Celebrating Project Chimps for its Award-Winning Initiative
Our 2023 Resourcefullness Award Winner, Project Chimps, is on a mission to provide a peaceful and nurturing environment for retired research chimpanzees at its 230+ acre sanctuary located near the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia.
Their award-winning initiative, the Chimp Trails, has created a unique and engaging opportunity for visitors to appreciate and learn about the chimps without being disruptive to their habitat. In recognition of their innovation, creativity, and impact, we have awarded them a $50,000 grand prize.
Chimp Trails: A Trailblazing Success
The Chimp Trails were created by volunteers and offer four distinct loops that cater to various hiking levels. The trails were constructed as a way for visitors to gain insights into Project Chimps' work while ensuring that the daily lives of the chimpanzees remained undisturbed. Hikers can hear the melodious sounds of these remarkable beings and, with a bit of effort, possibly catch a glimpse of them from an overlook at the peak of their hike.
Strategically located near the popular Appalachian and Benton MacKaye trails, the Chimp Trails have become a magnet for tourists seeking unique hiking experiences within the Blue Ridge Mountains. These trails are also listed on AllTrails, where thousands of reviews now help promote the uniqueness of the trail system — where else in the United States can you hike and hear chimpanzees in the woods?
Criteria for Evaluation
As our 2023 Resourcefullness Award winner, Project Chimps illustrated the following areas:
Before the Chimp Trails, Project Chimps could only accommodate private tours on a limited basis, with appointments booked weeks in advance. With the trails in operation, tourists can now access the sanctuary and learn about the organization on the same day — from dawn to dusk — without requiring staff involvement. This shift has exponentially increased access to the sanctuary, from 500 guests a year to over 5,000. The Chimp Trails have also created a source of continuous revenue with a suggested donation of $2 per hiker.
Project Chimps broke new ground by becoming the only primate sanctuary in the United States to host hiking trails. This innovative approach allows tourists to hike in the woods while connecting with the sanctuary's resident chimpanzees. The project's unique blend of environmental engagement and learning about the sanctuary's mission is inventive and clever.
Since the inauguration of the Chimp Trails, Project Chimps has experienced a remarkable transformation in outreach and engagement. Over 5,000 new supporters are reached annually, a number that continues to grow as awareness about the trail system expands. These hikers often become involved in the sanctuary's mission, opting into email lists and following them on social media. Supporters then evolve into donors, sponsoring benches or becoming chimp sponsors.
Project Chimps' Chimp Trails initiative left a lasting impression. It demonstrates the organization's unwavering dedication to its mission and its commitment to balancing visitor engagement with the well-being of the resident chimpanzees. The initiative's unique blend of hiking, environmental appreciation, and educational opportunities to learn about the chimpanzees set it apart.
The project was conceived and constructed by the organization's volunteers, showcasing their dedication and passion. A range of participants, from volunteers to scouts and graphic design interns, actively contributed to its execution. The trails, along with key elements like benches, bridges, and signage, were meticulously planned and executed, creating a seamless and enriching experience for visitors.
Key Considerations for Nonprofits
The Chimp Trails offer valuable insights for other nonprofit organizations seeking innovative revenue-generating solutions.
Here are a few key takeaways your organization can implement:
Leverage Partnerships and Location:
The strategic location of the Chimp Trails near popular hiking trails boosted their visibility and accessibility. We encourage you to explore partnerships and consider what might be available near your location when developing initiatives to enhance outreach.
Balance Revenue Generation with Mission Preservation:
The Chimp Trails not only expanded revenue streams but also preserved the sanctuary's mission of providing a peaceful existence for chimpanzees. It’s important to find a balance between financial sustainability and preserving your core mission.
Empower Volunteers and Supporters:
A vibrant ecosystem of support emerged around the Chimp Trails, with volunteers, scouts, and donors actively contributing to its success. Consider how you can empower your supporters to take an active role in your initiatives.
Plan for Future Growth and Development:
Project Chimps continues to evolve by expanding, upgrading, and maintaining the trails. When your organization is brainstorming initiatives, be sure to think long-term to ensure sustainability and growth.
Take Advantage of Available Exposure:
The Chimp Trails were added to AllTrails, an app that allows hikers to view nearby trails and leave reviews. This was a huge driver of visibility for Project Chimps. Don’t forget to utilize social media and other platforms to get the word out about your initiatives.
A Community-Engaging Idea that Continues to Evolve
The Chimp Trails have also rallied a supportive community, with volunteers, scouts, and supporters contributing to the project's success. A trail map was designed by a volunteer, a kiosk was installed by a scout earning their Gold Award, and signage was created by a graphic design intern. Benches, bridges, and various other elements were sponsored by generous donors. And a Hiking Trail Committee now meets monthly to work on various projects and ensuring maintenance after storms.
Soon, a new section will be added that will lead to a Remembrance Garden where chimpanzees who have passed away will be memorialized.
We are honored to support Project Chimps through our Resourcefullness Award, and we can’t wait to see what they do next.