A Lesson in Outreach by FNPS Ixia Chapter in Jacksonville

After more than a year of planning, 80 paid guests attended a 3-part event:
A native plant sale with appetizers, a dinner, and a native plant presentation.
A guest post by Ixia Chapter President, Barbara Jackson

The keys to a successful event are long-range planning, organization, and lining up enough volunteer help. I began planning a chapter dinner, plant sale, and presentation about 16 months out. This allowed me to secure the location, in this case two venues, the guest speaker, and the one other person that helped me plan the food. Our objective was to raise funds for our Chapter’s projects. We are restoring a 1923 “Native Park” in Jacksonville, assisting another Jacksonville park with the removal of many invasive species, and planning a two acre wildflower garden on the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville.

The beautiful property on the bank of the St. Johns River provided an elegant location for the native plant sale and appetizers. Email invitations were sent out to the local garden clubs, the master gardeners, the local historical society. Barbara also talked about the event on the Jacksonville public radio station with the speaker Craig Huegel on the phone. The plant sale brought in more than $1,000.  Ixia's FNPS beautiful rain barrel greeted attendees.
We asked Dr. Craig Huegel, of the Pinellas Chapter, to be our guest speaker. His new book, “Native Plant Landscaping for Florida Wildlife,” was the subject of his PowerPoint presentation at our event. I began looking for a venue and was told of a beautiful home and piece of private property on the banks of the St. Johns River. The owner allows environmental groups to hold events on the grounds. We were granted permission, and I made a site visit. It immediately became obvious we would have lots of expense if we held our entire event at this location because we would have to rent tables, chairs, and anything else required. However, across the street from this location, stands a Community Club that rents space for events! That solved our problem, because the Community Club has tables and chairs, and a large kitchen. We decided to have appetizers, beverages, and our native plant sale at the property on the river, and walk across the street to the Community Club for a buffet dinner and presentation by Dr. Huegel. We secured the Community Club for our date, plus paid for cleaning so we would not be responsible for mopping floors, etc. This was well worth the extra expense.

Attendees parked at the community club, walked over to the pre-dinner location, stayed about an hour,
and most were able to carry their new native plants back to their cars. The Ixia banner greeted attendees.

We decided to charge $30 per person, inclusive, for the event, and to save money, made the decision to prepare all the food. Two months out, we planned the menu and began making decisions about where and how to purchase all needed items. We also asked Chapter members to sign up to help, and recruited extra help for the kitchen. We needed all hands on deck, and everyone pitched in. We heavily advertised the event in every free manner possible, allowed non-members to attend, and asked for pre-registration with payment. We had 80 paid guests! The food preparation was done the day of the event, in the Community Club kitchen, with six people working non-stop for around eight or nine hours. Do not underestimate the amount of time and the number of people needed to complete the food. The dinner is actually the most important part of the evening to the majority of your guests. I can tell you that because we prepared a variety of fresh and healthy food, and poured lots of wine, we were complimented by everyone!

Dinner, prepared by Ixia members & friends, provided a wonderful selection including asparagus salad, baked chicken and fish, a spinach & walermelon salad, pasta salad, potatoes, and berry-delicious desserts.

The Ixia display materials were set up in the back corner of the community center room.
At least a few attendees said they were intersted in joining FNPS.
Our native plant sale was also a success, bringing in over $1,000. The attendees loved being on the grounds of the property across the street from the Community Club, and enjoyed ample appetizers, wine, beer, and other non-alcoholic beverages. We were only in this location one hour, and this was very adequate. We moved to the Community Club for the remainder of the evening, and quickly cleaned up at the private property. After the dinner, Dr. Huegel made a wonderful presentation, and also sold and autographed his book at the conclusion of the evening. We cleaned up the kitchen, packed our cars, and drive home to collapse! Not only did we raise money for our Chapter, we raised awareness about the importance of native plants, and purchased large amounts of good will in our community.

Barbara Jackson makes some announcements and introduces Craig. Many folks had
already met him and his wife Alexa, because they had brought some native plants to sell, too.  
Craig Huegel's presentation really made the case for the importance of native plants in the landscape.
Thanks Craig! Lots of people purchased his book, "Native Plant Landscaping for Florida Wildlife."

Barbara Jackson, president of the Ixia chapter, organized this excellent outreach event.
She's also wrote an article (with her fabulous native plant photos) for Jacksonville Luxury Living Magazine. Barbara has also stepped up to chair the state-wide FNPS conference in 2013, which will be in Jacksonville!


Ginny Stibolt said…
This was a well-organized event that brought a lot of positive attention to native plants and to FNPS. The attendees that I talked with were impressed with the whole affair.

Congrats to Barbara and all who worked so hard to make this happen without a hitch.

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