And the winners and losers are…

The two polls for your favourite and least favourite UK wildlife NGOs are now closed.  Thank you for voting.

Across the two polls, over 2400 votes were cast: 1330 in the poll for the favourite organisation and 1085 in the poll for the least favourite.  This seems to show that despite a few voices saying that only praise will work, when it comes down to a secret ballot, 80% of people are just as keen to express their lack of enthusiasm as their enthusiasm.

Some argued that the list should have been even longer than the 14 organisations listed by me – it could have been two or three times as long but I wanted initially to have 10 organisations in the poll and found that I couldn’t bring myself to reduce the number below 14.  There is a plethora of wildlife conservation organisations around in the UK and the interested public are faced with a choice of where to put their money, volunteering time and emotional support.  Are there too many organisations out there – that’s a subject discussed in Chapter 16 of my book, Fighting for Birds – 25 years in nature conservation, which will be out in August? It’s a subject that you may want to comment on here too.

Do the results of more than a thousand people add up to anything at all anyway? That’s for you to judge but I think some interesting things come out of it.  My strong impression is that the readership of this blog is a strange mixture of wildlife conservation professionals,  keen amateurs and people who visit this site just to be amused or irritated.  I suppose I am saying that you are a slightly strange bunch of people but then you would be entirely entitled to say that it takes a slightly strange person’s website to attract such an audience.  You may be given a readership survey to complete over the coming weeks so that we can all know a little more about the readers of this blog.

There are at least (at least!) three ways of looking at these numbers.  First there is the performance on the traditional poll of which organisation do you like the most – the favourite wildlife NGO.  There are some interesting results here – not least the poor showing of some large organisations and the excellent performance of some smaller ones.

Then there is the performance on the second poll of least favourite organisation – again there are some surprising results here but there is also a very clear ‘winner’.

And lastly from me, there is some value I think in looking at the net favourite in polling terms – the organisation that has the most votes when its negative votes are removed from its positive ones.  That has some interesting things in it too.

So, here are the results;

1. Which of the following nature conservation organisations would you be happiest to see receive public support (1330 votes cast)?

Gold medal: RSPB 289 votes

Silver medal: The Wildlife Trusts 251 votes

Bronze medal: The Grasslands Trust 105 votes

and at the other end of the scale…

Cardboard medal: The National Trust and National Trust for Scotland 40 votes

Plastic medal: WWF UK 33 votes

Wooden spoon: BASC 30 votes



2. Which of the following nature conservation organisations would you be least happy to see receive public support (1085 votes cast)?

Butterfly Conservation 2 votes

Marine Conservation Society 4 votes

Bat Conservation Trust 7 votes

and at the other end of the scale…

RSPB 131 votes

GWCT 151 votes

BASC 506 votes


3. The performance of nature conservation organisations when negative votes (1085) are taken from positive votes (1330) to provide a net vote.

1. The Wildlife Trusts 223

2. The RSPB 158

3= Butterfly Conservation 95

3= The Grasslands Trust 95

5. Buglife 88

6. Marine Conservation Society 68

7. The Wildfowl and wetlands Trust 47

8. Plantlife 44

9. Bat Conservation Trust 39

10. The Woodland Trust 6

11. The National Trust and NTS -32

12. The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust -53

13. WWF UK -57

14. BASC -476


I will come back to these results in this blog over the days and weeks ahead – but not all the time!  Here are a few thoughts for now.

Even if you have the word ‘conservation’ in your name, being associated with shooting of wildlife (BASC and GWCT) is unpopular with this readership.  These two organisations have mountains to climb to be recognised as conservation organisations by the wider conservation community – despite the examples of very good work that I know that both do in this field.  If either wants to be seen as a nature conservation organisation then they will have to think about how they get their messages across – but it is quite possible that they are entirely happy with their strong positioning on the edge of nature conservation rather than at the heart of it.  That’s for them to decide.

Some very large organisations did very badly – i don’t think there is any other way of putting it.  For WWF UK and th National Trust (and NTS) to receive so few positive votes and more negative votes is somewhat surprising. And the Woodland Trust only just scraped into positive territory too.  It may be that despite their admirable qualities these organisations are not seen as nature conservation organisations in their UK work.  That’s my guess – and it is not a million miles away from my view either.  Do they mind?  Are they doing fine with a different audience?

The Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB are the ‘Big 2’ of UK nature conservation.

But what do you think? I’ll be commenting more on these results after more thought over the next few weeks and days.  But do have your say now.


