There are many places you can send your money – from dolphin rescue leagues to the Cayman Islands. But if you’re interested in contributing to nonprofits that make differences in New Hampshire’s built and natural landscape, there are a few statewide groups that do it best.
The following nonprofits work to maintain that deep sense of place that is intractable in our residents and admirers:
Based in Portsmouth, Plan NH is comprised of design professionals and engineers who embrace smart growth principles when tackling the most imbroglio-est of imbroglios. Since 1989, the organization has hosted community charrettes, where for one weekend, architects, civil engineers, landscape architects, preservationists, community development aces, and development wizards listen to problems facing a particular downtown area.
Then, these volunteer experts propose design solutions for the downtown (“narrow this street,” or “put crosswalks here” or “restore this anchor building and transform it into that town hall you’ve been talking about”). These experts then relay what has worked for other towns and where funding can be sought.
To date, 57 communities have taken part of this service (which does cost money). Past examples include Bristol, Canaan, Colebrook, Pittsfield, Rindge, Winchester, etc. You can almost guarantee that when you’re in a vibrant downtown, Plan NH had something to do with its transformation. Past charrettes can be seen on their website.
Plan NH also gives out scholarships for NH students in the design field.
New Hampshire Preservation Alliance
The sole statewide nonprofit of its kind, the Preservation Alliance is a clearinghouse for preservation resources, from barns to Grange halls to Rufus Porter murals.
This membership-driven organization based in Concord has been around for over thirty years and is responsible for helping communities across the state get the information, money, and press needed to save irreplaceable buildings. Their annual Seven to Save list brings attention to historic buildings in the state that are threatened by demolition, misuse, or disuse. Over half of the listed buildings have been saved since the program began in 2006.
The Alliance also hosts several unique events each year, ranging from barn tours in Sandwich to their Old Home and Barn Expo every other year in Manchester.
Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests
One of the finest (and oldest) land conservancies in America, the Forest Society started in 1901 to conserve forests in today’s White Mountains. Its other early projects set aside Mount Sunapee, Lost River Gorge, and Mount Monadnock. Today, they boast over 1,000 properties in nearly every town in the state. That’s nearly 194,000 acres of land open for exploration.
The Forest Society has expanded their scope of conservation to include creating wildlife habitat, protecting water quality, and in some cases, conserving farmland. Their detailed forestry management plans balance logging with the above goals. Furthermore, it’s a Forest Society policy to pay property taxes, making them the darling of parsimonious towns that fear conservation land lest it remove taxable property.
These organizations can’t do all their work alone. If you’re interested in how New Hampshire looks and feels and smells, check out these groups. A warning, though. You may find yourself appreciating this state even more.