NARGS Appeals Letter & Annual Report

Submitted by Bobby Ward on Tue, 11/15/2016 - 08:51

This is a letter proposed to be sent to our NARGS membership by Matt Mattus and Betty Anne Spar by the end of November 2016 as an annual appeals letter for financial support AND an overall summary of NARGS 2106 activities, its current financial state, plans for the future, including proposed changes in membership fee structure (not yet codified), additional membership levels, appointing Don LaFond as NARGS-Chapter Liaison, upcoming meetings, and more. 

Your comments are welcomed and appreciated.


Draft November 15, 2016

Dear _______

We continue to appreciate your support of NARGS in numerous ways, both through service to the society and financial support. We value your interest in NARGS’ goal to encourage and promote the cultivation and conservation of rock garden plants and to expand the knowledge of their value, habits, and geographical distribution.  

            Your continuing membership helps support the seed exchange, annual meetings and study weekends, traveling speakers, and our publication, The Rock Garden Quarterly. However, your membership dues don’t fully cover these activities that you value. As a result, we depend on additional financial support to continue our member services.

            As the gardening season ends for 2016, we hope you will consider a donation to NARGS. Our Annual Fund goal is to reach $20,000 by December 31, 2016.  In the U.S., NARGS is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and your donation may be tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.

            You may make a donation on-line on the NARGS Web site at and click on the “donate” button. Or you may donate by check in U.S. funds (payable to NARGS) or by mailing credit card information (including telephone number) to: NARGS, POB 18604, Raleigh, NC 27619-8604 USA.

            Attached is a 2016 Annual Report from our NARGS president and vice president of the activities of NARGS.

            Thank you for helping NARGS remain a champion of the North American rock gardening community.


            NARGS Officers and Board of Directors





NARGS Report

December 2016

The Future of NARGS is in YOUR Hands.

This is the most difficult letter I have ever had to write in my professional life, but I care deeply about NARGS – an organization with a heritage as long and as deep as the tap rooted plants we find so fascinating. The last thing you need to hear is about plant societies and their struggle to survive in a modern, Internet-driven world; yet, I believe that NARGS has a worthy purpose. How NARGS continues to exist depends, in part, on how you choose to react to this letter.

            Two years ago when I took the reins of this presidency some members said that they wished that I would be different – to make bold decisions and take steps that might push the North American Rock Garden Society into a new and better place.  I learned quickly that this was a big ship to turn around in a short time.

            Changes had to be made--some difficult, others exciting. Survey polls and letters to members can only do so much. One meeting a year, at which only a few representatives from each chapter attend, limits what we can accomplish. As a result, I have tried and have implemented collaborative ideas in order to change some very challenging roadblocks.

What are our needs?

This is my call to action. NARGS needs your help. The Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Annual General Meeting this past June, a sold out meeting, presented many of us with a surprise – new interest from younger members with a record attendance of 20-, 30- and even 40-year olds. Other things are beginning to happen at NARGS, and maybe you are beginning to see the signs.

            Many items were discussed in the meetings at Steamboat Springs, and I’d like to review some of them.

           Communications: Based on feedback from the chapter representatives at the recent annual meetings, communications will be enhanced between the directors and the chapters and their members.  Each chapter will be paired with a director, making it easier for members to know whom to contact whenever there are concerns, news of interest to all NARGS members, and especially ideas that spark interest in NARGS.  This pairing also ensures that chapters will be kept apprised of ongoing developments at the national level. Don LaFond, Great Lakes Chapter, has agreed to serve as chair of the Chapter Liaison and will work with chairs and NARGS directors to implement this program in 2017.

            Seed Exchange:  It’s not going away, but this benefit needs support. We plan to continue this popular program so that all members can rediscover the joy of growing plants from seed. We know that many members join NARGS for the Seed Exchange alone.

            Improved Web Site: An on-going project that is certainly due for an overhaul; it’s been a priority of mine to push improvements with this project and make it the ultimate go-to on-line resource. However, this takes both time and money.

            Study Weekends: The Study Weekend model is a favorite of mine and I assume yours. We are bringing them back, but in a more sustainable way with smaller, regional meetings, hosted by various chapters that can deliver inspiration and the learning we all enjoy at these unique events.

