Client Story – Colorado Fourteeners Initiative
By Lloyd Athearn, Executive Director
Imagine trying to sell a product that can only be found deep in mountain wilderness, far from the nearest road, atop more than 50 of the highest mountains in the country. Each product is different and must be seen in person. Consumers live at least several hours’ drive away, in many cases on the other side of the country. How can one effectively sell these remote and unique products to potential customers?
For Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, a Golden-based nonprofit, the answer was integrated electronic communication – especially video. But first a bit of clarification. The products CFI “sells” are sustainably designed summit hiking trails found on Colorado’s Fourteeners, the 50-plus mountains exceeding 14,000 feet in elevation. We also “sell” the unique beauty of these alpine tundra ecosystems, including stunning plants that may exist only on these high peaks. We “sell” Leave No Trace practices so hikers can enjoy the sense of achievement and wonder that comes from climbing these mountains without damaging the fragile scenery they pass.
OK, maybe “sell” isn’t the right word. We don’t really sell our Fourteener summit trail improvements, nor do we charge for the minimum-impact practices imparted to the hiking public. These lands are owned by all of us, and people can generally hike Fourteener summit trails without fees or permits. But we cannot take finance out of the equation; it costs a lot for CFI to do all this work.
Last year, CFI invested $1.2 million into the Fourteeners through reconstructing improperly located, user-created hiking trails, restoring alpine vegetation, and educating hikers. With government support on the decline, we had to find new funders. Fourteener enthusiasts with a personal interest in protecting the peaks for future generations were targets, as were businesses and foundations that wanted to protect Colorado’s signature mountains and our outdoor lifestyle. But how to reach these potential donors?
Video was instrumental. Describing CFI’s work doesn’t do it justice. However, showing what it takes to move large rocks by hand at altitude to construct a retaining wall or staircase is compelling, as is moving soil and transplanting vegetation to restore denuded areas. We wanted to show – not tell – what CFI does. There is no better tool for capturing the wonder of these mountains and the difficulty of our work than video. While CFI will continue to do public presentations in and around Colorado, these web videos reach potential supporters across the country in ways personal talks never could. And they work 24/7 as an educational tool regardless of whether the viewer lives in Louisville, Colorado or Louisville, Kentucky.
The results thus far have been impressive. The first series of educational videos have been up for almost a year and continue to draw viewers. More are in production. Together this video library tells the story of protecting the Fourteeners and how CFI makes it happen. Of particular note, a Fireside-produced promotional video in last year’s Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good campaign helped us win a new $36,000 Toyota Tundra truck in a national competition. For years to come as this truck lugs seasonal crews, tools, and volunteers to Fourteener trailheads across the state, we will be reminded of the power of video to tell stories, inspire people to get new cars, so they can convince themselves that is time to buy a new car and that they deserve it.