Nonprofit Spotlight: Ipswich River Watershed Association

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The Ipswich River Watershed Association (IRWA) is the voice of the river—a group of people helping make sure there is enough clean water for the 350,000 people and businesses in 14 communities on the North Shore of Massachusetts, protecting nature, and providing great ways to have fun outdoors.

It takes a team to care for such a critical resource. With a staff and board of less than 20 people, more than two dozen conservation and governmental partners, and the help of scores of volunteers, this small but mighty organization has safeguarded the Ipswich River since 1977.

In 2006, Dr. Joseph (Bob) Petranek generously donated his house and 15 acres on the river to the organization. Over the years, an additional 9 acres was donated by the Smith Family and the Congress Corporation, and the Riverbend became the association’s headquarters. The property is permanently protected for public use and enjoyment, and contains a canoe dock, trails, green building, green roof, water-wise demonstration projects and gardens, and association offices.

What IRWA does

As the river watchdog, IRWA exists to keep the river out of danger and ensure a sustainable water supply for the area, by:

10496199_837602052951073_5591434803170071825_oRestoring the physical habitat. Among its many efforts to support native fish and wildlife, this includes removing migration barriers—dismantling obsolete dams and replacing culverts that are either too small or poorly installed.

Monitoring water conditions. Through the RiverWatch water quality monitoring program, the group assesses the health of the Ipswich River at 31 sites throughout the watershed. Volunteers collect data monthly from March-December on weather conditions and rain; water color, odor and clarity; water temperature; conductivity; and more.  The organization also conducts a herring count each spring, and monitors macroinvertebrates and streamflow.

Advocating for the river. These efforts ensure that federal, state and local water policies, water withdrawal permits, and regulatory decisions protect ecosystem health and include prudent conservation measures. Most recently, IRWA and friends of the river participated in hearings to voice their concerns about gas pipeline construction along the Peabody Rail trail.

11329892_957750550936222_3338448078620285410_nGetting people out to enjoy the river. The Ipswich River is the premier paddling river in the area, and IRWA’s recreation guide includes a list of parks and other public spaces to go fishing and clamming, swimming, camping, biking and see wildlife. The association has installed interpretive kiosks and education signs along the river, and regularly hosts padding, walking, and birding events for people of all ages and abilities.

“One of our biggest challenges is that the river is ‘loved to death’ and to protect it, we want people to use less water,” says Executive Director Wayne Castonguay. So the organization educates towns, businesses and residents about water conservation, presenting many programs each year as well as promoting ways to Save Water, Save Money, and care for yards and gardens using less water and chemicals.

Good Giving Practices

When this membership association started accepting online donations in 2006, it partnered with JustGive for services. The association uses a JustGive link for its own Donate button that appears on every page of the website, has customized it Donation Page with a logo and gift levels—and also links to the Donation Page in numerous places throughout the site. Both the Support and Membership sections of the website offer donors the online giving option.

“Most of our new donors are coming from online giving, and it’s a critical tool for us,” comments Castonguay. “JustGive meets our needs and has been really responsive.”

In addition to its Donation Page, IRWA recently used other JustGive services, setting up an advocacy campaign (with a Registry) to raise legal funds to fight the gas pipeline.


A hub for environmental conservation in the area, the Ipswich River Watershed Association brings together conservation groups, municipality partners, research centers, businesses and volunteers to create solutions and make a difference.

11750684_999594036751873_6495840608048644213_nIn 2011, the association convened the Parker-Ipswich-Essex Rivers Restoration Partnership (PIE-Rivers), a regional network of 18 organizations. And in 2013, a group of PIE-Rivers partners received federal money from the Hurricane Sandy Grant Program to support restorative work. Ipswich River Watershed Association is a part of the collective group that’s investing nearly $2 million of those dollars in a Free Our Rivers Campaign to improve habitat conditions through dam removal and ecologically safe bridge and culvert designs.

Last year, IRWA engaged nearly 800 people in events and activities, had its canoes and kayaks used 640 times, worked with about 215 volunteers, and helped get 327 culverts surveyed. This small but mighty association is successfully leveraging its staff, partners, volunteers and nearly 1,000 members to support and protect the lifeblood of the area, the Ipswich River.

