People travel from all over the world to capture a moment, a split second, of natural wonder in a photograph at Yellowstone. Whether it is capturing the birth of a bison, the light hitting Electric Peak just right, or the unimaginable colors of Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, cameras are the tool of choice for most visitors as they hope to take their memories of this magical place home.
It’s not surprising that photography has an inextricable link to Yellowstone. In fact, the creation of the park itself was bolstered by William H, Jackson who is widely credited with capturing some of the very first photos of the park as part of the 1869 Hayden Expedition. Jackson, along with the artist Thomas Moran, delivered these images back to Washington D.C, as evidence that this remarkable landscape needed protection. This trip, and many others that followed, was funded through what was likely the first corporate partner of Yellowstone National Park and the National Park system: the Union Pacific Railroad Company.
Yellowstone’s need for corporate partners
Union Pacific’s partnership helped fuel the public support needed to create Yellowstone and eventually the National Park system itself. This first corporate connection was and continues to be a benchmark for efficiency in these public/private partnerships.
Of course, a lot has changed since 1869. Every visitor to Yellowstone has in their pocket a camera with higher resolution and storage than Jackson could have ever imagined. And now visitors don’t rely on trains to get to the national parks.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is that corporate partnerships — although modernized and complex — still create mission-critical opportunities for Yellowstone while creating a unique affiliation for the corporation.
Here are 4 ways corporate partners support Yellowstone today.
1. Project-Based Support
Skip to 2020. With over 2.2 million #hashtagged photos associated with Yellowstone on Instagram, it’s easy to understand why Canon USA, a company that specializes in camera technology, is one of the longest running corporate partners of Yellowstone National Park.
But Canon’s story doesn’t end with photos.
Since 1999 Canon USA has funded the Eyes on Yellowstone project in Yellowstone National Park, a multi-tiered, interdisciplinary program that provides support for scientific studies in conservation, endangered species protection and cutting-edge technology essential to managing park wildlife and ecosystems.
Yellowstone Forever, park staff, and Canon USA worked together to develop Eyes on Yellowstone, paying close attention to the needs of park staff and Canon’s technical capabilities. Since the project started, Canon USA has invested over $6 million in Yellowstone, making a measurable impact on cougar and wolf research in the park. According to Dan Stahler, a wildlife biologist with Yellowstone, a recent study sponsored in part by Canon has estimated 34 to 42 cougars lived across northern Yellowstone (2014-2017), indicating a stable population following wolf recovery.
Another current partner focusing on transportation is Conoco-Phillips. As much as railroads brought visitors to national parks, the construction of highways soon brought vehicles to Yellowstone, and thus the need for gas stations. Enter Conoco-Phillips, who invested early and often in support of Yellowstone and continues to do so today. Conoco-Phillips has supported numerous projects within the park and provided leadership to Yellowstone Forever since its inception. Critical projects that have been completed or slated for completion due in large part to Conoco-Phillip’s partnership include the restoration of Inspiration Point, the Roosevelt Arch, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone overlooks and thousands of miles of trails.
Project-based giving is a one way to develop true partnership at Yellowstone Forever. By identifying the needs and priorities of the park and matching those with the core objectives and philanthropic priorities of our partners we can create a powerful partnership that provides critical support to Yellowstone National Park.
2. In-Kind Support
Yellowstone operates a fleet of over 800 vehicles at high fuel costs in one of the harshest environments in the lower 48 —Yellowstone’s winters. With the management of that vehicle fleet comes the maintenance of more than 3,200 tires.
Michelin Corporation helped the park create a fleet management strategy through their commitment to sustainable mobility and protecting the environment. Michelin made an in-kind donation of high-quality tires that not only lowered the park’s budget each year, but also helped the staff operate with more fuel efficiencies, effectively saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.
After the success of the tire project took hold, Michelin had new stories to tell at Yellowstone. This time, they included an innovative recycling program that took end-of-life tires from the Yellowstone fleet and turned them into a new substrate used to build ADA accessible pathways at Old Faithful’s “Geyser Hill”.
In addition to this first-of-its kind application in a national park, Michelin used the opportunity to reward staff across the country through an employee engagement competition that gave several workers the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience Yellowstone through an all-expenses paid trip and private tour of the park. This culminated in a team-building exercise to help install a portion of the recycled pathway each year during the phased program.
Since 2008, Michelin has provided almost $3 million in-kind and cash support to Yellowstone
In-kind giving is critical at Yellowstone Forever. Working closely with Yellowstone National Park staff to identify areas where efficiencies can be achieved while providing strategic entry points for corporate partners’ products. In the end, the cost-savings for the park allow resources to be conserved and redirected to other priorities, providing further opportunities to protect and preserve Yellowstone and introduce visitors to brands that support the park.
3. Cause Marketing Support
Cause marketing provides opportunities for a company to align themselves with a cause important to their brand values while also providing a significant financial return to an organization, typically in the share of product sales. A carefully designed partnership, one that pays close attention to each partner’s mission and values, can often reap great benefits for both entities.
Yellowstone National Park has a unique profile for cause marketing. Recognized as the world’s first national park, this iconic place is a worldwide symbol of public land protection, resiliency, environmental conservation and incredible natural landmarks found nowhere else on earth. As the official nonprofit partner of Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone Forever has a unique ability to help connect brands with the park, identify funding priorities, develop and design appropriate products in partnership with our federal partners, and implement campaigns to drive sales.
One of Yellowstone’s many cause marketing partners is the horticulture breeder and propagator, Dümmen Orange. In 2020 Dümmen Orange signed an agreement for the joint branding of a new petunia, the Yellowtone petunia. Sales of these petunias in garden stores will support priority projects in Yellowstone National Park. And simultaneously Dümmen Orange can make real strides in their commitment to sustainability.
Here are a few other examples of Yellowstone Forever’s cause-marketing partners:
4. Employee Matching Programs
Not all corporations can support Yellowstone in the ways described above, but many have embraced placing their support directly in their employees’ hands.
Corporate matching programs have gained popularity over the last few years as a way to not only encourage giving by their employees but effectively double their impact on the causes they choose. This has provided millions to non-profits and increased employee morale for many participating companies, large and small.
Over the last 5 years, employees and companies have given over $450,000 to Yellowstone National Park as part of this new corporate giving mechanism. If your company participates in a matching program but Yellowstone Forever is not an option, contact your HR manager and request that we be added!
For more information on these types of partnership or to learn about how your company can support Yellowstone Forever, contact Sam Barkley, Senior Director of Corporate Partnerships, [email protected].
In Good Company is a regular series that explores the partnerships that help make Yellowstone National Park a more sustainable, efficient and cutting-edge operation for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.