RFOV seeks exposure with nordic tour
Sometimes a fundraiser isn’t necessarily designed to raise funds, at least not right off the bat.
Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers is launching a new event on Saturday, Jan. 19, that is intended to draw attention to the 12-year-old nonprofit organization during its “offseason.”
RFOV is organizing the first Town to Town Tour, a cross-country ski or snowshoe tour, from Aspen’s Stein Park down to the Roaring Fork Club in Basalt. People who aren’t interested in a 14-mile tour can use a shorter, alternate start on the west end of Woody Creek.
“We’re hoping to make a little money this year or break even,” said David Hamilton, RFOV executive director. He expects it will cost up to $30,000 to host the event.
The Town to Town Tour has definitely created a buzz. Nordic skiers of all skill levels are talking about it and checking which of their friends plan to do it. Hamilton and RFOV’s board of directors hope the curiosity in the event carries over to make participants curious about the organization ” and ultimately become members.
The 501(c)(3) public charity is placing a greater emphasis on increasing its membership and raising more revenues that way.
RFOV had $118,127 in revenues in its 2006 fiscal year, which started on Nov. 1, 2005, and ended on Oct. 31, 2006, according to a tax return it filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
Roughly 45 percent of its revenues comes from government grants or earned income from work it performs for governments, Hamilton said. Grants from foundations account for another 18 percent of revenues. Membership fees from families and individuals raise roughly 25 to 30 percent, while corporate giving accounts for the remainder.
For its latest fiscal year, RFOV boosted its revenues to about $153,000, primarily from increasing its memberships, Hamilton said. But relying on members is sometimes like running on a treadmill. RFOV loses about 12 percent of its membership list annually from people moving away, Hamilton. Thus the need to constantly recruit.
The organization traditionally hasn’t hosted events. Consultants advised its leaders to create a signature event that it can be identified with ” and that can possibly earn money.
“We have to demonstrate success,” Hamilton said.
A clue to how RFOV gets by with a relatively small budget is in its name. Its forte is enlisting volunteers to apply their muscle to trails projects. Its mission is, “Volunteer stewardship of our trails and public lands.”
“Our mission is a sound one ” we don’t get involved in politics,” Hamilton said. “We harness as many volunteers as any group in the valley.”
RFOV undertakes 11 to 13 trail and conservation projects per year between Aspen and Rifle. A project can be as complicated as rerouting a stretch of trail and reclaiming the old route or as simple as maintaining water bars on a trail. Sometimes crews backpack into a site; most projects are day jobs during a weekend. Projects attract as many as 85 and as few as 15 volunteer workers. Weather is often the determining factor.
Its biggest push comes each summer on National Trails Day, the first Saturday in June. RFOV typically undertakes three projects and signs up more than 150 volunteers that day.
During its 12 years, RFOV has completed more than 100 trail projects of its own and assisted on others. “We’ve worked on almost every major trail in the valley,” Hamilton said.
With more than 1,000 miles of trails in national forest and other lands between Aspen and Rifle, there is little danger of the group putting itself out of business. Some trail somewhere always needs work. The goal of the leaders is to place more volunteers on the annual projects rather than add projects.
Hamilton was the only paid staff member during the 2006 fiscal year. A part-time assistant staffer was added part way through fiscal 2007. Nine members of the board of directors aren’t paid.
In fiscal 2006, RFOV spent $102,571. That broke down in the form 990 to $62,186 on program services ” essentially undertaking its core mission of trail work ” along with $25,837 on management and general expenses and $14,548 on fundraising.
RFOV was $15,571 in the black after that fiscal year and has more than doubled the amount, according to Hamilton. The goal is to have a reserve equal to six months of necessary operating funds.
Finances aside, the goal is to raise awareness among the public about its work and the need for its work. “What would our trails look like if we weren’t there?” Hamilton asked.
The Town to Town tour begins at 10 a.m. on Jan. 19. A party for participants will be held at the Roaring Fork Club Cabin from 3 to 5 p.m. Go to http://www.rfov.org for registration and details, including important information on parking.
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There is a lot of pent up energy among hikers and bikers to get into the high country, but snow fields, avalanche debris and high stream crossings are presenting challenges later than usual. Forest rangers with the Aspen-Sopris District provide trail condition reports that are updated each week so hikers and backpackers aren’t caught unaware.