Give now if you’d like to support the good work of the Ipswich River Watershed Association:


– Candy Culver
Marketing Consultant

P.S. If you’d like to be featured in the JustGive Blog, submit your nonprofit!


Image Source: Flickr

Image Source: Flickr

Thanks to your giving and support, JustGive expanded philanthropy and sent more than $30 million to charity in 2014!

We passed a major milestone in May, processing our 1 millionth donation, and are proud that 24 percent of giving came from 2013 donors returning to use the site. We also saw charity gift card purchases grow by 9 percent. To be more accessible and expand our services, we launched our mobile responsive site and added the ability for companies to independently buy a quantity of gift cards.

Here’s a glimpse of our impact—and what we accomplished together—this year.

We’re charging into 2015 eager to do more good, fulfilling our mission to make charitable giving a part of everyday life. Here’s to making more of a difference!

Help us kick off the year in the best way possible: Set up an automatic monthly donation to your favorite charities today.


Thank you for giving.

—Andrea Lloyd, Director of Programs

Planting trees with money?

The old adage says, “money doesn’t grow on trees.” We all learned that the hard way and the new question for today’s generation is: “How do we make trees grow with money?”

Over the past couple years the environment has jumped to the top of the list of global concerns along with world hunger, HIV/AIDS and more. Whether you believe in global warming, have watched the Story of Stuff or Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”, you know that oil is a finite resource, the global population is growing, there are less and less places to put our ever-surmounting piles of waste, and the ozone is impacted by our daily emissions.

Not to be a downer…

On the bright side, people are actively taking steps in their everyday lives by turning their Starbuck’s cups into compost and recycling (or better yet bringing a thermos), shutting off the water while they brush their pearly whites, using energy-saving light bulbs (or better still, turning off AND unplugging) and taking public transportation or riding bikes to work. But what about the larger environmental campaigns? How do we make the most out of our efforts and raise a savvier generation?

1. Make your home energy efficient. Close up gaps and cracks in your home where heated or cooled air might leak out, insulate, change your lighting, upgrade with the most efficient appliances when they need upgrading, increase your thermostat a few degrees in summer and decrease it in winter. You might spend some money on the efficiency upgrades, but all of these will eventually pay you back, since you’re actually decreasing the amount of energy that needs to be generated.

2. Support green energy alternatives. You can do this by purchasing accredited green energy from your utility company or by investing in on-site renewable generation via solar PV panels, solar hot water, heat pumps, etc. Make sure your home or business is well suited to this. If not, see #3.

3. Offset. Fully assess your lifestyle and where you can’t reduce your usage (like that vacation flight this summer!) or switch to green energy, purchase certified offsets for your remaining carbon footprint. Visit to learn more.

4. Educate. Support organizations that educate the public about climate change and which lobby the government to make a positive change.  The problem is GLOBAL and while many individual actions can make a big impact, doing it “silently” can mean you end up working against yourself.  Advocate if you can or want – but if you don’t, support leaders who can and do. Tell your children about the things you do every day to protect their earth. Teach them your good habits and explain why it makes a difference.

Read and listen to the latest news and to continue educating yourself as well. There’s something new to learn everyday about how we can be a part of the solution.

Author: Michelle Koffler

Celebrating & Honoring Grandparents Day

Grandparents Day

My grandmother is 104 years old. She’s actually in wonderful health, though she lost most of her hearing years ago. This may be a blessing when all 10 great-grandchildren are running around creating chaos. She loves to play Scrabble™, work a crossword puzzle or read a good book. What she loves most of all is sitting in the warm summer sun by the water.

Sunday, September 12th is Grandparents Day. Though this isn’t a widely celebrated holiday, it’s the perfect opportunity to plan a family dinner in honor of your grandparents or even your parents who may be grandparents in their own right. (Or, you can honor the day by scheduling a visit to a nursing home or taking a moment to help an older adult in your neighborhood.)

