Sutardja Center Staff Profile: How Keith McAleer expanded a non-profit using genuine entrepreneurial spirit


September 28, 2016



Before joining the Sutardja Center for Entrpreneurship & Technology as a Communication Specialist about a year ago, Keith McAleer was busy working to double the annual budget for a non-profit named Tree Davis where he is now a board member.


Keith receiving official recognition for Tree Davis from State Senator Lois Wolk

Tree Davis is a small, urban forestry non-profit based in Davis, California. The organization has been committed to the mission of enhancing and expanding the urban forest of Davis and surrounding communities by planting and caring for trees for the past 20 years. The organization focuses on tree planting, care and restoration in urban environments. They promote tree planting events and tree planting education in order to spread awareness about planting the right types of trees that benefit residential neighborhoods both economically and environmentally. Similar organizations in the surrounding Bay Area are Friends of the Urban Forest in San Francisco, Urban Releaf in Oakland and Richmond Trees.

In his three year tenure as Executive Director of Tree Davis, McAleer assumed an all-around, holistic type of role within the function and structure of the small volunteer community, “When I joined Tree Davis — a very small organization — I felt very much like an entrepreneur as I had to fill many different roles at the same time including communications, marketing, operations, and environmental education,” he said.

As the only full-time staff member, he managed a few part-time staff, composed mostly of student interns. The experience with urban forestry wasn’t a first for him, however. Prior moving up to Northern California, McAleer was the Volunteer Manager for Tree People in Los Angeles– a large-scale urban forestry non-profit. In his work with the LA based organization, McAleer organized over ten thousand volunteer shifts a year and was part of a staff of over 50. The scope of McAleer’s organizing– from LA to Davis– had equipped him with a significant amount of experience to create and submit the detailed, 10-page proposal to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE) that helped expand the budget for Tree Davis.  

Now, McAleer advises the current Executive Director and board on executing the grant which effectively doubled the non-profit’s $80k budget and detailed a plan covering three project objectives: to sequester carbon and avoid greenhouse gas emissions, to provide social, financial and health benefits to underserved residents, and finally to improve water quality. Along with project objectives, the proposal included extensive research on the scope of work regarding the types of trees to be planted and an action plan to recruit volunteers and outreach to neighborhood residents.

The total grant amount was $537,000 (over five years) and will serve residents in West Sacramento. The grant is now in its second year of action.