On the trails: Upper Valley a fertile locale for nonprofit organizations


For the Valley News

Published: 03-29-2024 10:18 AM

Have you ever wondered how a nonprofit organization comes to be ... or why?

A nonprofit organization is a legal entity organized for a collective, public or social benefit — most often created to meet community needs that are not already covered by local government.

Depending on where you live, the type of nonprofit and amount of organizations can vary widely and reveal a lot about the community. What do people around here feel is an essential service? What groups were formed because enough people advocated for the causes they support?

Growing up in the West, I watched movies and TV shows set in New England towns. I looked at pictures of the gorgeous fall foliage, farmers markets and hiking views. I didn’t know much about the individual states, but knew the East Coast was famous for its lush, green landscapes and natural beauty.

When I moved to the Upper Valley, I was amazed — but not entirely surprised — at the sheer number of nonprofits dedicated to outdoor recreation and conservation. This explained why the landscapes remain beautiful: Communities value the protection of natural spaces and ensuring anyone who wants to enjoy them can do so by creating organizations that conserve land and maintain trails.

During my time at the Upper Valley Trails Alliance (one of the outdoor nonprofits in the region), I have witnessed the passion and commitment our community members have to these outdoor spaces and have been involved in some amazing projects. In the past three years, our organization has built five accessible trails out of crushed stone and using a compactor plate to level the surface. This has made it possible for those who are wheelchair bound to enjoy the woods. We have built new trails, maintained existing ones and built staircases, boardwalks and bridges to improve user experience — all at the request of the towns and organizations who manage these spaces.

I have also been delighted at the enthusiastic support we receive from local businesses. Our Passport to Winter Fun program offers incentive prizes to participants for reaching milestones throughout the program as well as larger grand prizes in a raffle for those who complete the program.

This year, we were able to offer 13 incentive prizes throughout the course of the and have received donations for 15 grand prizes, which is our largest offering of grand prizes yet.

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When I first joined the team six years ago and was being trained in the ways of the organization, asking for donations was frequently mentioned as a key responsibility of my job, which made me nervous.

It isn’t easy asking people for favors, and I was unsure as to how people would respond.

As I wrote emails and made phone calls soliciting donations for the UVTA Tour de Taste, I was surprised and delighted that so many people said yes and have enthusiastically continued to participate years later.

I’ve asked a fair number of people over the years why they say yes to a donation, the best answer I’ve received was, “I would not donate something unless I wanted to, and I love UVTA. You guys do a lot of important work, and I want to be part of it any way I can.”

It says a lot about a community of people who not only choose to create these organizations but that they continue to thrive through memberships, donations and volunteerism. I think I speak for many nonprofit organizations when I say that we simply could not do our work without our awesome Upper Valley community.

To learn more about how to support UVTA’s programs and projects, visit uvtrails.org. Kaitie Eddington is the program manager for the Upper Valley Trails Alliance.