13 Replies to “And the winners and losers are…”

  1. The reason that fewer people appeared not to be interested in casting a vote for their least favourite may largely have been because, like me, they didn’t scroll down to the second list.

    I agree that having ‘shooting’ in your name limits your appeal! I am told that being shot can be painful.

  2. The very poor showing of WWF is interesting. I am a member but, I must admit, in a completely passive way with the direct debit rolling over from one year to the next without further input from me. I receive occasional mailings but they are not very interesting and I have to say I have only a fairly vague idea of what they do. I looked them up on the web a moment ago and was interested to note that they did not come top of the list in a google search for “worldwide fund for nature”! This suggests that whatever else they are doing or not doing they are very poor at getting their message across.

  3. Poor old BASC. I am not a shooter but that is one organisation that put a lot into helping develop the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime network when it started. Obviously not recognised when treated in ‘conservation’ terms.

  4. A better pole would have been ‘who on here has not signed the E petition so that land owners can appear in court not just their keepers’. Followed by ‘why not!!’
    With no support from the top of the tree in the RSPB it is going to be used against the protection of Birds of Prey!

  5. Mark – the question you asked in the text written above your poll was ‘if you had £100 who would you give it to”.
    Then you had a different question above the list of 14 organisations ‘happiest to receive public support’
    Thus one question is about your personal support with a donation, and the other is about wider public support/funding.
    So, the choices people made might well be affected by which one of these differently worded questions they were considering, and thus the poll be confounded?

    1. Redwood – I would trust the electorate to be able both to read and think. That strikes me as how they behave on this site.

  6. Hi Mark,felt unable to vote for previous stated reason but I have a comment and pleasant surprise just like John Miles.
    I have enormous respect for all the hard work conservationists put in so how is it that with them and their supporters who must obviously be conservationists numbering in the low millions Chrissie’s e-petition numbers stand at appallingly low number of 8871.
    Quite honestly although I am a big supporter of RSPB in general terms of what they do I feel they should be ashamed of standing back and not having a campaign to get the numbers above 100,000 and cannot imagineif you were there we would have already hit the target.
    How can they promote and finance programs like the Osprey, WTE,Bustards,Cranes and Red Kites which are all creditable programs and yet ignore such a simple thing like getting members to sign a petition that would help to improve the lot of a magnificent bird.
    Think in this case I have lost faith in them completely and it is so similar to a raptor petition a year or so ago that got well over 100 thousand signatures that just makes their attitude so ridiculous.Of course all conservationists who have not signed do not come out of it with any credit either.How can anyone claim to be a conservationist and not sign the petition.
    For goodness sake RSPB come on this blog and give us a explanation.

  7. Interesting, personally I would have voted for the BTCV whose good work bolsters much of that assumed to be done by other NGOs. How cynical am I in wondering just how much of this poll was tainted by staff numbers within NGO PR teams?

    Poor old WWF – in France the picture of the logger felling a teak tree whilst wearing a WWF t-shirt is still doing the rounds and recent arrests for corruption of WWF staff in Africa hasn’t helped.

    Personally I feel that any NGO who delves into the murky world of offsetting by it for carbon or biodiversity is going to get their fingers quite rightly burned.

    I would love to see more collaboration between the land owning NGOs on their on sites and better transparency all round. With more power there is more responsibility!

  8. Whilst I know this is about conservation sector NGOs, its worth remembering that the two biggest SSSI managers in England (and biggest land managers) are MOD and FC. We don’t have to have a vote on FC because the Government orgainsied a plebiscite last year with an outcome that looked like a presidential election in a dictatorship. Both organisations are important because both had a bad track record which they’ve set about repairing, FC over 20 years, MOD more recently with a vigour that should be an example to some of the runners and riders in your poll.

    But it isn’t. Even you, Mark, in British Wildlife and even Plantlife in an otherwise brilliant report ‘Forestry Recommissioned’, repeat the NGO matra, applicable only to FC land, that ‘ownership doesn’t matter’. I wonder if RSPB staff would agree that RSPB ownership doesn’t matter ? I doubt it. A few years ago an RSPB study in a notorious shooting area concluded (informally and unpublished) that a Buzzard’s life chances depended almost solely on ownership: an FC Buzzard was more than twice as likely to breed successfully as a Buzzard on any other ownership. I’m sure United Utilities Hen Harriers would agree wholheartedly, as would RSPB Bitterns whilst at this very moment there’s probably an MOD Sand Lizard saying ‘Yipee- here come the tanks !’

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