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Riverside Native Milkweed Fundraiser: Milkweeds 4 Monarchs (M4M)

The idea for our Milkweeds 4 Monarchs (M4M) Fundraiser came from members of our nursery staff.  While visiting other local nurseries they noted that many were growing Fall Mums for fundraisers.  Fall Mums are beautiful flowers that offer late season color to our gardens after a long, hot summer.  A major drawback, as they saw it, was that mums do not offer very much in the way of food, pollen or nectar to insects.  Was there a perennial plant that offered good bloom color, pollen and nectar for pollinators, and which was easily grown?  While many native perennials check all those boxes there was something else milkweeds accomplished that no other perennial can: they feed Monarch butterfly caterpillars.  Monarch butterflies rely entirely on milkweed species to feed their young.  

Over the last several years there have been a lot of news articles about the decline of Monarch numbers along their historical migratory routes.  Some areas reported a 99.9% decline in numbers since the 1980’s.  While Monarchs from most of the United States overwinter in Mexico, butterflies born in the Pacific Northwest spend their winters along the sunny coast of southern California.  Scientific and environmental groups participating in butterfly counts along the West Coast saw steep declines in numbers over a several year period.  Monarch numbers in Mexico were reduced as well.  This has led to Monarchs being listed as an Endangered Species in July of 2022.  While populations have rebounded some there is still a cause for concern.  The primary reason for this decline was the use of herbicides on milkweeds in agricultural practices and destruction of their wintering grounds in Mexico.  We can be part of the solution simply by planting more milkweed.  This is where our M4M Fundraiser comes in!

While most people are very familiar with Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca,  it’s not your only option.  The midwest United States is home to approximately 30 species of milkweeds, and we have many of them.  Most milkweeds prefer sunny and dryer conditions, but we also have species that prefer wet areas and shade.  With this wide variety of habitat preferences nearly everyone has a garden or home landscape that could support these important hostplants.  We grow milkweeds that are tall and short and bloom white, pink, greenish, red and even brilliant orange.  Some species have broad leaves while others have narrow leaves that are reminiscent of pine needles.  All species provide a dependable food source for pollinators for an extended time throughout the summer.  The female Monarch has an uncanny ability to find milkweed for her young.  If you grow it, they will come!

Planning your Fundraiser

We start planning your fundraiser with the end in mind.  If you’re considering a M4M Fundraiser, plants are generally delivered in late August thru September. We can plan for delivery in June or July but that would require planning well in advance. Plants for June or July deliveries are started in the summer of the previous year so contact should be made then.

Our growing season starts early in the year with seeds being sown in early March, potted up in one-gallon containers in April in our greenhouses and moved outside in early June.  We would like your commitment to holding a fundraiser as early as possible.  An early commitment from you allows us to provide larger pants and possibly a larger selection of species.

Riverside Native Perennials Role in the M4M Fundraiser

In order for this to work as easily as possible we’re committed to doing most of the work.  Our role is to grow and deliver the plants on the appointed day and provide you with all the correspondence, graphics and electronics in order for customers to place and pay for their orders online.  A sample order form can be found by clicking on the flyer graphic below. The flyer we use is bright and colorful and contains pictures of some of the plants we grow.  Embedded in the flyer is a link that takes the customer to an order form complete with the native perennial species selected for the fundraiser.  Customers can use the order form to select their species and pay online for their purchase.  Once a purchase has been made a confirmation is sent to the customer and to Riverside Native Perennials.

Money is collected by Riverside Native Perennials through our website.  We already have an existing payment mechanism to seamlessly collect funds.  On or near delivery day we will bring your plants to the pick-up area, set them up in groups by species and confirm with you that we brought the required number and species of plants plus a few extra just to be sure.  We’ll also bring a check for your 40% of the proceeds.  Our credit card service imposes a 3% fee and $0.25 on each transaction, and we will also subtract a fee for fuel which will not exceed $100 and is based on your proximity to central Ohio.  Your 40% will be calculated after those fees are assessed.  We supply you with a final spreadsheet with the names of your customers and what they purchased to be used on pick up day.  We’re happy to send you a copy of the orders at any time during the fundraiser at your request.

In the end the most important thing is to provide healthy plants for your customers and to make sure they walk away with good value for the money they’ve spent.  It’s up to us to provide that for them.

Your Organizations Role in the Fundraiser

Please send us your logo so that we can incorporate it into all your fundraiser correspondence.   A logo with clear background looks best against our graphics. Your role in the fundraiser is to send the emails to the customers on your email list.  Riverside Native Perennials does not have access to your mailing list.  We suggest that you email your customer base about 1-2 months prior to the start of the fundraiser telling them that you’re planning this event.  A second email containing the flyer is sent when the fundraiser begins, and a final email, again containing the flyer is sent about a week before the end of the event as a reminder.  The fundraiser typically runs for about a month.  We can supply you with sample emails and graphics for all of this correspondence.  You are welcome to select the species you would like to sell for your fundraiser and/or we can help you with that.  You also select the date, time and location of the plant pick up.

On pickup day we suggest you have at least four people available to help distribute plants.  We strongly suggest that you do not let people pick their own plants.  The plants should be brought out to the customers from a central area that only your staff can access.  This helps to protect plants from accidental damage and is much less confusing.   You will have a copy of a spreadsheet with customer names and what they bought.  It’s important that every arriving customer check-in with the person who has the spreadsheet so that their name can be crossed off the list.  After check-in, the person with the spreadsheet can tell another member of your staff to pick out the plants purchased and bring them to their vehicle.  We suggest having a 3-hour time slot for pickup on the appointed day.

We have had a few people want who wanted to purchase plants but were reluctant to purchase online.  Please accept this order and send an email informing us of the manual order.  Ask them to mail a check made out to Riverside Native Perennials with their order.  We will add this into your spreadsheet with a note about the payment by check and credit you with your 40%.

We’ve also had people who wanted to help but were unable to plant milkweeds or perennials on their property.  We suggest you contact your local park system beforehand and ask if they’d be willing to accept free plants.

Setting the final price point for the plants is a joint effort between both of us.  Please contact us for further information and examples.

What the Customer Can Expect

Customers will learn about the fundraiser from your emails which contain the graphics and links seen above for ordering plants.  Once they click on the embedded link in the flyer, they’ll be taken to the order form which has pictures, cultural information and ordering information.  They can select the species they want and pay using Paypal or a credit card using a form familiar to most people.  They’ll receive a confirmation of the sale via email, and one will be sent to Riverside Native Perennials.

Pick up day is fun for the customers.  After they have checked in with the person who has the spreadsheet, their plants will be brought to them and/or loaded into their vehicles.  Customers can expect to receive 1-gallon containers with at least 2 plants per pot and most of the plants being 6″ to 3′ tall.  Some species are slow to size up their first year but grow great in their second and subsequent years.  This information is included on the order form so that customers are well informed.  Many customers will receive 3 plants per pot, but we only promote 2 plants per pot.  In some cases, we may give a customer 2 pots with one plant in each.  Plants may already be blooming, and a few will already be hosting caterpillars!