Using the behavior change plan developed under our 2014 grant, Prettyboy Watershed Alliance (PWA) seeks to implement and pilot test a riparian forest buffer recruitment strategy, emphasizing a "buffer ambassador" approach to reaching prospective participants. Doubling our recruitment rate, our goal is to recruit up to 27 landowners and plant up to 20 acres of buffers. We will carefully document all aspects of our campaign and share our results widely to enable other watershed organizations to replicate the successful aspects of our approach.


Behaviors: Conservation landscaping

Behavior Pattern: One-time

Why was this behavior selected?

In 2011, PWA contacted riparian landowners who expressed interest in learning more about buffers. Because we didn't know how to segment them, we tried to recruit landowners using a standard script, and were only able to recruit three landowners out of 22 we approached. (Our current recruitment rate can be used as our behavior baseline: 3 out of 22 landowners is 13%.) In 2015, we were awarded a behavior change planning grant from CBT. The market research conducted under the previous grant funding strongly suggests the residents in the Prettyboy Watershed require more personal contact. Our newly developed outreach plan includes a segmented list of the best prospects, advertise the program using current participants, and invite prospects to observe current projects and meet the landowners.

Are there component behaviors to the target behavior?

The focus of this proposal is to implement the behavior change plan we developed under our 2014 CBT grant -- and double PWA's landowner recruitment rate. Our goal is to plant up to 20 acres of buffers. We will implement a targeted personal connection initiative to meet this restoration goal.

With the support of the Chesapeake Bay Trust, we have carefully researched a potential pool of 183 riparian landowners (and spouses) who are eligible to receive a buffer paid for by either Baltimore or Howard County. We have narrowed the list of prospects down to ten who:

  • Have lifestyle or purchasing habits that suggest they would be appreciate the buffer and be receptive to our offer
  • Have some relationship or personal connection with PWA staff or board

Target Audiences

Audiences: Waterfront/riparian landowners

Primary Audience: Waterfront/riparian landowners

Secondary Audience: N/A

Demographics: Asia/pacificislander, Black or african american, Hispanic or latino, Native american or indian, Other, White

Ages: 45-54, 55-64, 65+

Description of Target Audience

The Prettyboy watershed is a semi-rural watershed located in northern Maryland. The watershed is located in Baltimore (50%) and Carroll Counties (41%) in Maryland and York County (9%) Pennsylvania. This project will take place entirely within Baltimore and Carroll Counties, Maryland. Baltimore County is 65% white, 26% black, and about 4% Hispanic, though the northern sections of the county including the Prettyboy Reservoir subwatershed are closer in ethnic makeup to Carroll County, which is 93% white, 3% black and 3% Hispanic. All PWA board members live in the community, as does our outreach and volunteer coordinator. PWA has successfully recruited volunteers from the community for tree plantings and other projects.

Under our most recent grant, WWTW “data mined” 183 landowners and their spouses identified as potential applicants for PWA’s streamside program. Broadly, we determined the residents are older (50+ years) homeowners with an estimated income between $50,000-$100,000. The homeowners own single family residences with a majority of the home market values between ($300K-$500K). Most are charitable donors and nearly ? of them support environment or wildlife causes. Their hobbies involve gardening and the outdoors.

WWTW created a model using 22 various criteria to identify 50 prospects who appear to be the lowest hanging fruit. The landowners we have worked with in the past scored high on this model, providing measure of corroboration. Going forward, we will concentrate the bulk of our outreach on these top prospects. WWTW appended additional contact information to these prospects (phone, email and social media accounts). PWA board and staff reviewed the analysis and identified 10 connections from the prioritized list. After we contact the 50 prioritized landowners, we will contact less-likely landowners if needed.


How did you research your audiences: A combination of in-person interviews or focus groups and then broader surveys


For residential landowners, we are primarily competing with the desire for a water view and inertia in the face of life’s many distractions. We have often found that one eager landowner must prevail over objections from a reluctant spouse.

External factors

Our literature review identified that the lack of knowledge is the first barrier that prevents landowners from doing their part to control polluted runoff. Residential landowners are far less knowledgeable about water quality and the role of streamside trees than agricultural landowners. In particular, residents are likely to believe their local streams are healthy if the water is clear. We will develop specific information about sub-watershed stream health in our messages to help make the case for the streamside buffers. Based on our literature review and focus groups conducted by OpinionWorks, we anticipate addressing concerns about buffer maintenance, cost, and viewshed/property loss in our outreach materials.


PWA’s streamside buffer program currently makes it easy for landowners to overcome the barriers and experience the benefits for themselves. Landowners considering participating in the program will hear about these benefits straight from the horses’ mouths. Past participants have offered heartfelt testimonials and allowed us to take compelling photos of them and their property to include in our promotional and educational literature. They have all indicated they are willing to let prospective landowners tour their properties and see the buffers with their own eyes. To help willing landowners win over skeptical landowners, PWA will reinforce the emotional message with secondary messages about (1) increased property values; (2) flood reduction and erosion control; and (3) wildlife.


