Family-owned lands present our biggest conservation challenge in the United States. Thirty-six percent of the forest in the United States is owned by families, and this percentage is the most at risk of being fragmented and converted for development. In fact, nearly one million acres of our forests are developed each year. 

Only 20-30% of these owners are currently served by conservation and sustainable forest management programs. TELE provides a practical set of tools to help conservation and forestry professionals reach more landowners with effective stewardship messages that align with their needs and values as landowners.

The TELE Method

TELE applies targeted marketing principles to the challenge of promoting good stewardship on private lands. Rather than using a broad-brush approach that tries to appeal to everyone, TELE practitioners design outreach programs to bring about a specific behavior change in a selected group of people. They use their audience’s preferred channels to reach them, and deliver programs and messages that are most likely to appeal to audience members, based on their specific values, preferences, and other characteristics. This approach has been shown to be an effective and efficient way to change behaviors and norms in a variety of fields.

The TELE program helps our partner organizations to address complex conservation challenges using targeted marketing tools and techniques. We offer workshops, project support, and resources to build capacity and support the work of public and private sector organizations that promote good land stewardship and rural prosperity.


Tools for Engaging Landowners Effectively (TELE) is a project of the Sustaining Family Forests Initiative (SFFI). SFFI was started in 2004, as a collaboration of universities, government agencies, industry, conservation organizations, certification systems, with the primary goal of gaining and disseminating knowledge about family forest owners to improve stewardship of private forests. Today, SFFI is a collaboration between the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Center for Nonprofit Strategies, and it provides a more comprehensive set of services to support good land stewardship.

The TELE program developed out of the need to translate SFFI’s landowner research into a practical methodology that improves the outcomes of outreach programs. Since an initial 6-state pilot project (Call Before You Cut) launched in 2009, TELE has grown into an effective capacity-building program that supports public and private sector organizations to achieve their land management and conservation goals.

As of 2020, TELE will have hosted more than 50 workshops in more than 30 states, training more than 1,500 people directly. Nearly sixty professionals have taken advanced TELE training to become TELE leaders and ambassadors in their states. The demand for TELE is fueled by its effectiveness--a recent survey showed that TELE projects engage 18 percent of targeted landowners to take action, a much higher proportion than most other landowner outreach efforts.