Volunteers talk, we listen.
As we prepare for our 31st season of planting trees + growing community we’re taking time to reflect on the feedback of the folks who make this all possible: our incredible and unparalleled volunteers.
We know there’s a lot to love about volunteering with Friends of Trees, and we also know we’re not perfect. To find out what works and what doesn’t, last season we surveyed more than 500 volunteers after events; here’s a sampling of what we learned and how we’re incorporating the feedback to make our programs stronger.
Would you recommend volunteering with Friends of Trees? Yes, absolutely!
96% of survey respondents would recommend volunteering with Friends of Trees.
“It was nice to do something for the community with good people.”
We also learned that the majority of volunteers came out because they wanted to do something good.
More good news:
The average “grade” for the Friends of Trees volunteer experience was a B+ (89); more volunteers than not felt more connected to their community after volunteering; and the vast majority learned something new about trees or the environment and felt prepared for their volunteer experience.
“Really nice people. I have volunteered 7 or 8 times and loved every time.”
“Those running the program were great, the people I met were great. This was a good feeling, getting out and helping like-minded individuals accomplish something for the greater good. Thanks for that!”
“Planting a tree in my yard with my neighbors was a great experience and memory that I will cherish.”
“It is wonderful to see so much community spirit. I loved seeing the bicycle delivery team!”
Folks had questions or need more information about:
What to expect at a Friends of Trees volunteer event.
“Even a rainy day failed to dampen my enthusiasm.”
We get it, not everyone loves to be outside early on a Saturday morning in the cold rain planting trees in the mud. Of course, it’s not always like that, but tree planting season is October – April because cool, wet conditions are best for the trees, giving the young trees we’re planting the absolute best chance of survival.
We plant trees. Lots of trees. Thousands of trees. And we do this in all weather – warm and sunny, cold and rainy. It gets muddy. It’s physical. This is how we make a difference – and, together, we make a big one: 50,000+ trees and native shrubs planted every a year, with more than 800,000 trees and shrubs planted since 1989.
Cold rain not for you? No problem, there are other ways you can help make a difference, through helping secure food for events, making phone calls, driving a truck … learn more about other volunteer roles here.
We learned that not everyone loves a bucket brigade. We do our best to let folks know what they’re in for, be it a tree planting event or a tree care event, and we’ll do more to let folks know the difference between volunteering for a tree planting event and a tree care event—because, yes, we want the trees we plant to survive and thrive so we do tree care, too!
The use of pronouns during introductions.
Friends of Trees will always strive to be a welcoming and safe place for everyone, regardless of age, ability, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, political views, economic status or anything else that makes you special. Without our volunteers, we are nothing. But together we do amazing things.
There were quite a few comments about our use of pronouns during introductions (for example, “My name is Jenny, I use she/her pronouns.” Or, he/him, they/them, etc.). Most were very positive but some people didn’t understand why we do this.
We understand that getting used to anything new can cause some people to feel a little uncomfortable or can simply just generate questions; we believe it’s well worth it so that others feel seen and welcome.
This response sums it up perfectly:
“As a trans person I really appreciated the affirmation of gender pronouns! It was much nicer that everyone shared at the start than having to correct people later :)”
As a community driven organization Friends of Trees fosters an atmosphere of inclusion and support. We continually work to improve and enhance these efforts and we are so grateful that our community of volunteers supports this:
“I will cherish the fact that in a group of volunteers ranging in age from 10- 65, people were using their pronouns as they introduce themselves. I think it was a learning experience for everyone.”
“I appreciate that you’re trying to reach out for a more diverse population of volunteers.”
“Everyone was so welcoming and kind.”
“There didn’t seem to be enough trees for our group.” “There were so many trees to plant!”
At most of our 100+ events we get the ratio of volunteers:trees planted right. We also acknowledge there is a fine line between too many volunteers and not enough volunteers, and walking this line is both an art and a science.
We assess the planting location, the number of trees to be planted, types and sizes of trees and shrubs, the size of the planting site, how many volunteers attended last year … all of this factors into how many volunteers are ideal for each location and we create a goal for each event. Sometimes more folks show up than registered; other times, people don’t show up. We’re humans, this happens. We do our best to account for this and create the best volunteer experience possible.
We sincerely value the time and effort of our volunteers and regularly work on how best to ensure each event has the ideal number of volunteers to trees. Last season we began asking all volunteers, not just groups, to pre-register for events and that’s made a big difference. And guess what? Registration for the 2019-2020 Friends of Trees season is now open! Check out our event calendar and registration information and join us for another season of planting trees + growing community.
