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Northland Arboretum official updates Baxter on growth following pandemic

The Northland Arboretum has seen growth following the pandemic and presented their progress to the Baxter City Council on Nov. 15.

Northland Arboretum sign
The Northland Arboretum is a conservation-based nonprofit in Brainerd and Baxter.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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BAXTER — Northland Arboretum officials gave a brief presentation on their growth following the pandemic to the Baxter City Council on Nov. 15.

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Candice Zimmermann, executive director of Northland Arboretum, was present to update the council on the status of the arboretum and show the members the progress seen in the past month.

Northland Arboretum is a nonprofit that spans 413 acres between Brainerd and Baxter. Its focus is connecting the community to the outdoors all year round. There are a variety of year round activities including hiking, gardening, skiing, and more. The arboretum averages over 25,000 visits per year and is made possible through membership fees, events held throughout the year, grants, donations and agency funds.

Since beginning at the job two and a half years ago, Zimmermann said she has watched membership numbers grow from around 830 to the 1,303 members currently. Beginning in 2023, membership fees will increase to help with rising expenses.

According to Zimmermann, the arboretum is on an upward trend after COVID-19. Events are back after a decrease during the pandemic. A significant amount of revenue is coming from facility rentals and events held in those spaces. Zimmermann also said she hopes to see those spaces utilized even more in the future.

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Other sources of revenue for the arboretum include the haunted trail. They also have smaller events in the spring and a trunk or treat event.

During the 2022 year, funding from the city of Brainerd accounted for about 18.5% of the arboretum’s revenue, which was down from 23% the previous year. Zimmermann said they are “trying to rely less on that operational funding.”

Donations also make up around 13.9% of the revenue.

“Donations are pretty steady at around $59,000,” Zimmermann said. “Most recently, we partnered with the Brainerd Lakes Community Foundation and started an agency fund with them just to help us with our fundraising.”

Northland Arboretum has four fundraising strategies currently: internal operations, leadership development, partners, and gifts.

Internal operations include membership fees and facility rentals. This also includes grants, events and educational programs held on site. The facility rental rates were increased to market standard for weddings and parties, but nonprofit rentals and business meeting rentals were kept at the same rates.

The arboretum has been working hard to develop as a team in the past six months since learning about the potential reduced funding from Brainerd, Zimmermann said. They have been taking part in fundraising schools with the Initiative Foundation and doing more training in fundraising. Zimmermann said it will help them learn how to boost their organization from an individual level.

The arboretum also has a list of partners with whom they continue to work. These partners include Crow Wing County, Greater Minnesota Parks and Trails, Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College, The Nature Conservancy, the cities of Brainerd and Baxter and others.

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The final strategy is gifts, which include legacy gifting and endowments, annual meetings and corporate giving.

“We are 413 acres smack dab in the middle of the city and I think that we should be really, really proud that we provide this to our community members,” Zimmermann said. “So for the health and wellbeing of our residents and for the economic health of the local businesses, I believe that the Northland Arboretum brings in a lot to the community and then we also serve the people that live within it. So, you can see there that we’ve been really striving hard to create better visitor experiences, to promote hands-on learning with kids, and really create those special nature connections with our community.”

SARA GUYMON, Brainerd Dispatch, staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5851 or sara.guymon@brainerddispatch.com

Sara Guymon recently joined the Brainerd Dispatch as a staff writer.
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