            The Rock Garden Quarterly:  If you haven’t noticed, it’s becoming a world-class publication that is getting better with every issue. Now, it is addressing topics such as specialty plants, with some scientific essays; study guides; and of course fabulous photography.

            Awards:  Expand NARGS recognition to members’ publishing, artwork, books, and article writing.  This is a long-overdue expansion that is coming soon and will add additional pride and meaning to our organization.

            Chapter Availability:  A part of what makes NARGS unique is that we have strong chapters, which are a great benefit to our organization. Every member of NARGS   in a local chapter is important. The great news is that we are all part of a greater thriving gardening community, and if we do things in the right way, then others may join us for the benefit of all.

            Reintroducing Travel Stipends: These are given to first time attendees to an Annual General Meeting. We will need additional financial support for this important outreach, particularly to new members.

            Incentives for horticultural projects at various gardens.  Open to garden professionals, not just NARGS members. Reach out to your local botanic gardens and community gardens and look for ways to support rock gardening and related gardening efforts in your community. Bring them to our attention.

            Internships in various gardens. We have discussed small gifts to help horticulture students in their future endeavors. This is a program for the long term, and will take long-term support. NARGS will be better by being jointly engaged with our chapters and their members.

            Social Interaction: with over 2,500 gardeners with similar interests like yourselves.  Imagine what we can all do if everyone joined the parent (NARGS global) organization.

            The bottom line is: we are part of something BIG happening here, and we wish to continue to evolve. We want to offer more, but we also need financial help.

  Below are some facts about NARGS typical annual operating budget:

            Dues from Membership are about $50,000 per year.

            Administrative Expenses for providing the benefits listed above are $17,500 per year.   

            The Rock Garden Quarterly publication costs about $67,500 per year; that includes, editor, printing, and mailing costs.

            Budget deficit for the past 3 years has been approximately $20,000.


At our Steamboat Springs, Colorado meeting, the Board of Directors agreed that changes in our dues structure would be helpful. As a board member and trustee myself at a leading public garden, I’ve learned that organizations sometimes need to change and adapt if they are to grow and survive

            I want to outline some key decisions, policies, and proposals discussed at the Board Meeting and at the Chapter Chair Meeting to avoid a disastrous end for NARGS. Prepare yourself; for many of these are big changes, but the overwhelming support and response at the meeting was agreement that NARGS needs to reinvent itself if it is to continue to provide meaningful experiences for our members. Remember, this is ultimately about you, and what benefits YOU get out of NARGS.

I am proud to tell you that we are introducing a new model for both support and gifting at NARGS.

Chapter Proposal:  Chapters would donate an amount of their budget to NARGS annually at their discretion.  It will be voluntary and the amount is up to the chapter based on its membership and also the number of non-NARGS members in the chapter.

Membership Fee Structure:  We are modifying our yearly membership fees from

Members (and additional household members), Patrons, Students, and Life to include

Sustaining, Institutional, Contributors, and Benefactors. We will no longer include Life memberships and multi-year renewals. We will publish these membership fee structures in the future.

Explore Matching Gifts.  NARGS needs to start operating like a non-profit. This responsibility rests on the shoulders of all of us--the board and leadership as well as members of both NARGS and chapters. We are exploring Matching Funds from companies, advertisers, and philanthropic groups.

Corporate Sponsorships: Corporate Sponsorships are also being discussed and we have some possibilities, but we need to get our financial Profit and Loss in balance beforehand.

Gifting: Members may give memberships to NARGS at any time, but an end-of-year gift membership now would involve a new member in the exciting plans for 2017. New members receive a gift card with a beautiful color illustration of Dodecatheon hendersonii prepared by Tanya Harvey.

Legacy Gifts: These preserve the donor’s appreciation of NARGS’ special contribution to gardening. This is a wonderful way to remember some of our founding national and chapter members and continue to benefit from their spirit and generosity to the art and science of rock gardening.

Additional Membership Levels


Council Member’s Circle                           $1,000 - $2,499 per year.

Personal membership plus two complimentary gift memberships per year to gardeners of your choice.


Sustainer’s Circle                                        $2,500 - $4,999 per year.

Autographed gardening book (a new title each year), one personal membership, and two complimentary gift memberships.


Timmy and Linc Foster Circle                   $5,000 - $9,999 per year. 

A personal membership and bound copies of last year’s Rock Garden Quarterly.