My grandparents spent most of their lives on the Chesapeake Bay, so I want to honor my grandmother with a dedicated donation to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

When she was young, the Chesapeake Bay was a thriving body of clean water. But today, the Chesapeake Bay in the East and the San Francisco Bay in the West, along with many other U.S. waterways, have fragile ecosystems. Pollution, invasive species and climate change are threatening our waterways and all the marine and human lives they support.

As we have all seen and read about the Gulf Coast disaster, it is still unclear the long term impact the oil spill and dispersants will have on the health and habitat of water and wildlife.

By making a donation in her name to help restore the Bay, I’m giving my grandmother something meaningful—a link to the past and to the future, both of which she can share with her 10 great-grandchildren.

Notecard Sample

While normally I would send an email with a dedicated gift, my grandmother doesn’t quite get the Internet nor does she have email. That’s why I’m sending her a note card announcing the donation. The card lets me add a personal note, and JustGive conveniently sends it directly to her, through the mail, on my behalf.

-Andrea Lloyd, JustGive Director of Programs

This Grandparents Day, celebrate your grandparents—whether they’re with you or have passed on—with a gift in their honor. Donate Now.

Visit us on Facebook and tell us how you celebrate Grandparents Day.

National Park and Recreation Month: Time for a Green, Volunteer Vacation

My family visited Shenandoah National Park recently, renting a rustic cabin from the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. For those of you who have forgone running water and electricity with an infant in tow, you understand this is no small commitment. But we all made it through happily.

There must be something in air this summer, because the First Family flew to Maine recently for an outdoor weekend vacation at Acadia National Park, the iconic end of the line for the Appalachian Trail. More and more people are visiting the great green outdoors. If you haven’t already made plans to visit a national park this summer, it’s the perfect time.

July, designated as National Park and Recreation Month by Congress, salutes the vital role of parks and recreation: How they help us establish and maintain a healthy quality of life, and contribute to the physical, economic and environmental well-being of communities. Since 1985, this month has been a chance to showcase our national parks.

Green and Volunteer Vacations

National parks are a uniquely American creation. They are truly the first foray into what is now called ecotourism. But more simply, they remain one of the best ways to vacation in nature.

After a decade of decline, attendance at national parks shot up sharply in 2009 to almost record numbers—ten million more people visited national parks last year than in 2008. People are once again seeking out greener pastures (and forests and deserts) for their vacations. And vacations aren’t just what they used to be.

Organizations are connecting with vacationers across the country—and the world—for nature cleanups, preservation projects, and to help promote local, sustainable practices. Volunteer vacations are a growing trend and parks in the US are becoming popular destinations. The Ecology Project International‘s Yellowstone program for teens saw a near doubling of participation by students, who take on conservation work at the park.

USA Today posted a great article to get you started on a national park volunteer vacation.

Vacationing Generously

No matter where you choose to vacation, our national parks and refuges are a treasure. My family tries to get out into the woods as often as possible, and our son is working on filling up his National Wildlife Refuge Passport. With 552 National Wildlife Refuges, he has a long way to go. It’s for his generation that we try to travel with five goals:

  • Go local, Go green. By supporting local businesses committed to sustainable and indigenous practices, and researching hotels and tour companies that have ecotourism policies and standards in place, we are doing our part to create a market for green vacations.
  • Choose green activities. We make use of the parks and their surroundings on our vacations by biking, hiking, whitewater rafting and kayaking, among other outdoor activities.
  • Pack in, pack out. We leave as little a footprint as possible, so others might enjoy the same surroundings for years to come. We work to stay on trails, not to leave garbage, and respect the local environment.
  • Offset the vacation. I like using such services as where we can make sure our vacation is green by offsetting carbon emissions for travel.
  • Support conservation. By donating to organizations working to conserve national parks and wildlife refuges before we visit, we can empower a force of local volunteers and Federal workers to continue to give their all to make the places visited safe and green for generations to come.

What can you do?

