I know many of the Grasslands Trust’s staff personally, including their Chief Executive Lucy Cooper, and some of their trustees too, and I am saddened by this outcome. Let us hope that as much as possible of the Grasslands Trust’s 10-year legacy of conservation work is protected and that their excellent staff find new roles in nature conservation.
The Grasslands Trust was, for we now have to talk of it in the past, a small charity with a turnover of about £350k pa and about a dozen staff. About half of that £350k came from grants and so the spending of it was ‘restricted’ to the purposes for which the grants were given. There are many small NGOs that are very dependent on grants, and it can be a rather hand-to-mouth and nerve-wracking existence.
The grants and voluntary donations that have been going to the Grasslands Trust are now, in theory, available for other wildlife NGOs to collar. I say ‘in theory’ because who knows whether levels of donation from individuals and grant-giving bodies can be maintained in the current economic climate, there are plenty of non-wildlife causes that may be able to tap into those funds, and if there are people out there whose main interest is grassland conservation they may feel that they don’t have other good options for their charitable donations.
Different charities, of course, having different funding models. Some are dependent on rich donors, and since the rich are always with us (and are not an endangered species under the current government) there are always opportunities there. Some depend on us visiting their sites and spending our money with them (and it has been a poor summer, weather-wise, for those organisations). Some depend on grants – and grant-giving bodies get their money from donations and/or interest on investments (which aren’t likely to be having the best of times these days). Some have close collaborative relationships with (or are in hock to) statutory agencies whose budgets have been cut in government austerity measures. And all, to some extent, depend on our generosity.
Whether you give your money to a wildlife NGO will depend on many things – whether you like bats/bees/butterflies/bitterns/basking sharks/bluebells, whether you like the staff of the organisation, whether you are feeling flush with cash or pinched with debt, what you think you will get back from the organisation and from which side of the bed you emerged today. But you are investing too. You are investing your money in nature conservation, and it’s wise to undertake due diligence in any investment. Will your chosen wildlife NGO do a good job with your money and will they still be there in five years time?
The Charity Commission website is not a bad place to start. And here, just for interest, are some figures to show the range of incomes achieved by some wildlife conservation charities in recent years
The National Trust £413m
WWF- UK £58m
Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust £26m
Butterfly Conservation £3.3m
Plantlife International £2.8m
Marine Conservation Society £2.2m
Bat Conservation Trust £1.49mAmphibian and Reptile Conservation £938k
Pond Conservation £607k
Bumblebee Conservation Trust £293k
Badger Trust £120k