Running an Effective Birders’ Exchange Equipment Drive

Introducing the Birders’ Exchange

Birders’ Exchange is a bird conservation program of the American Birding Association. Birders’ Exchange collects used and new birding equipment and redistributes it, free of charge, to researchers, conservationists, and educators working to conserve birds and their habitats in the Neotropics. These donations help our Latin American partners to develop local conservation strategies and to educate local citizens about bird conservation and ecosystem-wide habitat protection.

Through the cooperation of birders across North America and bird-oriented organizations, conservation groups, and corporations, Birders’ Exchange has aided over 350 groups in 30 countries. By donating such items as binoculars, spotting scopes, field guides, cameras, and laptop computers, you will help to empower grassroots research, conservation, and environmental education in Latin America and the Caribbean.

You can run an effective Birders’ Exchange equipment drive by following three simple steps:

• Build up interest ahead of time.
• Have volunteers screen and collect the gently used binoculars and other equipment at a prearranged time/event.
• Send the equipment to the ABA’s offices in Delaware City, DE.


Before you organize an equipment drive, we suggest you publish multiple notices. These could be in your group’s newsletter or through other media, and are to inform people about the program to remind them how to contribute. Make sure that contributors know that we need quality equipment in good working order.

The Event

You can run a collection with a particular meeting or special event, such as a dinner, International Migratory Bird Day, a birding festival, a state Partners in Flight meeting, or other event. You could run parallel fund-raising efforts-such as silent auctions-in conjunction with the equipment collection. Often, however, all you really need to do for the actual collection is to make a handmade sign and a volunteer-manned table.

After the collection, send the equipment to the American Birding Association in Delaware City at the address below. Make sure it is all properly packed and labeled. We would appreciate receiving copies of any publicity or announcement materials you used beforehand and any follow-up publicity you may have received.

The Equipment

Although the Birders’ Exchange is perhaps best known for collecting and distributing binoculars, there are actually several needed items that we distribute to help Latin American groups. Here is a partial list of our much requested items:

Binoculars – we especially are in need of rubber armored and/or waterproof binoculars

• Digital cameras especially DSLRs and Telephoto lenses
• Spotting scopes
• Tripods
• Field guides to Neotropical birds
• Field guides to North American birds
• Ornithology texts
• Laptop computers not more than 3 years old
• Backpacks-clean and all zippers working

We are looking for used equipment in good condition. Please screen the materials and reject those that are not in operating shape. This may be an awkward procedure, but it is absolutely necessary. It is important that any field gear is free from tears, mold, or broken zippers and buckles. Obsolete cameras or computer equipment is of little use to researchers in Latin America and the Caribbean. Most important, the Birders’ Exchange does not currently have the facilities or funding to realign or repair damaged optics.

If your group is willing to take on the responsibility and separate expense for repairing the optics before sending it to us, that is fine.

Please clearly tag the material with the name, address, and phone number of the contributor.

Other Help

Financial donations help us to run the program. We are also in the position of using financial contributions to put toward some matching grants for the work of the Birders’ Exchange. Therefore, a contribution of, say, $20 may actually be worth $30 or more to the Birders’ Exchange. These financial contributions are much needed and appreciated. Contributions to the project, of course, are tax-deductible. Please make checks payable to “ABA”, and indicate that it is for “Birders’ Exchange” on the check.

We are also looking for couriers to carry equipment to specific projects in the region. If your group has someone going to Latin America or the Caribbean and that person is willing to carry equipment, please contact us with itineraries and dates.

Our Follow-up

After we receive the materials we provide thank-you letters to the contributors, listing the material donated. We cannot assign a dollar value to the donated materials, but the donors can do so and then use our letter for tax purposes.

Please contact us if you have any queries about about your donations or about the Birders’ Exchange program.