What kind of Chapter plant sales would we have without the National organization? Pretty dismal, I would say. The sources, knowledge and connections for interesting materials would be drastically reduced.
Sometimes it’s hard to fully convey what NARGS does for Chapters without concrete, in your face, evidence. So as the Minnesota Chapter Plant Sales chair, I tried something new. Show them, prove to them how NARGS impacts all Chapter members.
This past season (2016) I implemented a new benefit for our (national) NARGS members at the Chapter level:
At our plant sales, we have a $1 discount on plants designated as NARGS generated.
What is a NARGS generated plant? In short, it is any plant that is at our sale because of NARGS. In other words, the plant would not exist at the sale if NARGS did not exist. These would include:
--- plants from seed from the NARGS seed exchange, and their descendants
--- plants derived from purchases made because of discoveries made through the NARGS website, sales, publications, presentations, conferences, etc.
--- plants derived from personal exchanges found through the National organization.
The purpose is to show yet another way that we ALL are benefiting from the National organization, whether we are members or not. Of course, the other purpose is to encourage NARGS membership!
At my Chapter's sales, each NARGS designated plant is marked with a green dot on the tag. (I want to be a ble to say: "Look! All these green dot plants wouldn't be here if it weren't for NARGS!")
The $1 discount for NARGS members is subtracted from the marked price. At the end of the sale, a tally of green dot tags will determine the size of the financial donation to NARGS that will come from the Chapter plant sale receipts.
NARGS members pay $5 for this plant.
I did not make the green dot designation a rule. The plants donated are the donors’, and the donors decide how they want to handle this, but I would hope that they see the value and logic behind supporting the benefits we receive from NARGS. We had a lot of plants that missed the designation this first year, and I admit some of that was my fault. But it was a good start.
I understand there are still Chapters that sell their plants for under a dollar or at least very cheaply, consequently this $1 discount would be extravagant. If I may interject my thoughts on this:
At our Chapter sales, donors price their own items. I encourage them to price them at two-thirds to three-fourths of what we might expect to pay at a nursery. In my view, we don’t want to short cut the specialty nurseries by underselling. I don’t want to put them out of business, but I do want to expand a buyer’s knowledge and palette of available plants. By using ridiculously low prices, are you not misleading buyers away from their actual value? Many are not even obtainable in the marketplace at all!
My Chapter has two plant sales: a big spring sale that is open to the public, and a smaller late summer sale that is for members and guests only. At the second sale, prices do tend to be somewhat lower and I bill that sale as one of our member benefits.
So now that our Chapter has gone through a trial season, there are a few more things I can suggest if you want to try this at your Chapter:
--- People seem to automatically view this as a penalty or a surcharge for not joining the National organization. Even NARGS members might subconsciously have this tendency. Start with your Chapter board members and make it very clear: this is a discount, not a penalty, not a surcharge!!!
It is no different than a food coop. If you are a member, you get a discount on the marked price. If you are not a member, you get the privilege of being able to shop for goods not found anywhere else, and you pay the marked price.
I also use a Minnesota Arboretum membership as an example. As a member, you get a discount in the gift shop and for classes and workshops, and free entry. As a non-member you still have access to all these things, but at the normal rate.
--- Be prepared to explain the details of your method multiple times. It seems to be a difficult idea to grasp. Put it in clear concise wording in your newsletter.
--- It was suggested by one of our Chapter members that a simpler way to achieve “the same thing” would be to just make a donation to NARGS. We could do that in addition, but this would certainly not be the same thing! For me, generating revenue for NARGS is secondary in this case. The real purpose is to get Chapter members to realize that they are not separate from NARGS, and that the availability of NARGS generated plants is just one of the benefits they enjoy from NARGS.
This is why I settled on the name of “NARGS Appreciation” for the discount. I would be honored if you would use it or something similar. Try to keep people focused on the reason for the discount, not the $$$.
And I would love to hear your comments and improvements on my venture.