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Kenneth Kieser: Ducks Unlimited needs help during pandemic

The Examiner
Scenes like this are possible because of Ducks Unlimited's work.

Everyone reading this knows 2020 is a crazy year with quarantines, riots and the presidential election. Sadly, most conservation-oriented groups are being lost in the year’s happenings. Many, too, are canceling their annual meetings and auctions due to COVID-19.

We may be quarantined, but the need for conservation efforts goes on. The fight for habitat and protection of wildlife species will continue, no matter what we do.

Ducks Unlimited: Organizations that fight for habitat and wildlife like Ducks Unlimited are searching for any money available to continue their fight. I am proud to report that Ducks Unlimited received the "Top-Rated Charity" designation from the American Institute of Philanthropy. Ducks Unlimited reported in 2019 that their ambitious “Rescue Our Wetlands” campaign was a huge success, raising $2.34 billion from more than 2 million supporters and conserving more than 2.2 million acres.

World Leader in Wetlands & Waterfowl Conservation

I have personally witnessed the work Ducks Unlimited does in the potholes of North Dakota and in different areas of Canada. We would have far less ducks and geese without their dedicated efforts. I am proud to have contributed in money and through my writings over the past four decades, but this year is unlike any we have lived through.

Questions that Ducks Unlimited has been asked during this challenging year:

Question: The global COVID-19 crisis has impacted all Americans, all businesses, and all organizations – big and small. As a leading not-for-profit conservation organization, what is your status/current state and how specifically has the crisis impacted Ducks Unlimited?

Answer: Like virtually all nonprofits around the country, DU has struggled financially since a large portion of our income comes to us through the thousands of our annual fundraising events, and those came to a complete stop. Springtime is our biggest fundraising season of the year and that’s when the country shut down. So it’s been a perfect storm for financial troubles.

Question: What’s been your greatest challenge as an organization, and what are your priorities moving forward?

Answer: Our biggest challenge was finding ways to offset the immediate loss of millions in revenue from our canceled in-person events. Moving forward, we’ll continue to look for new and innovative ways to raise money so we can keep putting those dollars to work moving dirt and water. One priority going forward will be continuing to diversify our supporter base and income streams to minimize risk.

Our founding priorities haven’t changed – to conserve, restore and manage wetlands and other habitats for North America’s waterfowl. We even exceeded our goals for the year in acres impacted. 

Question: How has the crisis changed your operating model and what positives have come from this unprecedented inflection point?

Answer: The main challenges we faced initially were postponing most of our in-person fundraising events this spring. State and local restrictions placed some roadblocks in our path, but our volunteers and staff faced those roadblocks head on.

We switched to an online model for fundraising, held Facebook Live events and held online auctions in states where allowed. With some quick adjustments, our conservation work never stopped. The real positive has been watching our staff and ardent supporters coming up with unique and innovative online events.  

Question: What’s the one thing you want every member, hunter, dog owner, partner and conservationist to know?

Answer: Ducks Unlimited never stopped our conservation work throughout this challenging time. Whether it was engineers, biologists and other staff sleeping in ice-fishing shacks or in their vehicles instead of hotels, holding countless videoconferences to stay connected, or working with partners six feet apart and wearing masks, we continued to move dirt and water for waterfowl, other wildlife and people.

A percentage of money made at these banquets and auctions goes straight to Ducks Unlimited for their fight in saving waterfowl habitat. You can donate by typing in the website: Donate to Ducks Unlimited and then follow the instructions. Any amount is welcome.

D.U. Online Auctions: For the first time in its history, Ducks Unlimited is providing the opportunity to bid on official DU event merchandise and collectible firearms that were previously only available at D.U. events. This is your chance to get fantastic D.U. merchandise and support waterfowl and wetlands conservation at the same time!

An Amazing Auction Soon: Ducks Unlimited staff found time to clean out some closets, take stock in what they had on hand and make decisions on what to do with it. DU’s clean-out will be a treat for the public when “Into the Vault,” the organization’s first national online auction, launches on Monday, Nov. 23. With more than 350 items valued at more than $1 million, it will be the most valuable auction the organization has hosted.

Categories include firearms, original and reproduction artwork, DU collectibles, extensive offerings of Federal, First of State and First of Nation stamps and prints, bronzes, trips, decoys and Terry Redlin art.

Into the Vault: Coming November 23, 2020

“Into the Vault” will be open for bids from Nov. 23 to Dec. 5 with purchases shipping immediately in time for pre-Christmas delivery. You can access this unique auction at www.ducks.org/Vault.

– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at kieserkenneth@gmail.com.

Kenneth L. Kieser