On May 15, the Idaho Conservation League completed our It’s My ID campaign! This ambitious $4 million campaign was intended to double endowment and create a climate fund to advance an Idaho-based responses to climate change, above and beyond raising our annual budget.
Endowment Built the ICL of Today
In 1989, businessman Walt Minnick (who’d later serve as an ICL board member and member of Congress), started the ICL endowment with a check and a challenge to raise $1 million in the coming decade.
In 1997, approaching ICL’s 25th anniversary, the Harder Foundation’s Del Langbauer met with the ICL board to explain a $150,000 challenge grant for the endowment campaign. Del said, “If you do this well, things will happen tomorrow you have no way of predicting today.”
In 1999, I was able to call Minnick and say, “We’ve done it.” Minnick said, “You’ll all do many things at ICL you’ll be proud of, but you may never do something as important as this.”
The endowment campaign of the 1990s, more than anything we’d done, built the ICL of today. Asking for money never to be spent, creating a fund for generations ahead, transformed ICL. Lifting our eyes from short-term battles and making next week’s payroll, we began crafting strategies for years-long campaigns, for building enduring power and credibility, for truly representing the diversity of Idaho, and for building an organization capable of creating Idaho’s conservation future.
This turned a group of scrappy activists into an enduring institution that owns two of its three offices, retains a highly regarded staff of 20, meets a $2.2 million annual budget, and demonstrates bankable credibility and trust across the Idaho political landscape. It also transformed ICL’s leaders, which in turn helped inspire and empower ICL’s supporters. This is how ICL broke a 29-year drought and passed the Owyhee wilderness bill and then the Boulder-White Clouds, for a total of nine new wilderness areas. With Scotchman Peaks now on deck, Idaho’s four-person congressional delegation has three different Republican wilderness champions.
This was the foundation for how ICL stopped the nation’s largest source of airborne mercury, resulting in a nationwide Environmental Protection Agency rule. This is the foundation for how ICL will successfully move Idaho to coal-free electrical generation.
It’s My ID Enhances Our Capacity
In a strategic planning retreat four years ago, the ICL board heard staff interest in creating a new campaign to double the ICL endowment. We then saw how the earlier endowment effort had also transformed the ICL board, attracting and developing leaders who challenged us to expand our vision, to not only double the endowment but to look to the greatest challenge facing Idaho—climate change—and to raise the funds for our soon-to-be cash-starved energy and water programs.
Two years ago, we began our $4 million It’s My ID campaign in earnest, under the leadership of former board chair Elaine French (pictured at top). Because many of the contributions coming in were dedicated to doubling the endowment, ICL expanded the goal to $4.43 million so that we could meet the climate fund goal of $2 million as well. You—our members—accepted the challenge and showed your support for our work. As we closed the campaign on May 15, ICL had raised nearly $5 million.
On May 20 at Wild Idaho, we were able to honor Elaine for her leadership on this campaign. Where our original campaign to create a $1 million endowment had taken a decade, It’s My ID raised almost 5 times that in less than half the time. Truly, this is a significant accomplishment. And it is because of Elaine, because of the steering committee, because of staff who dedicated untold numbers of hours to meeting with and calling people.
We also honored Walt Minnick for making the endowment a reality in the first place. And to bring it full circle, at Wild Idaho, Minnick presented me with the matching contribution that completed our It’s My ID campaign. He wrote the first check for the endowment—and the last check for It’s My ID!
As Langbauer said 20 years ago, “If you do this well, things will happen tomorrow you have no way of predicting today.”