The First Family’s next trip will be down to the Gulf for a volunteer vacation of their own. Visit our Facebook page to learn more about some work that’s been done right now to protect the eight national parks and 33 wildlife refuges along the Gulf of Mexico threatened by the BP oil spill. Search our database for a local “friends” organization of your parks. Or check out some of these national organizations working to benefit parks and refuges:

  • National Park Foundation – For more than a century, private philanthropy has been essential to the preservation and protection of America’s national parks. The National Park Foundation upholds this commitment, working to raise the funds necessary to connect all Americans to their national parks and guarantee their future for generations to come. They recently launched a special fund to help the Gulf in the aftermath of oil spill and to assist sustained recovery efforts.
  • National Recreation & Park Association – NRPA is the leading advocacy organization dedicated to the advancement of public parks and recreation opportunities. Founded in 1965 through the merger of five national organizations dedicated to the same cause, NRPA has grown over the years —in total membership, in outreach efforts, in building partnerships, and in serving as the voice and defender of parks and recreation. This year, they’re encouraging all to “Celebrate, Advocate and Recreate!”
  • National Park Trust, Inc. – NPT’s mission is to provide important recreational and educational parkland opportunities for current and future generations.  As a country, since we’re spend more time indoors and successive generations are growing up with less of a connection to nature, their goal is to build greater awareness and appreciation for the country’s public lands and parks. Their vision: Everyone will have an American park experience.
  • National Parks Conservation Association – Americans expect our national parks to have clean air and healthy wildlife, and to be well-cared-for historical treasures. But years of underfunding and external threats such as air pollution and climate change are taking their toll. National Parks Conservation Association is working on these key initiatives to restore America’s national parks by the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016.

Pass this on to friends and family who are interested in going green and exploring our national parks for their next vacation!

Giving Green on Earth Day

Give Green on Earth Day

Forty years ago today, we celebrated our first Earth Day. Approximately 20 million Americans from all walks of life joined together to honor our planet. Whether your connection to nature is as an angler in the great outdoors or a community gardener in a dedicated urban space, Earth Day is about thinking of the small—and big—ideas that help to preserve our planet. Today, there are many easy ways to go green from recycling and composting to hybrids and public transportation.

My relationship with nature began when I was a young boy. My father left his job at Bell Telephone to start Newtown Gardens, a small plant nursery. I remember romping through the giant greenhouse where he worked, the fecund smell of heating compost, the seemingly endless rows of plants. It was amazing to witness his passion for working with natural things.

No doubt influenced by that passion, I went on to work for environmental organizations – the League of Conservation Voters and the Institute for Conservation Leadership – and making a difference for environment remains something in which I believe strongly.

Giving Back on Earth Day

Earth Day 2010 is expected to have at least 1.5 billion people take part in events and programs across the globe. Imagine the impact if each one made a $10 donation to an organization that works to protect the Earth long after Earth Day is over. Here are some powerful organizations that I’m thinking about today:

Earthrights International

Katie Redford and her group, Earthrights International (ERI) (link) introduced a simple and powerful idea into the human rights and environmental justice movements: that corporations can be brought to court for their role in overseas abuse. ERI seeks to end “earth rights” abuses, to provide real solutions for real people, and to promote and protect human rights and the environment in the communities where they work.


Thimmakka’s certifies green businesses through their efforts to produce less air pollution, reduce the costs of health care and landfill fees, consume and create less waste, and avoid the use of toxic chemicals. Using her connections within immigrant communities in the Bay Area, Ritu Primlani and her team have certified more than 125 restaurants. They report that, among other accomplishments, 19.4 thousand tons of solid waste (that’s about 245 loaded 737-400 Boeing jets) have been diverted from landfill.

Blackfoot Challenge

The Blackfoot Challenge is organized locally and known nationally as a model for preserving the rural character and natural beauty of a watershed. Led by landowners, their cooperative approach of focusing on the 80% that the US Fish and Wildlife Service, environmentalists, and they agree upon helped spur, in part, President Obama to announce his America’s Great Outdoors initiative.

For me, Earth Day brings me back to childhood – running through the rows of blooming flowers and climbing the mounds of wood chips. It makes me all the more happy to celebrate the day by giving back to groups whose passion to make a difference continues to inspire me. Visit us on Facebook and let us know about what groups are your passion!

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