Turning Over a New Leaf

Last year, only three percent of donations nationwide went to environmental causes. That frightening statistic got us thinking.

This data was compiled into the Iowa Philanthropic Landscape 2021 report by Des Moines-based Eden+ Fundraising Consulting, and what it tells us is we’re losing the attention of the average Iowan to competing concerns. We asked ourselves, how can we inspire people to increase their support of protecting Iowa’s land?

This question has shaped each forward movement we’ve made since then. In response, we’ve created a new look for Bur Oak, a revised approach to conservation projects and a clearer message about our intention for the state we call home.
“We’re evolving to meet the unmet conservation needs in eastern Iowa,” said Executive Director Jason Taylor.

Those unmet needs are quality land management for the sake of biodiversity. So we took this concept and worked it into a new mission statement:

Advancing biodiversity in eastern Iowa by protecting resilient landscapes and connecting people to nature.

Our landscapes are far more than places to hike, they are integral ecosystems upon which our very life depends and we need to rethink the way we present our mission and service to the public so they can see the need for their support as much as we do. Biological diversity leads to strong natural areas that can continue to support plants and wildlife despite environmental crises like floods or fires. It’s an important distinction to make when we’re talking about the quality of Iowa’s natural areas. Protecting land from development is not enough.

The land needs to be restored to its natural, highly biodiverse state, and that’s what Bur Oak’s mission is going forward.
As our mission is more clearly defining the kind of land management we do, it also addresses where we do it. We used to be primarily focused on land in and around Johnson County, but as we’ve grown, so has our ability to take on larger and more complex management projects outside of the county. Bur Oak is actively managing land, conservation easements or taking on fee-for-service projects in the counties that make up eastern Iowa.

The work we do shows what kind of organization we are, but we also need a visual story paired with our mission and vision statements to bring in new and diverse supporters. To show we’re established in Iowa City, and that we acknowledge and appreciate the art and culture of our community, we worked with local artist Claudia McGehee to create a new design concept for our logo and supporting visual materials. Claudia is a well-known artist in the area and her work is discernible.

“Scratchboard, the medium I work in, creates a wood-cut-like image that for me captures well the energy and vitality of living things,” Claudia said. “The sturdy scratchboard lines and scritchy-scratchy details are perfect for rendering a jumping tree frog, a buzzing bee, a running fox. I was moved to create a collection of vignettes that reflected parts of the Bur Oak Land Trust vision. I hoped my work would contribute a consistent aesthetic to the ongoing conservation story Bur Oak Land Trust’s work provides.”

We chose a look for our organization that fits the exciting work we do and would spur people to show off their support for us. Our new logo is straightforward with our name and our tree, and it sets us apart among the collection of nature-focused organizations around the state.

Our look and mission have changed, but our purpose has not. Connecting our community to nature is increasingly more important as the conversation around climate change persists. We will continue to inspire the next generation to be nature-conscious when it comes to their local communities.

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