During the recent upheaval about NWF, I mentioned in passing that I preferred to support CNPS, thinking, of course, that everyone knows who they are. This was a little silly, because even inside California, the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) isn't exactly well known.
CNPS's misson, as stated on their web page, is
...to conserve California native plants and their natural habitats, and increase understanding, appreciation, and horticultural use of native plants.
To achieve that goal, CNPS relies to a large degree on local chapters. Each of the chapters is different. Some are smaller, others fairly large. The East Bay Chapter is large, has a native plant nursery and many events. The Santa Clara Valley Chapter offers scholarships and has a Facebook page.
What I like especially is the breadth of activities. The chapters support wildflower hikes, an annual wildflower show, and rare plant inventory and other research events. But most chapters also include Gardening with Natives activities that include garden tours and monthly talks. Some publicity events might also happen. Country Mouse and I have worked the CNPS booth at the Flower and Garden Show as booth mice the last two? three? years and have enjoyed meeting people, talking about natives, and signing up new members.
In addition, the organization supports some state-wide events that include publications, research support, and an annual symposium (in San Diego this year). All this is done on a shoe-string budget, and mostly by volunteers. I put in about 200 hours in 2010 on the Going Native Garden Tour, and very much enjoyed meeting people, manipulating photos for the website, writing up garden descriptions, and helping out as needed. I know some of the other garden tour committee members put in many more hours, all in addition to demanding full-time jobs. Being involved with an organization that inspires such dedication makes me feel hopeful. Such work is its own reward.
(Disclaimer: I've actually never gone to a chapter meeting and I'm primarily involved with the garden tour. Maybe Ms. Country Mouse has more to report about her own chapter?)