphics, emails, and even social media messaging has the ability to-

  • Reveal the story about your cause,
  • Encourage others to learn more, and
  • Inspire people into action.

All of your outreach and communications are valuable assets that need to be protected and organized. Sadly, many good organizations do not manage their assets proactively.

Have you ever seen files kept like this? Organizing files in this “I’ll get to it later” approach can be a real mess.

Let me say, “I get it.” I completely understand; when the office is busy, the phone is ringing, and there are multiple interruptions the various revisions, edits, changes, and updates to the project you are working on can get the better of you. It is easy for well-intentioned work to become a chaotic mess.
There is an easier way…

Below is the structure I use for keeping design projects organized.


First, structure all of the brochures, factsheets, fliers etc. into Collateral folders. This makes organizing all of the various projects easier to manage. Collateral is a catchall term for items the public will see.

Then list by Project, in this case, let’s look at the “Flier 2014 Big Event.”

Highest within the “Flier 2014 Big Event” directory is the _Inputs folder; this includes all of the requirements for the project. Note the “_” underscore, to have this folder automatically appear at the top of your alphabetized folder tree add an underscore before the name. This helps a great deal in keeping folders organized into a logical flow.

Next is the Assets folder. This holds all of the images and any related design elements.

The Business folder is all of the proposals, pricing info, quotes, and schedules that you might need to reference quickly.

The Design folder is where I house the graphics files and their revisions. In the example are 3 Adobe Illustrator (AI) files, after the name is the date 140528 (2014, May 28) and there were 3 versions, with #3 being the most recent. I display the date with the year first, numeric month, then a numeric day because after several months/years of collecting files this is an easy way to view what is most current. The notes.txt file is one of the most powerful files in your design arsenal because you can document important changes, and include notes about why something was done, or who might have requested a big change.

The Production folder contains the final, print-ready files of your work. Label the final version with the completion date and the word “final.” If the project is going to a professional printer I also include a readme.txt file that includes information the printer will find helpful.

NOTE: You do not need to display the date as I have, include hyphens, or keep the file names in lower text; this is my personal style – do what works best for you. What is important is that you are consistent with how you name and organize your work so that it can be an asset for your organization. I hope this helps.

What Can the Man-With-No-Name Teach Your Environmental Nonprofit About Marketing?

Imagine that you are visiting the desert. You have come to this hot and dry place to spend some time in nature, let your mind become centered, and hopefully obtain some clarity about how to market your good cause.

On the horizon, a shimmering apparition appears in the mid-day heat. As the form walks confidently in your direction you begin to see that he is scruffy and rough appearance. He stops, lowers his head and slowly lights the end of a stubby cigar. His steely eyes glare at you from underneath the hat’s rim. You know him from the movies, he is the Man with No Name!

He spits on the ground.

It must the heat or the lack of water, for you know this is not a real man, but a movie character, right? A shiver runs down your spine and your heart pumps faster then you begin to shake at the knees. Are you scared or excited? A gnawing sensation in your gut wants you to run like a deer while another part of you wants his autograph. You shouldn’t be afraid since he is a good guy …sort of.

What makes him such an emotional force? You have to know, your inner marketer suddenly takes over and you stand your ground. You quickly study him, and make a mental list of his tangible and intangible qualities:

Tangibles Intangibles
  • his no-name name
  • cold gaze
  • cigar stub
  • ragged poncho
  • pistol
  • dirty
  • independence
  • doggedness
  • scary-as-hell
  • underdog
  • hero

It takes all of these things to make the Man with No Name brand successful.

He looks at you from under the brim of his brown hat and says in a dusty voice,

“My brand isn’t about finding gold, or shootin’ bad guys, it’s about the intangibles! That’s my true self – that is the true treasure of my brand. Everyone looks badass out here in the West; badass is a commodity, the intangibles are the true product.”

That gets you to thinking… too often marketers of good causes only focus on the tangibles (the physical aspects) of their brand: the logo, design, layout, images, signage, content, the website etc.

Once again the Marketer with No Name speaks, “The brands that survive in this harsh world are the ones that people can relate to both in their mind and heart.”

A rattlesnake slides nearby. He spits again hitting it squarely on the head, the snake retreats.

You think about what he said. Marketers do often overlook the true product which is the message that people should take home in their hearts.

He chews on the stub of his cigar then turns away. The wind blows around him making his ends of his grubby poncho wave erratically. He walks to the horizon and soon becomes an unrecognizable form, then his image disappears among the shimmering waves of rising heat.

