2017 Nonprofit Leadership Excellence Award

Shannon Ramsay
Founding President & CEO
Trees Forever

Shannon Ramsay has always had a passion for the environment. Nearly 30 years ago, she identified the need for a statewide tree group to assure a greener, healthier and more vibrant place for our children and grandchildren. After talking with friends and colleagues, in 1989, she led the effort to form a new nonprofit named Trees Forever. Headquartered in Marion, Iowa, today the organization connects people to the environment through the planting and care of trees, prairie, and other natural areas.

The model Shannon created almost 30 years ago is still thriving today because of her leadership and vision. One of the greatest challenges for a new organization is the creation of a sustainable business model. We enjoy today the benefits of Shannon’s proven model for the organization that has evolved and adapted over many years.

Shannon is a passionate leader and mentor that “leads from the front” of the organization. Her commitment and use of collaboration throughout the years on learning, training others and executing her vision has helped to strengthen the broad support and work of Trees Forever. The organization’s trained and experienced staff have assisted community leaders and land owners across Iowa and Illinois with thousands of planting projects. Each year, on average, over 7,000 volunteers give generously of their time and talents.

To date, the organization has helped plant more than 3 million trees and shrubs throughout Iowa and Illinois.

The hands-on volunteer training Shannon has created has been a signature of Trees Forever. The model of growth of the organization is due to its volunteer engagement strategies and providing each community with a technical resource person.

Shannon has served on the Board of the Alliance for Community Trees, a national alliance of tree groups. She has been a tireless advocate and champion for trees and community groups working to support green space in their community. She has led advocacy groups and encourages of others to reach out to elected officials to make a difference for the environment on the local state and national level. With the latest dissolution of the state’s Forestry Division, Shannon has gone above and beyond her role within Trees Forever and has been a voice for all environmental groups advocating in Des Moines and in Washington D.C.

The trees that have been planted during Shannon’s tenure are a symbol of her legacy and life’s work that will literally benefit our state for generations to come. Her efforts have contributed to an improved quality of life for millions of residents in both rural and urban areas across the Midwest.