Environmental groups buck flagging economy to post gains
By Craig Causer
Washington, DC (November 1, 2008)- A slowing national economy, the subprime mortgage crisis, and an increase in home foreclosures started to raise their ugly heads during fiscal year ending 2007. As the public’s belt-tightening began, homebuyers rapidly became more endangered than the Butternut tree and the Bridled Nail-tailed Wallaby. But it was the nonprofit organizations dedicated to saving those proverbial trees and wallabies that turned many green with envy.
Each of the environmental groups in this year’s NPT 100saw an increase in total revenue for FYE 2007,none greater than the $65.4 million spike recorded by the Washington, D.C.-based World Wildlife Fund (WWF).The WWF heightened its total revenue by 40 percent, from $162.5 million to $227.9 million, and jumped from $114.6 million to $181.4 million- a 58 percent gain- in public support.
The gains can be attributed to a number of factors, including a bequest of $33 million and a $10-million major gift, according to Charles Sheerin, acting vice president of development for WWF. The nonprofit also debuted its now-annual holiday catalog, ripe with giving opportunities for all income levels. Animal adoptions allowed donors to symbolically adopt an animal in honor of a friend, colleague, or loved one, and ranged in price from $25 to $250.
“Extraordinary gifts,” which listed from $1,000 to $2.5 million each, were allocated directly to projects such as relocating bison or rhinos to a wildlife protected area or providing an educational scholarship to a young girl in the developing world. The most expensive gift opportunity was directed at a long-term solution to protecting endangered tigers in key tiger protection areas around the world.
While WWF had been conducting online adoptions, this was its first concentrated effort on a catalog of this nature, Sheerin said. The inaugural catalog rang up more than $1 million in net income, a figure which was “much more successful than we had expected,” he added.
Hot on the heels of the WWF’s growth spurt was the Trust for Public Land, which posted a $64.8-million increase to $220.2 million during fiscal 2007.Public support was also up for the organization, rising 35 percent, from $120.1 million to $161.9 million. Ducks Unlimited (DU) was next in the row with $48.7 million in total revenue gains, a 30-percent increase compared to the prior year. DU tallied $143.3 million in public support, a robust $54.6 million boost from fiscal 2006.
“We’re in year three of a $1.7-billion campaign and we’ve enjoyed strong support from our board and the public,” explained Dan Thiel, group manager of development at DU, headquartered in Memphis, Tenn. “That was manifested in fiscal 2007 by a number of significant gifts. It also reflects a very robust year in our conservation easement program. There was some favorable legislation out of the (U.S.) House and Senate that made it more advantageous for folks to complete a conservation easement. People have taken advantage of that and have accelerated their plans to create a conservation easement and we’ve benefited from that.” The Bronx, N.Y.-based Wildlife Conservation Society earned $232.6 million in total revenue, an $18-million increase, and a $30.3-million boost for a haul of $90.2 million in public support. The only hiccup in the category came from The Nature Conservancy (TNC). TNC scored a 1-percent rise in total revenue to $1.02 billion but its public support declined 6 percent, from $517.9 million in fiscal 2006 to $485.1 million in fiscal 2007.The dip was a result of a record year in fiscal 2006,partly due to a significant bequest distribution as well as the culmination of a major, multi-year fundraising challenge, according to Amy Golden, acting chief marketing membership and philanthropy officer at TNC. In contrast, FYE 2007 was a planning year, between fundraising campaigns and organization-wide “challenge” opportunities, she added.
Even with an inevitable slide that comes from following a record year, TNC was still able to grow its total revenue through a diversified plan. “We have deep program strategies at every donor level — from membership to major gifts, to principle gifts and planned giving — to protect us from the volatility of the economy,” Golden replied. Despite an economy that depressed the green in people’s pockets, the numbers show that donors remained unwavering when it came to green issues in fiscal 2007.
Nonprofit Times- Green Is Good