Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What’s After “Life”?

The question was a simple one: “What’s after life?” It came from a relatively new member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. He felt that as a supporting (or annual) member he was not doing enough, so he stepped up and donated $1,500 to become a Life Member. However, he still wanted to do more. 

As of January 1, 2014, RMEF set a new record with 203,703 members, ranging from youth members to life members and several levels in between. The Elk Foundation’s “rock stars,” as David Allen, RMEF president and CEO calls them, are its 10,000-plus dedicated volunteers.

RMEF volunteers arrange and carry out big game banquets and work projects, seek new members through fundraising drives and serve on committees in more than 500 chapters nationwide. They keep the organization firing on all cylinders. But there’s another segment of Elk Foundation supporters who power RMEF into an even higher gear. Numbering 3,034 strong, these are RMEF’s Habitat Partners.

RMEF’s Habitat Partnership Program recognizes donors who make a cumulative gift of $2,500 or more, and it tracks their philanthropic giving total going forward. Once Habitat Partners reach the Imperial level of $10,000, they are invited to join the Habitat Council, which was established in 1992. Members of the Habitat Council get a special seat at the table in RMEF’s conservation efforts, where they can put their heads together and explore new opportunities to help RMEF conserve and protect more wildlife habitat, as well as working together to raise funding for those efforts. 

“We are the investors of the RMEF,” says Nancy Holland, Habitat Council co-chair. “We give thoughtfully with the intent of impacting the future, anticipating a goal will be achieved for elk country that will also pay dividends to the donor or to their heirs. Isn’t that what investing is? Habitat Council members want to ensure their children and grandchildren can see elk in the wild, access the land they hold dear and understand the freedom we so cherish.” 

Her words ring true. All RMEF supporters have a stake in protecting and conserving elk and elk country, but for members of the Habitat Council, it’s a deeper financial commitment that helps provide long-term stability and flexibility for the Elk Foundation. The group meets twice a year, once at Elk Camp, then again at a summer gathering, to give input to the RMEF Board of Directors and executive staff on fundraising, membership and wildlife habitat issues.

The summer meeting includes a site tour where members get out on the ground to see, feel and learn more about how their investments are working for wildlife. “With a long weekend, we have time to roll up our sleeves and get to work furthering the mission of RMEF—planning how we, as the Habitat Council, can contribute and strengthen RMEF,” says Howard Holland, Habitat Council co-chair. “Habitat Council members are family, and this is our reunion. We look forward to our meetings, anticipating seeing our friends and immersing ourselves in the mission. We come out of these meetings so energized.” 

Their donations are not only matched but also exceeded by their passion and dedication. In recent years, members of the Habitat Council gathered in Washington, Arizona and Tennessee. When asked, “Why are you here?” They shared their personal sentiments. Here is a sampling:

“There’s a wonderful group of people who instilled in me a passion to take care of the land for our children and take care of the critters. I have come to love RMEF.”

“This is family and we do this for the future. We have put our hard-earned money into this. It is an investment into the future for what is near and dear to us.”

“You set an example by taking the lead with what you can do with your checkbook.”

“It is like a college reunion. You get tears in your eyes recognizing what this group does.”

“Every member of Habitat Council has a passion to give,” says Nancy Holland. “They share the commitment and enthusiasm of fellow RMEF members, and are immersed in the organization in a variety of other ways, such as committee members, state and regional chairs, members of state leadership teams and on RMEF’s board. This group is not a silo, but integral and embedded in RMEF.”

Many Life Members and Habitat Partners also go on to become members of the Trails Society, which honors individuals who include RMEF in their estate planning. Their gifts will make an impact on elk country and help leave a legacy for our children and grandchildren to enjoy. Planned gifts can generate a retirement income stream, produce income tax deductions and reduce future estate tax liability. Such methods include wills, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, life estate arrangements, charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts and charitable lead trusts. 

There are many ways to help ensure a bright future in elk country. It just depends on how many steps you want to climb. The higher you go, the better the view.

For more information, email legacy@rmef.org, call (800) CALL-ELK or go here

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