Outreach Tactics: Feedback, Public commitment statements, Social diffusion

What media/communication channels did you use? Direct mail, E-mail, Face to face, Online or other digital media, Organization methods (through constituents of influential community organizations), Small group or public meetings

Products and services

The core product we offer is a riparian buffer on a willing landowner’s property, and along the way, we offer everything the landowner needs to get there:

  • An onsite evaluation of the property
  • Designing a buffer that accommodates the landowner’s needs, with site-specific trees
  • Showing landowners what buffers with specific trees will look like over time on their properties by uploading photos of their properties and using Canviz tree growth visualization software
  • Securing the trees and all needed shelters and supplies
  • Holding a “planting event” on the property where volunteers come put the trees in the ground

Once planted, we include several components in our package that reduce landowners’ perceived barriers to the buffers:

  • Helping to maintain trees for three years
  • We train landowners on proper mowing techniques and provide periodic reminders about the need to mow
  • We will develop, make and offer roadside recognition signs available to participating landowners

Cost or Trade Off

PWA covers all out-of-pocket expenses and provides all labor necessary to get the buffers planted. This means that main “prices” that we must convince the landowners to pay are intangible:

  1. To take time out of their lives to contemplate a relatively large commitment
  2. To sacrifice some open space on their property, and fear the buffer may appear unkempt
  3. To (potentially) give up some portion of their water view
  4. To allow strangers on to the property

We strive to reduce those prices and increase demand in two ways:

  • We offer a warm and comfortable customer service experience. Landowners are less likely to mind committing the time to this project and have fewer concerns about us on their property if they enjoy our company.
  • We work with a landowner to design a custom buffer custom for their property. We can accommodate most needs that a landowner might have.
  • We will investigate county, state, and federal conservation and cost-share programs available. For example, Baltimore County has a very generous new incentive program for landowners willing to plant trees and put their land into a conservation easement, and has a ‘turf to trees’ program that offsets the cost of converting lawns to forests.
  • To further incentive participation in our program, we seek to highlight each landowner’s contributions, as follows:

    • We provide landowners with signs that can place in their front yards, roadsides, or along the buffers themselves

    • We will interview each landowner and shoot photos (as we did with the first round of landowners) for incorporation into future promotional and educational literature

    • If the landowner is willing, we will distribute a press release touting each planting and featuring quotes from the landowner


The primary “place” is the streamside property in the Prettyboy watershed. That’s where PWA staff will meet with the landowner, explore the terrain, develop a trusting relationship with the landowner, and hopefully design and plant a riparian buffer. The secondary place is online and on the phone. That’s where the landowner will initiate contact with PWA and start the ball rolling.

We are making every effort to make it as convenient as possible to investigate our offer and enroll in the program. We propose to replace the PWA website -- developing new content to describe our program and its benefits and create an online form to initiate the consultation. This new website will automatically reformat it self for mobile devices, so interested landowners can review our information on whichever screen they have available.

We will devote the largest share of our effort to using personal connections to approach our “Top 10” landowners individually. If we get a positive response, we’ll meet with them personally, answer any questions they have, provide them with educational materials (print and online) to review at their leisure with their spouses, and periodically stay in touch until they agree to participate or decline.

We have enjoyed success recruiting landowners to participate with direct mail and other conventional marketing approaches in the past. We propose to do another round of this activity for this cycle:

  • Direct mail with return envelopes
  • Door hangers
  • Phone calls
  • Emails
  • Press releases

If a qualified landowner responds to one of these promotions, we will treat them just like a “Top 10” landowner. We will meet with them personally, answer any questions they have, provide them with educational materials (print and online) to review at their leisure with their spouses, and periodically stay in touch until they agree to participate or decline. In addition, the outreach materials will also integrate sub-watershed data to provide landowners with specific information about any problems with the streams that cross their property.

All our promotions will include the testimonials and images from the photoshoot of participating landowners that the Chesapeake Bay Trust funded in our last grant cycle. All of our promotions will highlight the opportunity to participate in a “buffer tour” to see the buffers that PWA has already planted and meet those landowners.

Primary Messages

“We want riparian landowners in the Prettyboy watershed to see that having a natural streamside is the sign of a well-maintained property, the mark of a responsible landowner, and improves property value. We want them to see that working with the Prettyboy Watershed Alliance will be a good experience.”


How did you measure impact? Survey

Most significant lessons learned

PWA and WWTW will review the efforts from the past year and update the materials and events based on participant feedback and campaign evaluation of the conversions, cultivations and big steps. We will spend the last two months of each year evaluating efforts to date and updating the plan accordingly. We will develop two different messages and split test the variations. We will track the number of homeowners who responded to the outreach materials and phone calls, sought a site visit, agreed to riparian planting, and referred adjacent landowners to the program. We will also track the number of volunteers and their diversity (corporate, students/teachers, neighbors, etc.).