A Unique Fundraising Challenge in Montana

Would you shave your head for a million dollars?

DU Director of Development Chris Hildebrandt (kneeling) and Senior Regional Director Barry Allen.

DU Director of Development Chris Hildebrandt (kneeling) and Senior Regional Director Barry Allen.

Would you shave your head for a million dollars? Ducks Unlimited Senior Regional Director Barry Allen and Director of Development Chris Hildebrandt would. The pair challenged DU volunteers in Montana to raise $1 million for waterfowl and wetlands conservation, with the promise of shaving their heads if the fundraising effort was successful.

“We wanted to get the volunteers charged up to accomplish a goal we have never reached before,” Barry says. “We thought if we were willing to sacrifice our hair, our volunteers and supporters would be willing to give their time and donations to the cause.”

The challenge was set in 2016 and the volunteers kicked their fundraising into high gear in the three years that followed. Barry worked with local volunteers and made sure all 50 DU events in Montana ran efficiently no matter the hurdles. Some events had only three or four people on the planning committee, and Barry traveled to these places to ensure that each event was a success.

Montana DU State Chair Scott Johnson believed that making Montana a million-dollar state was an achievable challenge, and he set about making it happen. He traveled across the state with his mother, Shirley, attending events and rallying volunteers.

“My mom and I attended 32 events in 18 months,” Scott says. “This gave us an opportunity to spend time together and interact with other volunteers who are as passionate about DU as we are.”

In fiscal year 2019, Montana was number one in the nation for Sealed Bid Auction (SBA) fundraising. Two outstanding chapters, Bitterroot, led by Scott, and Bozeman, led by Gordon Haugen, were number one and number three in the nation for SBA fundraising, respectively.

“We had a big gain during the first year of working toward our million-dollar goal,” Chris says. “We fell short by $35,000 in 2018, but we reached our goal the following June. Never in DU’s history has a state with a population of a million or fewer people ever raised a million dollars, and our volunteers and supporters helped us get there.”

It was John and Alexandra (Alex) Spizziri’s Benefactor gift at the 2019 DU National Convention in Hawaii that pushed Montana over the goal line. John and Alex are longtime DU members and supporters. John served for two years as DU state chair in New Jersey and became a member of the Montana DU State Council when they moved to Big Sky Country five years ago.

“I have always been an outdoorsperson and I enjoy the environment,” John says. “I support Ducks Unlimited because I like the work they do and their conservation goals.”

Chris and Barry will fulfill their promise and shave their heads at the Montana Volunteer Celebration on February 8. The celebration, taking place in Bozeman, is open to all DU volunteers in the state free of charge. Visit ducks.org/montana/events for more information about the event.