Fundraising with Facebook

Social media just became the newest fundraising frontier for the Glacier National Park Fund (GNPF). The Flathead nonprofit, in partnership with Seattle-based outdoor retailer REI, launched a tech-savvy initiative Nov. 5 that allows any Missoulian with a Facebook account and a Blackberry to help float scores of projects benefiting the Crown of the Continent's trails and special programs.

Over the next few weeks, Missoula's REI outlet is donating $1 to GNPF efforts for every person that "checks in" at the store using Facebook's Places feature. REI Public Affairs Associate Bethany Hawley says the promotion is part of the brand new Facebook Deals, a nonprofit fundraising blitz involving 20 companies nationwide from North Face to Starbucks.

"We were really excited about the Facebook Deals not only in that it provided us another opportunity to work with some of our local nonprofit partners, but also that it provided us a way to introduce some of our members and customers to them in a different way," Hawley says.

Hawley adds that the GNPF isn't the only nonprofit benefiting from the promotion; each REI store in the country designated its own conservation-based partner, and the promotion will continue until the company has raised a combined total of $100,000.

But for GNPF, which began its grant partnership with REI this year, Facebook Deals will contribute to a more immediate problem for Glacier National Park. According to an October report from Environment America, the National Park Service faces a potential $22 million shortfall in next year's budget, and the report specifically names Glacier as one of three parks that may be subject to serious cuts in 2011.

With GNPF already donating hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for special projects, like this summer's stabilization work on the Heaven's Peak lookout, development director Kelly Heaton says every dollar adds up.

"We really fill in the gaps when there's a shortfall with the money that the park receives from the federal government," Heaton says. "The more money we get the more special projects we can take on."

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