Ducks Unlimited's 75th Anniversary will be remembered by many as the year the single-event fundraising record was broken... four times!
Last February, DU's New York City chapter kicked off the organization's 75th anniversary celebration at the historic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. Hosting a crowd of more than 600 attendees, chapter chairman Michael Witter and his committee secured $1.2 million and set the bar for what would be a historic year by surpassing the all-time fundraising record for a single DU event.
Not long after, in March, DU's Blackhawk chapter in Danville, California, upped the ante with a $1.4 million event. This new record was, in turn, topped in July by DU's Downtown Chicago chapter, which, led by chairman John Schreiner, raised an astonishing $1.45 million (see sidebar). Indeed, the City of Big Shoulders came through big-time for the ducks!
That record stood until October 25, when John Nau, a trustee for Wetlands America Trust and owner of Silver Eagle Budweiser of Houston, hosted nearly 600 guests at the River Oaks Country Club in Houston, Texas. This Houston DU event raised a whopping $1.65 million for wetlands and waterfowl conservation, breaking the single-event fundraising record for the fourth time in one year!
In preparing for the event, Houston chapter chairman David Koch (a former DU collegiate chapter chairman at Texas A&M University) and his committee stuck to a model that has driven their fundraising success for years. "DU Houston has a program we call the Wetlands Sponsor of the Year," Koch explained. "The concept was developed years ago to recognize and honor a conservationist and sportsman from the community through our event and allow their family, friends, and associates to join in the celebration."
The Houston chapter's 2012 Wetlands Sponsor of the Year honoree was Jim Flores, a lifelong Gulf Coast resident, avid waterfowl hunter, and longtime supporter of wetlands conservation. In his comments, Flores energized the crowd by sharing his passion for conservation and DU's mission. Several DU board members and executive staff from across the country were also in attendance, including DU CEO Dale Hall, First Vice President George Dunklin Jr., Senior Vice President Paul Bonderson Jr., At-Large Board Member Rogers Hoyt Jr., and Texas DU State Chairman Rob Gokey.
Like most DU events, the Houston chapter's fundraising activities included an extensive raffle of art, firearms, and outdoor items, as well as silent and live auctions. The live auction, which raised more than $500,000, is believed to be the most successful ever at a DU event.
"The primary reason for our continued success is that we have a very large committee of passionate volunteers who want to be on a winning team," Koch noted. "We continually add new committee members and give them important jobs right away. Everyone on the committee has a direct influence on our success, and we approach our events with a true team attitude. We have fun all year long. It's more than a one-night party for us!"