We’ll leave you with one final quote:
“These times in our world are troubled and the news is often grim; each time I volunteer for a Friends of Trees planting I receive a huge dose of hopefulness. The sheer numbers of volunteers with all their varying stories coming together to volunteer when it is cold, wet, muddy is a great dose of joy. Plus, I have been to places previously unknown to me. Abundant riches are added to my life each time.”
Congratulations, you helped plant 50,000 trees and native shrubs last season! Now what? Good thing Friends of Trees isn’t just a tree planting organization–tree care is also on the list because we want the trees we plant to survive and grow and thrive.
It works.The survival rate for urban trees planted the Friends of Trees way, together, with guided post-planting care from our Tree Team, is 97% (based on Portland street trees planted last season). For the subset of trees we’ve been monitoring for nine years since planting it’s an 88% survival rate.
Our trees planted in natural areas also have strong survival rates, especially given some very challenging conditions; for example, some planting sites are not accessible for watering; some plants get eaten by wildlife; humans sometimes trample or vandalize; etc. Some studies indicate that an acceptable minimum survival rate for riparian area restoration plantings is 50%, so our survival rates of 81% in year one and 70% after three years are particularly impressive.
How do we help trees thrive?
We water. We prune. We mulch. We visit and assess. We do this for the street and yard trees planted through our Neighborhood Trees program as well as for the native trees and shrubs planted in our Green Space program.
As part of our Neighborhood Trees post-planting care, we:
- continually share information with tree-recipients about how much water, mulch and pruning trees need;
- deliver and apply free mulch soon after trees are planted;
- offer a summer watering service for a reasonable fee;
- have a Summer Inspector program where trained volunteers visit all newly planted trees twice in the first summer after planting to inspect for tree health, leaving tree care info for the tree recipient.
- have a longer term monitoring program where we visit subsets of trees planted anywhere from two to 10 years ago, to track health and growth;
- prune trees throughout the year (except for a few weeks in the spring and fall when trees are budding or dropping leaves). We rotate neighborhoods each year and focus most of our work on low income, low canopy and/or historically under-served communities.
Did we mention we prune? Last season we pruned more than 1,600 street trees, which is vital toward proper growth and really helps them survive wind, snow, and ice storms.
Our Green Space program also cares for the new trees and shrubs planted in natural areas, and we do this for up to 10 years after planting. The team is often joined by employee volunteer groups who help with summer maintenance tasks such as watering, mulching, and weeding (also called “day-lighting” since we’re clearing space around new plantings to provide for more light and air, and to reduce competition with weeds). We also assess for survival and replant when necessary.
Volunteers help with this! We train volunteers to inspect and prune trees, and volunteers are crucial to effectively mulching thousands of new trees at tree care events.
All told, we care for and monitor more than 54,000 trees a year!
We’re spreading the good word about trees.
We spend much of the summer spreading the word. Our Volunteer & Outreach Team, aided by dedicated Tree Team Ambassadors, attend events, festivals and fairs; plus, we have a crew of Canvassers who go door to door in priority neighborhoods. We strive to reach historically under-served, low-canopy neighborhoods with information about how to volunteer with us and how to get a tree from us. Interested in being a part of this? We’d love for you to join us.
Hey everyone! My name is Alex and I am the Friends of Trees DukeEngage Intern for summer 2019! I am a rising sophomore at Duke University (Go Blue Devils!). For those of you who are unfamiliar with the program, DukeEngage is a program that provides over 400 Duke students with the opportunity to complete service and civic engagement work domestically and abroad for 8 weeks of the summer with all expenses paid. For the past 8 weeks, I have been working with Friends of Trees for my non-profit experience.
I put Friends of Trees as my top choice for non-profit placement because I loved the idea of chilling out and working with trees all summer. In fact, working with a tree organization seemed especially fitting given that I had gotten tree tattoo last summer, which upon working at FoT I’ve realized looks a whole lot like a Doug fir (don’t worry Mom, I haven’t gotten any more tattoos since being in Portland).
I would like to take this blog post as an opportunity to reflect on how much I have grown and what I have learned since starting my internship with FoT.
I didn’t actually get to plant any trees.
