When you consider your family tree, some obvious people come to mind: spouses, children, siblings, and parents. But the list doesn't stop there for Ducks Unlimited supporters. If you imagine the tallest, broadest tree you've ever seen – an ancient redwood, a regal live oak, or a soaring fir – that's the DU family tree. Its vast limbs stretch across the continent, connecting DU supporters, chapters, and the landscapes most important to waterfowl along the way.
Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) was a period of marked growth for the DU family tree as we launched new regional fundraising initiatives. These 16 initiatives were carefully developed as part of DU's National Business Plan to increase our efficiency and fundraising success, connect our donors with priority habitats, and continue to give our conservation program a truly continental scope. This will ensure that the most important waterfowl habitats – and the birds we see from our blinds each year – are conserved for future generations.
These vital fundraising efforts begin with our volunteers, who dedicate themselves to raising money for the ducks through more than 4,000 events each year. During FY13, DU volunteers worked harder than ever to bring more event attendees through the door – 30,000 more to be exact, an attendance increase of 8 percent over FY12.
One shining example of this teamwork and dedication came to light during a dinner event in Houston, Texas, last year. In one night, Houston shattered DU's single-event fundraising record by raising more than $1.57 million for the ducks. It was an amazing volunteer accomplishment and just one of many outstanding efforts during FY13.
One of the most memorable messages we've heard from our volunteers is the importance of developing more leaders – not just more followers – to help carry out DU's mission year after year. In FY13, our volunteer leaders stepped up their recruitment efforts and grew their own ranks by 13 percent – bringing us to a total of more than 48,000 active volunteers working as part of Team DU to ensure a strong outdoor heritage for generations to come.
All told, these loyal volunteers worked closely with DU staff to raise more than $88 million for conservation in FY13, with an additional $68 million in future commitments through Major Sponsor pledges and planned giving.
This dedication to conservation is why we do what we do every day. And the conservation arm of Team DU used these resources wisely in FY13, coming in well above our goals for conserved acres nationwide. Some of our greatest gains came on the prairie breeding grounds of DU's Great Plains Region, where we conserved 73,724 acres – more than twice the goal for the region.
Across the continent, DU conserved 142,595 acres in FY13, coming in at 140 percent of our goal and bringing our cumulative total to more than 13.1 million acres conserved in North America since 1937. As our regional fundraising initiatives ramp up in FY14, we will see this number continue to grow.
We must also keep in mind that the dollars we raise are more impactful because they're paired with state and federal funding. More than a third of the funding for DU's conservation mission comes from public sources, and it is crucial that Ducks Unlimited continue to be engaged in public policy to make sure conservation isn't forgotten in the halls of Congress or our state capitols.
Looking forward, one major challenge will be to educate legislators about the remarkable successes of public-private partnerships such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Act that benefit wetlands, waterfowl, other wildlife, and every American citizen. As members of Team DU, we are all responsible for taking up this charge and influencing our members of Congress on behalf of DU's conservation mission.
As we listen for the whistle of wings and watch flocks of ducks enter our favorite marshes this year, let's remember where they started, where they're headed, and what our connections to these landscapes mean for future generations of outdoorsmen and women. Thank you for the sacrifices you make to be part of our DU family tree. We may not be related by blood, but we are all connected through our passion for waterfowl and our undying commitment to seeing DU's mission carried out across North America.
George H. Dunklin, Jr., President
H. Dale Hall, Chief Executive Officer