Reginald Farrer Circle                                $10,000 - $24,999 per year. 

A personal membership plus priority advance reservation opportunities for NARGS travel programs and one free Study Weekend per year (when available).


Founder’s Circle                                          $25,000 or more per year. 

A personal membership plus one free Annual General Meeting registration per year (when available) including accommodations and airfare. And bound copies of last year’s Rock Garden Quarterly.


So how can you help?  Please consider this your call to action. Choose to financially sponsor one of the above contributor endeavors or in any way that you are able. We need financial support to be able to continuing creating a terrific experience for now and future generations of rock garden plant lovers.  Your gift will continue to keep NARGS relevant and allow us to redefine our position in the gardening universe for years to come.


Exciting NARGS Activities for 2017

            Here are some of the activities from NARGS planned for next year.

Spring Study Weekend in Madison, Wisconsin (May 19 and 20)

Plantsman’s Tour of Wyoming (June 21 – June 26)

Tour of the Italian Dolomites (June 29 – July 6)

Annual General Meeting in Raleigh-Durham area, North Carolina (November 17 – 19)

And upcoming in 2018: Annual General Meeting, St. John’s, Newfoundland (July 6 – 8)


Traveling Speakers

            We hope to be able to engage additional traveling speakers as a benefit to NARGS chapters like the fall tour with Liberto Dario, speaking on the flora of Greece.

            If you have any questions, please feel free to contact either of us.  Finally, volunteer your efforts, your professional experience, or your time to NARGS as well as your local chapter. In the meantime, get ready for the 2017 Seed Exchange, putting your garden to bed, and enjoying the holidays



Matt Mattus,                          Betty Anne Spar

NARGS President                  NARGS Vice President










Submitted by Zander on Tue, 11/15/2016 - 11:14

Thank you Bobby. I would add that donations before Jan 1 2017 will only affect this year's budget deficit. Donations made on or after that date apply to FY 2017. We have no way to allocate them differently, as was stated last year.

Submitted by Caroff on Tue, 11/15/2016 - 11:42

Shouldn't the "Additional Membership Levels" be changed to "Additional Donor Levels" or "Additional Support Levels?"  Changes to membership categories require amendments to the by laws.  What is being recognized in the letter are levels of annual giving. Julie

Bobby -Richard said no last year to allocating funds to years other than when they are received. Are you saying otherwise?

Elisabeth,  I meant that I can add in the letter the comment that you suggested:  "I would add that donations before Jan 1 2017 will only affect this year's budget deficit. Donations made on or after that date apply to FY 2017."

Thank you Bobby for the clarification.

[quote=Bobby Ward]

Elisabeth,  I meant that I can add in the letter the comment that you suggested:  "I would add that donations before Jan 1 2017 will only affect this year's budget deficit. Donations made on or after that date apply to FY 2017."


Submitted by DieramaDave on Tue, 11/15/2016 - 17:05

Regarding Travel Stipends:  Weren't these funds being offered previously for both the Study Weekends as well as the Annual meeting?  This would limit their use.

Regarding categories:  The Timmy and Linc Foster Circle seems to me to be lacking, given it's location in the progression.  To my mind, this should be the the first level, or enhanced in some other way.  Bound copies of the Quarterly aren't that appealing to me, and unless we already produce these, would cost both effort and money.


Submitted by Bobby Ward on Wed, 11/16/2016 - 06:11

The original travel stipend guideline supports travel for a first-time attendee to either a Study Weekend or Annual General Meeting.

Please suggest additional item(s) for the Timmy and Linc Foster Circle.

Submitted by Caroff on Wed, 11/16/2016 - 07:26

Donor levels often are tiered so that as the size of the annual donation increases, the tokens of appreciation include all that has been offered for the initial levels, as well as a new token or benefit.  I agree with Dave regarding the desirableness of bound copies of the Quarterly.  How about offering all of the benefits of the Sustainer's Circle, plus priority tour reservations?  This change should be tracked through the Farrer and Founder's Circles  And, keep the two gift memberships for each level.  Julie

I would suggest :

Adding to the Timmy and Linc Foster Circle:

    two complimentary gift memberships

    one free study weekend pass.

I'd also boost the Reginald Farrer Circle to :

     two free study weekend passes

Bobby, do we have the ability to bestow free memberships within the framework of our website, or will we have to either change it or find a workaround?