You think you understand…sometimes marketers of good causes focus only on the brand’s appearance: a logo, colors, typefaces, business cards, web site, or flyers; but, a brand is not just these physical things, a brand must include consistent products and services such as a positive attitude, behavior, enthusiasm, quality of product selection, and engaging programs. All of these things together reinforce the entire brand.

It is time to leave. As you return to your good cause, you think about how to weave together the tangible and intangible elements so your messaging will be memorable. This is how a brand survives and thrives within a harsh world.

Trademark Basics for Nature Nonprofits

As an environmental nonprofit marketer, you need to know about copyrights, trademarks, and patents. You do not need to be an expert, but you need to understand their correct use and when they should be applied. …Not knowing can cost you and your organization.

For example, your boss approaches you; she says that within the budget are funds for a new outdoor sign featuring your organization’s logo. You have a non-registered trademark, but you are not sure what this means. Which of these symbols might you use?


If you are not sure, it’s OK, a lot of people are confused by this-

One California nonprofit, responsible for visitor services at a prominent park, was also confused by how to present their trademark. During a well attended public event, I asked the Executive Director about the Circle R symbol next to their name, as I had not seen it displayed this way previously. He pointed back to the logo and said, “Oh, yeah the patent, we recently added that.” I politely asked him to clarify “the patent.” His organization was using the wrong trademark symbol with the logo, plus he did not call it by the proper name. I do not know if the mistake cost the organization financially, but it was embarrassing.

Such mistakes occur at for-profit companies too. After a tech firm had moved to a new two-story office in Silicon Valley, a new street sign was manufactured at a price upwards of $10,000 dollars. In a rush to finish-the-job, an admin ordered the sign and the incorrect trademark symbol, a “TM” was used on the sign when a “Circle-R” was needed. The oversight demonstrated that internal processes had not been followed and because of expense the error remained on the sign for several years.

Don’t make these same mistakes; here are some basics about copyrights, trademarks, and patents to avoid such confusion.

The Registered Trademark


A trademark is a sign or design used in association with a product or service. The Circle-R demonstrates the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has recognized your trademark being used in the pursuit of commerce.

Organizations and groups obtain the Circle-R to differentiate and better protect their identity from other products or brands. After you have been recognized by the USPTO, and you need to go to court to protect your brand, your case will be significantly strengthened.

You should never use the Circle-R if the USPTO has not registered your trademark. To do so could invite possible legal headaches – don’t do it.

I will go into depth about how a grassroots organization can navigate the process for obtaining a registered trademark in another article. For now, know that if the government has not recognized you as being the owner of the trademark you should not use the Circle-R.

The Trademark:


The “TM” is also used with a sign or design associated with a product or service, but which has not officially been recognized by the USPTO.

For grassroots environmental groups using the “TM” is the easiest way to proceed until your organization is more mature.

It is a good idea to keep a record of when you first associated the TM with your product or service. You will need this information if you apply eventually for the Circle-R registration. Also, you will need this if you ever have to go to court to defend your use of the trademark.

Note: There is a type of trademark called a service mark “SM”, this is reserved for services and is not being discussed here.

The Copyright:


Using a “Circle-C” with your logo is incorrect – never use it!

A Circle-C represents copyright.

A copyright is used for original works, like books, videos, music or other creative pieces. The copyright allows the author to receive compensation or recognition for their idea. Use the “Circle-C” is at the end of your organization’s printed newsletter, emails, etc.

Example: © 2014 The Name of My Organization

The Patent:blog-2014-05-21_img5

Patents are used for inventions (an invention provides a solution to a product or process). If you or your organization invents a better mousetrap you would obtain a patent. You should never associate the word ‘patent’ with your logo or creative work.

I hope this helps. When you market your brand or have to speak to someone from the public you can correctly identify a trademark, copyright or patent. Knowing this will protect your brand, save money, and minimize distractions.

How to Communicate with Vendors About Greening the Outdoor Nonprofit’s Message

Nonprofit grassroots environmental organizations, park stores, nature centers, and interpretive centers are the front-line for communicating about the need for a healthy planet. This ‘green’ messaging often includes themes as conserving resources, preventing pollution and minimizing waste, but sometimes the products sold at these front-line locations are not in context with a green message. For help, make use of an underutilized resource – your vendors.

Your vendors are part of a supply chain; you are linked to them and they are linked to the suppliers of raw materials. The actions of one link in the chain affect the other links. This is a push-pull relationship. If enough people/organizations want certain features or requirements such as recycled materials, reusability, low toxicity, responsible labor practices, environmentally friendly packaging, low impact manufacturing, or the reduction of environmental hazards, the vendors will listen. The catch is that enough of their customers (organizations like yours) need to ask and buy green products.

