An Anniversary and 30 Years of Tremendous ROI

by Miriam April 27, 2021


Approx. 3 minute read

I was pleased to read the recent announcement in The Rotarian magazine that the environment is a priority for Rotary International. The announcement gave me an opportunity to reflect on the 30 years of strategic environmental support by Rotary Charities of Traverse City starting in 1991 with Preserving Planet Earth, the theme of our Annual Report.

Motivated by the aerial pictures of Grand Traverse Bay Region taken by the late Dr. Ted Kline, and articles in the Detroit papers decrying the sprawl in Traverse City, the Rotary Issues and Opportunities Committee made the recommendation that the number one grantmaking priority should be the environment and managing growth.  

Those first environmental grants in 1991 reaffirmed Rotary's commitment to partnerships and working with government and business  - ranging from Peninsula Township and Grand Traverse County to the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and Northwest Michigan Council of Governments. 

From producing the Bay Area Development Guidebook to supporting the Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Initiative and more, those grants made an impact. But this April marks a special 30 year Anniversary for a new nonprofit, incubated by Rotary Camps & Services and funded by Rotary Charities - namely the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, which had its Article of Incorporation certified by the State on April 10, 1991.

As Director of Rotary Charities at the time, I was fortunate to have coaching from a talented young man then on the staff of the Little Traverse Conservancy - Glen Chown, who became the first and only Executive Director of our Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy two months later.

Starting a new nonprofit organization is often considered a risky venture, but as the Spring Issue of Landscript from the Conservancy reports, 30 years later the return on that initial Rotary Charities grant has wildly exceeded all expectations. None of us would have imagined a Campaign for Generations exceeding $80 million with thousands of acres and miles of shoreline preserved.

It takes a special combination of persistence, perseverance, partnership, and passion to succeed at this level and our Region, State and the Conservancy movement nationwide has benefitted from Glen's leadership and the commitment of Trustees, hundreds of volunteers, and thousands of donors. 

Love the Land, Pass It On is an inspiring theme from the Conservancy as we celebrate the 51st Anniversary of Earth Day. Future generations will benefit and express their gratitude for those special spots that have been preserved forever.

Great thanks to the Rotarians who supported that initial grant and Happy Anniversary wishes to the Conservancy Trustees, staff, volunteers and donors who have indeed demonstrated that when we act together, anything is possible! What a fabulous ROI!  


Happy Earth Day every day wishes to All,

Rob Collier, 

former Executive Director of Rotary Charities

retired president of the Council of Michigan Foundations, and

Benzie County landowner

Resources Search

Resources Archive