In honor of Halloween, I want to give a shout-out to the many groups that support this country's historic cemeteries. These cemeteries aren't just for the morbidly inclined: They provide park and walking space, unusual collections of plants and trees, displays of one-of-a-kind carved headstones, and a window into the past. In some cases the cemeteries themselves are nonprofits, in other cases separate groups have formed to help preserve them.
There must be challenges involved in basically fundraising for dead people -- but the organizations that have made it work provide great examples of figuring out what your fundraising assets are and making the best use of them.
One great example is Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge and Watertown, Massachusetts. If you haven't been there, be sure to make a stop on your next trip. Founded in 1831, it was the nation's first large-scale designed landscape open to the public, and credited with fostering the movement toward creating public parks!
Mount Auburn cemetery has just received the Trustees' Emeritus Award for Excellence in the Stewardship of Historic Sites from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Trust noted that the cemetery's fundraising activities include hosting 200 tour groups and presenting more than 70 public lectures annually, while also letting the cemetery be used by neighboring schools as an outdoor classroom for lessons in natural history, art, and literature.
My local favorite historic cemetery is Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. It was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted - yes, the same guy who designed New York City's Central Park, among other places. The cemetery brings the community in with walking tours, a tulip festival, a pumpkin festival, and more. You can see San Francisco across the bay as you wander the old headstones - like the ones pictured here.