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There has never been a better time to invest in PRBO’s future.

PRBO’s Lasting Legacy: Capital Campaign Completed!

Ellie M. Cohen

An early announcement of PRBO’s pending move showed our building under construction in 2004. Photo by Gerald Moore / Petaluma Wetlands Alliance.
PRBO reached a major milestone in November 2010: we completed the capital campaign for our “new” Petaluma headquarters and now own it outright! Thanks so much to each of you for your generosity that made this possible!

This landmark achievement represents a major step forward. By securing PRBO’s infrastructure for the long haul, we can now focus fully on addressing the negative impacts of our changing environment on birds and ecosystems. With a permanent home base, your investment in PRBO’s award-winning conservation science goes even further!

Things were much different when I first arrived at PRBO in 1999. We were literally operating by the skin of our teeth—month-to-month, year-to-year, and without any reserve funds. PRBO had (and still has!) tremendous “net worth” in the form of our scientists, long-term data sets, and stellar reputation, but we lacked the ability to sustain operations in the event of a truly “rainy day.”

From my first day, a top goal was to help institutionalize PRBO: to make it financially strong and permanent beyond any single individual; to ensure we could withstand the unexpected.

The building campaign was, needless to say, a massive undertaking! PRBO was already in search of more space by the late 1990s. Sites in West Marin were explored but none had the communications capacity or square footage required. Working with Board member Steve Thal and a handful of others, we proposed that PRBO launch a major capital campaign to secure a new headquarters to meet our growing needs.
View to the northwest from our headquarters to be. PRBO Photo.

At the outset, only a small fraction of Board members favored the idea. For this reason, we conducted a feasibility study to demonstrate that PRBO could successfully raise the minimum $5 million needed.

With some friendly pressure from our conservation colleagues, we dropped the idea of building a new facility on undeveloped open space. Instead, we chose the “in-fill” approach and searched for a location already zoned for our high level of use—including a 50-car parking lot! But an office park for PRBO’s new home? This was a difficult concept at first for us all, coming from our long-time home nestled in over 200 acres of coastal Marin County thanks to Audubon Canyon Ranch!

One chilly late-winter day in 2004, then-Finance Director Bob Hunter and I drove by the last undeveloped lot directly adjacent to the wetlands on Cypress Drive in a Petaluma office park– with its huge “opening in 2001” sign outside! We both knew immediately this was it! PRBO would soon own 20,000 of the office condominium’s 36,000 square feet. This would prove to be much more affordable than building our own facility, enabling PRBO to devote more resources to our vital programs. And we could employ cutting edge communications technology—finally!

A $6 Million Goal

Once the campaign was undertaken, everyone was committed and passionate. The Board took the lead by making the first substantial financial commitment, followed by the DMARLOU Foundation and many other generous gifts from our supporters. The early fundraising was capped by a surprise $500,000 gift from an anonymous donor, and Capital Campaign Committee Chair and future Board Chair Carolyn Johnson took the lead from there. The campaign soared!
Upstairs conference with members of our Board of Directors. PRBO Photo.

In 2006, with $2 million left to raise in our $6.2 million campaign and at the suggestion of Board member Rebecca Patton, PRBO was able to obtain a “project related investment” (a low-interest loan) from our long-time partners at the Packard Foundation.

And finally, in November 2010, we succeeded in completing our repayment and wrapping up our capital campaign—one year early!

Former Board President Bill Foss recently emailed his good wishes: “As you surely will recall, I cast my vote in favor of this project with a healthy measure of skepticism. My hat is off to you. It is a wonderful thing you and your team have done. Congratulations!”

Congratulations to us all! What a fantastic team effort—a truly invaluable outcome for us and future generations.

To ensure your place in this “lasting legacy” success story, please consider including PRBO in your estate planning if you haven’t already done so. There has never been a better time for investing in PRBO’s future! Thanks again for all you have done and continue to do for birds, ecosystems, and our future.