Artist Boat preserves land slated for development

Karla Klay, executive director of Artist Boat, points where undeveloped land transitions to saltwater marsh along a peninsula of land the nonprofit is trying to acquire from Anchor Bay on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020.

It’s no secret that nonprofit organizations have taken a huge hit thanks to the pandemic. For so many of them — food banks, for example — the need for their services increased while a pandemic-stricken economy hampered many donors’ ability to give.

With fundraisers like galas and runs and walkathons torpedoed by the pandemic, organizations have been challenged to get creative to keep those crucial funds flowing. And they have. Nonprofits — especially smaller, local ones that don’t have to grind through layers of approvals — are pretty nimble. That’s as true in their fundraising strategies as it is on the program-delivery side.

Artist Boat is behind one such creative endeavor, as you might have read about on page A4 in March 18’s edition.

Artist Boat was founded more than a decade ago to promote awareness and preservation of coastal prairies, wetlands and the marine environment through the arts and sciences. Among its goals is to preserve and restore 1,400 contiguous acres of land between Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on west Galveston Island — home to “meadowlarks, piping plovers, gulls and terns, grebes and their grebettes, roseate spoonbills, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, mottled ducks, terrapin turtles, coyotes, fish, shrimp, crabs and hundreds of other species,” Artist Boat board chair Al Alsup wrote in a commentary.

The organization has purchased about 700 acres of the preserve, which it raised $11 million over the past decade to buy parcel by parcel. The plan was to continue until it had bought up all of the 1,400 acres to protect and preserve.

But, “the Galveston real estate market is now hotter than ever, and there’s an existential risk that these pristine lands will be lost to high-density commercial and residential development,” Alsup wrote.

So, Artist Boat is accelerating its commitment. The organization has launched its “One in a Million” campaign, with the goal of getting a million individuals to each give at least $10 over the next two years.

“The donations from these ‘One in a Million’ donors will help purchase land directly and will be used to match conservation grants dollar for dollar,” Alsup wrote. “Plus, the $10 million raised will be leveraged to $20 million by unlocking other conservation grants focused on land.”

This is a really clever way to raise funds. Nonprofits often deal in large numbers, raising millions of dollars to feed hundreds of thousands of starving children or saving thousands of homeless animals or rebuilding whole communities after a natural disaster.

But for most people, those numbers don’t resonate. We hurt for those in need, but when faced with huge numbers, we wonder how much our relative drop-in-the-bucket donations can help.

Artist Boat’s strategy allows donors to see that they can make a difference, no matter what they can afford to give.

You can become “One in a Million” in support of Galveston’s last wild lands by donating at

• Margaret Battistelli Gardner

Margaret Battistelli Gardner: 409.683.5227;


Deputy Managing Editor

Margaret joined The Daily New in December 2019, bringing more than 20 years of editorial experience to the team. A Philadelphia native, she lives in Galveston County with her husband, Steve, and their dog Nanook.

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