These fifteen questions can help you to better communicate with vendors about green products:

1. What is your organization’s goal?
Before communicating a ‘green’ product vision to vendors you need to understand your own organization’s expectations and goals. What is the purpose of having a retail arm to your organization? What blend of product strength is needed? What is the typical dollar amount spent by customers in the store? What products will benefit the local resource? Will the products map to interpretive principles and be in context with the local resource?

2. Is everyone on board? Understand your organization’s pre-existing feelings and expectations for vendors. Are the decision makers (in the product approval process) open to new items? Do they consider vendors a tool for helping your store’s mission, or are they viewing vendors as money-hungry pests that want to turn your spot of nature into a big box store? If you do not already know, learn about what they will and will not approve.

3. Are there any recommendations? Talk to similar organizations about what companies are great vendors, and who are the not so great ones. Which vendors have a history of making low-quality products? Do any vendors have a history of greenwashing (saying they are green but really are not)? Who walks their talk? Which vendors come recommended?

4. What makes your product so great? Ask your vendors this question: “What makes your product so great?” It quickly tells you about the product and provides the vendor with a short opportunity to communicate the product’s benefits. If you see or hear things that can further your green messaging, the door is open to learning more. If you need to move on, let the vendor know that you’re looking for items that better support your organization’s message.

5. Does the vendor have a green strategy? Does the vendor have a strategy for incorporating green processes into their products? Can they demonstrate how the processes are being implemented?

6. What is the product’s life cycle?
Learn about the life of the product. Is the product a cradle-to-cradle or cradle-to-grave product? Most products today on store shelves are cradle-to-grave; this means the product is manufactured (cradle), it is used, and then at the end of its life is thrown away (grave). Ask if the product is transitioning to cradle-to-cradle; this means the product is manufactured (cradle), it is used, and then at the end of its product life undergoes a recycling process (cradle). The recycling could be biodegradable, made into an identical product or be used for another purpose. It is important to let all vendors understand this is the preferred direction.

7. Who is in the supply chain? Understand the vendor’s supply chain. The supply chain is a system of activities, people and organizations that move products from supplier to customer. Most vendors consider their work as only one link in the ’supply chain’ – to sell a product to your store. Look for vendors with a broader view further up and down the supply chain.

8. Any plans for closing the supply chain loop? How is the vendor working to close the loop on the supply chain? What is closing the loop? Does the vendor have a plan, or are they planning to incorporate a production “process where the old product can be collected and in which post-consumer waste is collected, recycled and used to make new” products? Reference: Earth911.com.

9. How transparent is the vendor’s business practices? How ‘transparent’ is the vendor about their business practices? Do they have goals and accomplishments posted on the website or marketing collateral?

10. Is there a ‘Made In Sweatshop’ label? If you do not see any transparency in the supply chain, ask some pointed questions, “Is this a sweatshop product?” and, “Where do the products come from?” These can be a hard question to answer for many vendors because of the abundance of overseas suppliers and multiple middlemen that blur the supply-chain. If you do not see any transparency and the vendor cannot effectively answer these questions, find a new vendor.

11. What about heavy metals? Ask for information about whether the products are tested for lead and other heavy metals. Are lead (Pb) levels below the recommendations set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission? How were the products tested? What processes are in place to further reduce the presence of lead or other metals?

12. Are they a green business? Does the vendor have any green certifications? Does the vendor work with suppliers who have received any third-party certifications or awards?

13. Do they have other customers? Inquire about other outdoor and education groups with whom the vendor works. Is the vendor associated with organizations that support green principles? Do their employees have any special training from these organizations? What trade shows does the vendor exhibit?

14. Who to Choose? Evaluate a vendor’s feedback and consider who can best help with greening the products in the park store. Obviously, some vendors because of size, limited resources or absolute focus on the bottom line will not view going ‘green’ as an option. Avoid vendors with a complete lack of will. Evaluate all vendors based on the product needs and goals of your organization. Nurture the vendor relationships that are on a green track.

15. Green means Green Profit. Most vendors understand that working toward a healthy planet is good business and believe that a long-term business relationship is good for themselves and the park store. It is important to remember that pursuing earth-friendly products is time consuming and currently more expensive than traditional methods. Vendors must see a return on their investment or they will not continue to pursue a green line of business. Do everything you can to help a good vendor succeed in their business, so they can help you succeed in yours.