Q. What does “TREE Fund” mean?
A. Tree Research and Education Endowment Fund.
Q. Is the TREE Fund a non-profit organization?
A. Yes, it is a 501c3 charitable organization incorporated in Illinois. The IRS determination letter and TREE Fund Articles of Incorporation (“bylaws”) can be found here.
Q. What does the TREE Fund do?
A. Primarily, the TREE Fund gives grants to scientific researchers studying tree health and the connection of trees and people. The TREE Fund also offers several scholarships for students entering the field of arboriculture. The TREE Fund offers a series of free webinars on the findings of tree research. Each webinar offers one (1) continuing education credit (CEU) to arborists working toward certification by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).
Since its founding in 2002, the TREE Fund have given more than $5.1 million for tree research and education.
Q. Since it’s incorporated in Illinois, are all of its grants given in Illinois?
A. No. Thus far, the TREE Fund has made research grants to fund tree science in 37 states and 15 foreign nations.
Q. Who owns the TREE Fund?
A. No one. By law, a public nonprofit–like the TREE Fund–cannot be owned by a person or a group of people. Nonprofit organizations are separate legal entities from their founders, incorporators, directors, officers, and employees.
Q. Who runs the TREE Fund?
A. The TREE Fund is governed by its volunteer board of trustees, the members of which are elected by the board. The board sets high-level policy and strategic plans to achieve the TREE Fund’s mission. The TREE Fund is directed by a staff of paid nonprofit professionals who advise the board, implement the board’s directives, and manage day-to-day operations.
Q. Who serves on the TREE Fund Board of Trustees?
A. Traditionally, the board has been composed of arboriculture professionals, researchers, and college-level educators. In recent years, the TREE Fund has recognized the wisdom of greater diversity and joined the nonprofit movement to recruit trustees from beyond the traditional groups. The chief criteria are now an ability and willingness to advance the TREE Fund mission and a preference and capacity for high-level, strategic thinking.
Q. How is the TREE Fund funded?
A. Charitable donations and the investment earnings on endowed funds; the endowments were created by charitable donations.
Q. Are donations to the TREE Fund tax deductible?
Q. Can I purchase a membership in the TREE Fund?
A. No. The TREE Fund is not a membership organization.
Q. How do I know I can trust the TREE Fund as a charity.
A. The TREE Fund has earned the highest rating for transparency from Guidestar/Candid. The TREE Fund is independently audited every year (find audited financial reports and annual tax filings here). The minutes of the TREE Fund’s governing board meetings and the TREE Fund’s annual reports are made public here.
Q. How do I know my donations are being used effectively on behalf of tree science and educati0n?
A. The TREE Fund recently commissioned a study of its history, effectiveness, and accomplishments. The report of that study can be found here.
Q. How can I learn more about research grant opportunities?
A. Go here.
Q. How can I learn about the research and projects the TREE Fund has supported?
A. Go here.
Q. How can I learn more about scholarship opportunities?
A. Go here.
Q. To whom is the TREE Fund accountable?
A. As a public nonprofit, the TREE Fund is accountable to many constituencies, including:
- Donors. The TREE Fund must honor the wishes of the generous people and organizations that set up endowment funds or make restricted gifts. Even unrestricted gifts create an ethical obligation to ensure they are used to further the TREE Fund mission.
- The general public. Like most nonprofits that are created to provide a charitable purpose to the public good, the TREE Fund is obligated to serve the public good through funding scientific research and education.
- Illinois. Nonprofits must comply with certain regulations and requirements in the states in which they are incorporated. Because the TREE Fund is international in both grant-making and fundraising, it must also comply with the regulations of a great many state governments.
- The IRS. The TREE Fund must follow rules set by the IRS to keep its tax-exempt status.