So this lesson probably shouldn’t have been as much of a shocker to me as it was. After telling my friends and family that I would be planting trees in Portland for 8 weeks, I was surprised to find out that the summer is actually not the planting season, and instead we do maintenance on trees from previous plantings. Still good! I do have to explain to everyone that I actually have not planted any trees this summer– oops! However, the work we do during the summer is still extremely important to the restoration and growth of riparian areas. This summer I learned that Friends of Trees is contracted by the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services and other watershed councils to plant alongside watersheds and rivers. Trees are super important in maintaining water quality because they provide shade which cools the water and the roots suck up pollutants which keeps the water clean. Both of these services are essential to maintaining a healthy ecological balance in nature, but it’s also essential for maintaining Portland’s drinking water quality. This leads me to my second lesson–
I (possibly) know what I want to do in life!
Towards the end of my freshman year I was feeling extremely conflicted about what I wanted to study and where I wanted college to take me. I had completed my first year in the Pratt School of Engineering, which was to put mildly, really, really difficult. It was hard to combine my passion of environmentalism with my passion for math and science. After a horrific failed attempt at computer programming and electrical engineering, something I believed was necessary to follow my dream of working on renewable, clean energy, I was feeling discouraged as to how exactly I was going to make a difference in the world. Enter Friends of Trees. Learning about the ways in which ecological restoration helps maintain water quality for the city of Portland, I realized that there are ways I can promote environmental well-being at a regional level as an environmental engineer. Working with FoT, I realized that local work can make a huge impact for nature and people alike. This newfound knowledge has motivated me to stay within engineering and one day I might be on the other side of the partnership for ecological restoration.
Working at a non-profit is hard, but it’s worth it
One of the main reasons that I chose to do DukeEngage is because I didn’t think that I would have a chance to work at an environmental non-profit again in my near future. Portland has a big non-profit culture, which is one of the reasons I love this city. It feels like everyone here is working to make other’s lives better, not for the sake of doing service, but because that is what we are supposed to be doing. That being said, working at a non-profit is not easy. Trees don’t necessarily have capital in our society. Their economic and environmental benefits (such as greatly reducing energy costs, air pollution, and emotional stress) are often overlooked. Many people don’t feel the need to “invest” in trees.But, there is an intrinsic value that comes from working at a non-profit. I think one of the most important lessons I learned here is that there is so much more to life than making a ton of money. It is cliche, I’ll admit. Portland, with its proximity to so many natural areas and its low stress culture provides almost a supplemental income that I believe is overlooked by a lot of ‘East Coasters’. I’m not going to lie, there were many days when I was working in the field and thought to myself “I really need a college degree to cut down blackberry?” The answer, in short, is yes if you want to do it in Portland. This summer has taught me that I want to come back to the Pacific Northwest. There is a reason that there are only a few people at FoT that originally hail from here, most come from all over the country. And spending the summer here has really allowed me to realize that reason.
When I first came to Portland to “work with trees all summer”, I never could have imagined how much I could learn, reflect, and grow, during my 8 weeks at Friends of Trees. I didn’t know that I would meet so many funny, caring, and passionate people at my job. People that would influence me to think more deeply about what I wanted from the world and how I could make my personal impact. And yes, I did spend many hot days in the sun being poked by blackberry, or accidentally walking through a patch of stinging nettle, or hauling heavy buckets of mulch and reaching my goal of 10,000 steps a day well before noon. But, I learned so much more than how to identify native plants and how to use Salesforce (which are two very important skills that I am grateful to now have). I learned that there is so much meaning and beauty in the work that Friends of Trees does.. So maybe this won’t be my last time working for a non-profit, but I am so happy and thankful that I got to spend my summer working with Friends of Trees.
Peace out Portland and FoT! It’s been a wild ride ♥ – Alex B
Asociación para empleos y oportunidades en Verde ~ Partnering for jobs and opportunity with Verde (English version here)
“Las asociaciones como la que disfrutamos con la organización Friends of Trees (Amigos de los árboles) son las que realmente han hecho posible el modelo de iniciativa social de Verde. Las asociaciones como esta han permitido que nuestro programa proporcione empleos con salarios dignos, que cuentan con beneficios y oportunidades de capacitación, a muchas personas de bajos ingresos y personas de color que viven en el área de Portland”. —Ricardo Moreno, gerente de Verde Builds, exgerente de Verde Landscape
Al celebrar 30 años de árboles + comunidad, también debemos homenajear a nuestros notorios socios que intervienen para brindar apoyo siempre que hace más falta contar con una mano amiga.
Durante esta época del año con presencia de nieve y hielo, mantuvimos la calma sabiendo que, incluso con las cancelaciones de los eventos, nuestros socios en Verde Northwest estarían ahí para sacarnos del apuro.
