Funding Your Urban Forest: A Guide for New and Seasoned City Foresters

Written by Jennifer Gulick, Senior Consulting Community Forester, Davey Resource Group

Adequate funding is one of the greatest challenges facing urban forests today. Without sufficient resources to secure professional services, equipment, and management, an urban forestry program cannot fulfill its mission, respond to changes and challenges, and ultimately best serve the public.

No matter what funding sources you decide to pursue, follow these steps to increase your odds to get what you need:

1. Tell your story with words and a plot. In the budget process, too often we focus just on the numbers. Tell the decision-maker why two more staff is needed; describe the condition of the 100 trees to be removed; and detail the con-sequences of not getting the $50,000 budget increase requested.

2. Don’t bury your lead. Your funding request should have one message that is up-front and clear. Before you even think about presenting any numbers, tell the decision-maker right away what is going to happen in the urban forest over the budget cycle, why it is needed, what goals will be realized, and what benefits will be provided.

3. Use visuals frequently. Columns of numbers can be boring at best and become incomprehensible at worst. Use graphs and photographs to illustrate your point in your budget documents.

4. Name your challenges. Don’t be afraid to be blunt; for example, you can say, “Given the woeful under investment in maintaining the urban forest, the condition of this valuable asset is declining/will decline, and this will be the result.” When requesting additional or new funding, clearly state the need, explain why, and say what’s needed to keep the condition steady or to improve it. By naming your challenges, presenting solutions, and putting a price tag on it, your budget request can start a civic-minded conversation of how to gain more urban forestry investment from and for your community.

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