Recommendations proposed for increasing arboreta membership, sustaining programs

June 27, 2011
A new study looked at ways to sustain important programming at community gardens. Credit: Photo courtesy of Kathleen M. Kelley

Public gardens and arboreta rely on members as stable sources of funding and to fill critical volunteer needs. Maturing membership demographics coupled with flat enrollment numbers presents multiple challenges for arboreta directors and boards in attracting new members and competing for limited consumer discretionary entertainment and activity dollars. Researchers from the Department of Horticulture at Pennsylvania State University and The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College recently conducted two studies designed to better understand arboreta and community members' attitudes toward programming and memberships benefits. The study produced recommendations that the researchers hope will contribute to more sustainable institutions. Kathleen M. Kelley, James C. Sellmer, and Rebecca H. Robert reported on their research in HortTechnology.

The team sent a mail survey to arboreta members that asked what encouraged them to become members and what member services they valued. The second study, an Internet survey of consumers residing within a 30-mile radius of the arboreta, was designed to understand what strategies might increase arboreta membership. Several differences were noted between responses from the arboretum members and those from community participants.

Results from the survey of current members showed that the top three reasons people joined an arboretum's association were ''the benefits offered'' (28.2%), "providing the arboretum with financial support'' (22.9%), and ''to attend horticultural educational programs at a discounted rate'' (22.6%).

Not surprisingly, interest in gardening appeared to be greater among arboreta members compared with the general community members. Arboreta members' interest in garden programming and activities differed from those of in all categories except "outdoor concerts and live performances," "wine tasting and tours," and "painting and drawing." One activity that appeared to be more of interest to community members than arboreta members was "cooking and entertaining".

Overall, gardening, landscaping, and lawn care programming appeared to garner the most interest from arboreta members, with 92.7% rating their interest in this category as "somewhat interested" to "very interested." Related to the delivery of programs, responses showed that hands-on workshops would appeal to arboreta members, particularly women and those with a higher level of education.

According to Kelley, corresponding author of the study, the survey responses should offer arboreta staff helpful information upon which to base programming decisions. "It is hoped that by providing appealing programs, activities, and events along with advertising arboreta membership benefits—such as reduced rates and special members' only events—membership will indeed grow."

Explore further: New roadside beautification concept studied

More information:

Related Stories

New roadside beautification concept studied

July 17, 2008

Travel America's highways or drive down any city street this summer and you'll probably see them. From small, manicured beds of flowers maintained by community volunteers to extensive landscaping projects along America's ...

Losing your religion deemed unhealthy

September 22, 2010

( -- People who leave strict religious groups are more likely to say their health is worse than members who remain in the group, according to a Penn State researcher.

Unions make both members and nonmembers happier

November 5, 2010

It’s no coincidence that American workers have never been more dissatisfied with their jobs, and labor unions’ membership keeps dropping, according to a new study co-authored by University of Notre Dame political ...

Gangs don't protect against crime

April 13, 2011

Gang members are twice as likely to be crime victims than non-gang members and are more frequently subject to simple assault, aggravated assault and drive by shootings, according to a recently study by the Crime Victims' ...

Recommended for you

New gene map reveals cancer's Achilles heel

November 25, 2015

Scientists have mapped out the genes that keep our cells alive, creating a long-awaited foothold for understanding how our genome works and which genes are crucial in disease like cancer.

Insect DNA extracted, sequenced from black widow spider web

November 25, 2015

Scientists extracted DNA from spider webs to identify the web's spider architect and the prey that crossed it, according to this proof-of-concept study published November 25, 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Charles ...

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.