Friday, 26 August 2005

Conservation money - fundraising or land purchase?

In January 2004 I wrote a blog deploring how little conservation money was spent on land acquisition. Over 18 months later, a quick look at the UKs wealthiest wildlife conservation body (WWF) shows the situation has deteriorated. For clarity, I have reprinted my original with the revised figures in brackets taken from the WWF accounts for 2003/2004.

"Global warming is a major issue, and so is habitat destruction and the many, many other forms of anthropogenic change that adversely affect wildlife. But most of these need governments to take action. Conservation bodies and the public should take action where they are most cost effective. Look at how much money WWF has spent over the past 40 years on research, then see how many acres of land that would have acquired world wide. In 2001 WWF's income was around £30,000,000 [£36,000,000] in the UK alone (I know a lot of that money could not be spent on land, even if they wanted to, but it does give an idea of the scale of things). £30 million would buy at least 1.2 million acres of land -- probably well over 5 million acres [£36 million would buy in excess of 3 million acres, possibly 8million]. Even in England it would probably buy over 10,000 acres [15,000 acres]. To give an idea of size, the State of Massachusetts is less than 2 million acres. And Belgium is just over 7 million acres." end of quote. And tropical forests the size of Belgium are lost every year.

Looking at the WWF accounts in greater detail, they now have over £20 million in assets. But land purchase does not appear anywhere in their activities, and while their expenditure on conservation is huge, so is their expenditure on fundraising and related activities. I am not sure what the general opinion is on levels of expenditure -- but over 23% of the income was spent on fundraising in various forms, and this is before any admin or management costs are deducted. What do my readers feel about this? If the World Land Trust was to up its expenditure on fundraising activities, there is little doubt that we would raise more money, but would spending nearly a quarter of income be acceptable, even if it raised income dramatically? Thoughts and comments please.


  1. I am quite convinced that a significant majority of funds raised should go directly to land purchase.
    However, it might be beneficial for WLT if they could spend a little more on raising their profile, which would hopefully reap rewards in terms of increased income with which to buy land. That said, I would hope the WLT would never fall into the trap of using so-called 'chuggers' (charity muggers) out on the street. They are surely one of the most irritating recent developments in charity work. I find it hard to believe that they can bring in more income than they cost.

  2. Thanks for this comment. We are in fact, using a limited amount of funding to raise our profile, and have engaged a PR Agency to work with us. Our appearance in last week's Hello! Magazine is one result. And we certainly will never use chuggers. They are not cost effective in my view, because of the alienation they cause.