Verde brinda servicio a las comunidades al crear riqueza ambiental a través de iniciativas sociales, promoción comunitaria y defensa. Desde el año 2005, Verde aporta nuevas inversiones ambientales a los vecindarios de Portland, involucra a miembros de la comunidad en la planificación y el desarrollo de tales inversiones, y colabora para garantizar que las personas de bajos ingresos y las personas de color se beneficien directamente de las inversiones en espacios verdes, hábitat, eficiencia energética y energía renovable, calles verdes, instalaciones de gestión de aguas pluviales, educación ambiental, empleos verdes y empresas verdes.
“Cuesta creerlo, pero este año se conmemora el 10.º aniversario de la asociación entre Verde y Friends of Trees. Recuerdo vívidamente el invierno de 2009 cuando Verde Landscape recibió el primer encargo de Friends of Trees para plantar árboles en sitios comerciales Era algo realmente nuevo para nosotros y, personalmente, me sentí un poco intimidado, pero con la ayuda y la capacitación que recibimos de nuestros grandes socios y amigos de Friends of Trees, la plantación de árboles en el área metropolitana de Portland se convirtió rápidamente en una de las actividades favoritas de Verde Landscape, y, en la actualidad, estamos orgullosos de decir que Verde ayudó a Friends of Trees a plantar miles de árboles en toda el área de Portland.
“Las asociaciones como la que disfrutamos con la organización Friends of Trees (Amigos de los árboles) son las que realmente han hecho posible el modelo de iniciativa social de Verde. Las asociaciones como esta han permitido que nuestro programa proporcione empleos con salarios dignos, que cuentan con beneficios y oportunidades de capacitación, a muchas personas de bajos ingresos y personas de color que viven en el área de Portland. Nuestro programa también ofrece oportunidades para que los miembros de nuestro equipo hagan la transición a empleos mejor remunerados, no solo en Verde, sino también en otras organizaciones locales. Este programa también abre el camino a oportunidades laborales que los conectan con el ambiente natural y que restauran las áreas verdes en los vecindarios donde viven, normalmente los vecindarios que carecen de los beneficios ambientales de los vecindarios céntricos de Portland”. —Ricardo Moreno, gerente de Verde Builds, exgerente de Verde Landscape
Cuando cancelamos una plantación debido a las condiciones climáticas, ¡el impacto es inmenso! Debemos comunicarnos con los voluntarios, cambiar el destino de plantación de árboles, posponer las donaciones de alimentos, los anillos de riego se vuelven viejos… y la lista continúa. Deben hacerse cientos de llamadas telefónicas, y nuestro equipo trabaja con mucho esfuerzo para organizar todo, hasta el último detalle.
Algunos eventos pueden reprogramarse, pero otros son demasiado complejos para contar con esa flexibilidad. En tales casos, con el apoyo económico de nuestros socios de la Oficina de Servicios Ambientales de la ciudad de Portland, nuestros amigos de Verde plantan los árboles que, de lo contrario, no podrían plantarse en Portland. Ellos acuden a la oficina, recogen los árboles y se van. Esta asociación nos permite reenfocarnos en el próximo evento importante, mientras se plantan los árboles cuanto antes.
Otro aspecto notable de trabajar con Verde fue el proyecto conjunto A New Forest Grows (Nace un nuevo bosque) que permitió plantar más de 4,000 árboles a lo largo del sendero multiuso de la Interestatal 205 para crear un circuito natural verde para peatones, ciclistas y las comunidades vecinas. Verde trabajó con mucho esmero para mantener los árboles en estos lugares desafiantes, con agua y cuidados. Esta asociación entre el Consejo Metropolitano, el Departamento de Transporte de Oregon y Verde se ha convertido en un modelo para otros proyectos y continuará brindando beneficios durante muchos años.
Recientemente, Verde también se asoció con Friends of Trees para fortalecer nuestro Programa de capacitación en silvicultura urbana para adultos (que ha sido posible gracias al financiamiento del Distrito de Conservación de Suelo y Agua de East Multnomah). Verde nominó a cuatro personas de su red para que participen en nuestro programa de capacitación y pasantías durante el último período de otoño-invierno. Este programa ofrece la oportunidad de establecer contactos y de estar expuestos a empleos en el campo ambiental, especialmente en silvicultura urbana y trabajos de restauración. Mediante esta asociación, Verde también acoge a un pasante en su organización.
