While the majority of Ducks Unlimited's supporters hunt, DU's membership is by no means limited to avid waterfowlers. Take recently pledged Diamond Sponsors in Perpetuity Paula and Gary Pennington, for example.

"I'm not a duck hunter, but I appreciate the fact that the work DU does affects clean water and other wildlife," Paula said. "Both Gary and I think the impact of Ducks Unlimited goes far beyond what most people realize."

Gary grew up in Kentucky, where he said duck hunting wasn't a popular pastime. "I didn't really get into it until I was involved with DU," he said. "In 1994, I answered an ad in the Akron [Ohio] paper advertising tickets to the Ducks Unlimited dinner. I had recently moved to the area and didn't really know anyone, so I figured it might be a way to get to know some people. When I went to pick up the tickets, the chairman asked if I was interested in volunteering, and I said, "Sure.' That was about 20 years ago now."

Paula and Gary support DU's Great Lakes Initiative, dedicated to protecting key habitats across the Great Lakes region for waterfowl throughout their life cycle. "I didn't know very much about the Great Lakes Initiative," Gary said. "I'd always supported DU's Ohio PRIDE program, and the initiatives were pretty new when we talked about that pledge, but it made sense to me. I understood that waterfowl in Ohio are part of the Great Lakes and that the work DU does beyond Ohio is part of the picture."

As with all of DU's new initiatives, the Great Lakes Initiative creates flexibility in funding conservation across broader landscapes. "It makes sense that being able to spend the money where it can have the biggest impact is a better way of delivering conservation," Gary said. "I like that my money can move across a border if that's where the better opportunity is.

"We'll probably pay off our current pledge in the near future at some of the upcoming events, and we'll be ready to go to Heritage Sponsor after that. The initiative approach makes sense to us, and we'll be supporting it with the new pledge, as well."

The Penningtons' story was featured in the 2013 Ducks Unlimited Annual Report. If you live in the Great Lakes region and would like to learn more about supporting DU's Great Lakes Initiative, please visit www.ducks.org/GreatLakes or call DU at (734) 623-2000 to speak with fundraising staff in your area.

For more information on becoming a DU Major Sponsor, please visit our Leadership Giving homepage or contact Senior Manager of Development Operations Anita Tyler at (901) 758-3871 or atyler@ducks.org.