Ducks Unlimited

Conservation Giant Ducks Unlimited Partners with Blackbaud to Meet its Unique CRM Needs

Since its founding in the Dust Bowl era, Ducks Unlimited has conserved 14 million acres to protect waterfowl. The organization needed the right CRM partner to provide an exceptional experience that will grow members and volunteers for decades to come. 

Ducks Unlimited’s volunteers represent diverse groups of people around the country committed to waterfowl conservation. Their efforts result in over 4,000 events each year, more than 700,000 members across the country, 14 million acres and counting conserved, and more than $220 million in annual revenue dedicated to the cause.

For years, Ducks Unlimited handled its constituent resource management in house, building a system from scratch to accommodate its unique funding structure. But along the way, the very language of that technology became less and less widely used.

The homegrown system started presenting challenges around the time Govan Hornor retired from leading IT efforts at a major multinational package delivery company for nearly three decades. Hornor, who grew up duck hunting along the Mississippi River, likes to explain business challenges with metaphors. When he learned about the situation at Ducks Unlimited, he put it like this: “The platform wasn’t on fire, but you could smell smoke.”

Hornor stepped out of retirement and took his dream job as chief information officer with Ducks Unlimited—and immediately looked for the right partners to prevent that impending fire from occurring. This included reaching out to Blackbaud for constituent resource management. “If you don’t have a good system in place to support your work in today’s world, you’re not going to survive,” Hornor explained. “It was necessary for us to evolve and grow.”

Dust to Donors

Ducks Unlimited began in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, as a windy drought swept the United States and Canada, threatening agriculture and ecology in its wake. A group of hunters worried about declining duck numbers and began raising money to protect the birds’ nesting grounds in Canada.

The group ran into an immediate challenge, because a United States entity cannot purchase land in Canada. So, Ducks Unlimited Canada was formed as a partner organization. By the 1980s, research revealed the importance of the ducks’ entire migration path, so Ducks Unlimited began protecting not only nesting grounds, but wintering and migration habitats as well.


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