I am now a proud member of Buglife – why don’t you join too?
I am going to write mainly about closer collaborative working in this blog but I do want to put in a word for mergers before I do that.
Let’s take some of the smaller wildlife conservation organisations as examples. Let’s imagine they sting you for £35 a year membership and they have 12000 members. That’s a membership income of about £420k. Obviously you have to spend money on getting and keeping members, and obviously you can try to get more money out of those 12000 good folk by asking them for more money, flogging them Christmas cards and asking them to leave you some of their wealth in their wills. But you can’t save much wildlife with £420k and most smaller NGOs rely on grants and contracts from the statutory sector – which itself has been cut hard recently. So membership receipts are not what all wildlife NGOs are based on – the extent varies quite a lot.
Now imagine another similar NGO with a similar number of members and charging the similar amount as a membership fee. Are you sure that they would be worse off if they merged? I’m not. They could cut their membership costs by a lot and shouldn’t lose in the competition for contracts and grants.
And it is the position of this blog that we should be looking at how much money is spent on nature conservation – and how well it is spent – not how much money is raised. There clearly are economies of scale and they probably apply strongly at the ‘small’ end of the scale. If diversity is such a good idea why aren’t we all asking for NGOs to split? Do we need Moth Conservation AND Butterfly Conservation; Funguslife, Mosslife AND Plantlife? Funny that some seem to think that we have exactly the right mix, right now, at this point in time. That seems unlikely to me. We are such a conservative lot – let’s think outside of today’s box a little more – for nature’s sake.
But I am not, except to provoke, a strong advocate of mergers in the tangled bank of wildlife NGOs. I am, though, a strong advocate of closer collaboration in many ways, including in the nuts and bolts ways. That hypothetical small NGo with 12000 members could surely benefit by persuading a larger NGO to do that work for it. Surely there is a good chance that both would gain financially – the larger from gaining an extra income from something that it does a lot of already and the smaller from paying less for the service than it pays to do it itself right now. That is the type of collaboration that could lead to a gain for nature as more money heads its way. Worth thinking about – or not?
And I think that a ripe area for collaboration would be in enthusing kids about nature – a point that has been made by several people commenting here over the last few days. Many wildlife NGOs have something for children – it’s seen almost as a sin not to do so. But is it sensible to have a kids club bolted on to a middle-aged person’s club? Because, let’s face it, the membership of most wildlife NGOs tends to the not-so-young. If children immediately grew up into adult members, supporters, volunteers and advocates then it would make more business sense for everyone to be chasing the children’s support – but they don’t.
And is it sensible for most wildlife NGOs to be trying to enthuse children – most have a rather small membership and the provision of exciting wildlife events for children is very patchy across the country. I would have thought that this is an area where lots of NGOs could gather together and do a much better job. Such a venture would probably attract significant grant funding too – anything to do with children tends to be attractive to donors. One magazine, one set of well organised events covering the whole of nature? Joint branding or no branding? The option of reduced adult subscription to any or all wildlife NGOs once you pass the age of 16 for youth members of 2+ years?
A collaborative approach to enthusing the next generation about nature? What do you think?