“Admiro realmente el trabajo que ha realizado Friends of Trees a lo largo de todos estos años al reunir a la comunidad y hacer que nuestros espacios sean más verdes, más saludables y más hermosos. Me siento honrado de haber formado parte de esta gran asociación y espero seguir trabajando y colaborando juntos durante muchos años más para el bienestar de nuestras comunidades y de nuestro ambiente”. —Ricardo Moreno
“It’s really partnerships like the one we enjoy with Friends of Trees that have made Verde’s social enterprise model possible. Partnerships like this have allowed our program to provide living wage jobs with benefits and training opportunities to many low-income and people of color living in the Portland area.” –Ricardo Moreno, Verde Builds Manager
As we celebrate 30 years of trees + community, we must also celebrate our incredible partners who step in to support wherever a helping hand is needed most.
During this season’s icy & snowy conditions we took a deep breath knowing that even with event cancellations, our partners at Verde Northwest would be there to save the day.
Verde serves communities by building environmental wealth through social enterprise, outreach, and advocacy. Since 2005, Verde has brought new environmental investments to Portland’s neighborhoods; involved community members in the planning and building of these investments; and has helped ensure that low-income people and people of color directly benefit from investments in greenspaces, habitat, energy efficiency and renewable energy, green streets, stormwater management facilities, environmental education, green jobs, and green businesses.
“It’s hard to believe but this year marks the 10th anniversary of Verde and Friends of Trees partnership. I vividly remember the winter of 2009 when Verde Landscape received its first tree planting assignment on commercial sites from Friends of Trees. It was all very new to us and I personally felt a bit intimidated by it, but with the help and training we received from our great partners and friends at Friends of Trees, planting trees in the Portland Metro area quickly became one of Verde Landscape’s favorite activities and now we’re proud to say that Verde has helped Friends of Trees plant thousands of trees all over Portland.
“It’s really partnerships like the one we enjoy with Friends of Trees that have made Verde’s social enterprise model possible. Partnerships like this have allowed our program to provide living wage jobs with benefits and training opportunities to many low-income and people of color living in the Portland area. Our program also provides opportunities for our crew members to transition to higher paying jobs, not only within Verde but also with other local organizations. This program also creates pathways to job opportunities that connect them to the natural environment and restore landscapes in the neighborhoods they live in, typically neighborhoods that lack the environmental benefits of Portland’s inner neighborhoods.” -Ricardo Moreno, Verde Builds Manager (Previously Verde Landscape Manager)
When we cancel a planting due to the weather, the impacts are huge! Volunteers must be contacted, trees re-routed, food donations put on hold, donuts grow old … the list goes on. Hundreds of phone calls must be made and our team works diligently until every last detail has been taken care of.
Some events can be rescheduled, but others are just too complex to allow us that flexibility. In these cases, with financial support from our partners at The City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services, our friends at Verde plant the trees that were otherwise unable to be planted in Portland. They come to the office, pick up the trees, and off they go. This partnership allows us to refocus on the next big event, while getting trees into the ground as soon as possible.
Another highlight of working with Verde was the A New Forest Grows collaborative that planted more than 4,000 trees along the I-205 multi-use path to create a green buffer for pedestrians, cyclists, and the neighboring communities. Verde worked diligently to support the trees in these challenging sites with water and care. This partnership with Metro, ODOT, and Verde has become a model for other projects and will continue to provide benefits for years to come.
Recently, Verde has also partnered with Friends of Trees to strengthen our Adult Urban Forestry Training Program (made possible thanks to funding from East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District). Verde nominated four individuals from their network to participate in our paid training and internship program this past fall and winter. This program provides networking and exposure to jobs in the environmental field, particularly in urban forestry and restoration work. Verde is also hosting an intern at their location through this partnership.
“I truly admire the work that Friends of Trees has done through all these years by bringing community together and making our spaces greener, healthier and more beautiful. I’m honored to have been a part of this great partnership and I look forward to many more years of working and collaborating together for the well-being of our communities and our environment.” –Ricardo Moreno
photo credit: left and right photos courtesy of Verde, center photo courtesy of City of Portland, BES.
Love trees? Looking for meaningful work in a supportive, fun work environment? Then check out our opening for a Neighborhood Trees Specialist.
Neighborhood Trees Specialists implement community-based, neighborhood street tree planting projects in collaboration with volunteer Neighborhood Coordinators, Neighborhood Associations and other partner groups in accordance with the Friends of Trees’ mission. Ideal candidates will be personable, creative and adaptable; have a background or interest in community tree planting and care; able to juggle multiple priorities at once; and have a desire to work with diverse communities and individuals of all backgrounds.
Interested? Details here.