Natural England and crowdfunding

Last year I wrote about Natural England asking you for your money, through crowdfunding, to carry out a mixture of tasks which ranged from the daft to what seemed to me to be Natural England’s statutory duties (and therefore what I was paying for through my taxes). Tony Juniper responded to the ENDS report with a thoroughly unconvincing reply.

I am interested in this subject for two reasons – one of principle and the other because of one of the projects.

First the principle. Natural England is a statutory agency, it’s a public body, my taxes and your taxes pay for it. If it doesn’t have enough money to carry out its statutory duties then we ought to fix that with government. Natural England would be better placed slipping me, an NGO or a journalist some papers showing that they can’t do their job properly because of government cuts than crowdfunding. And if the projects being crowdfunded aren’t essential, then don’t do them!

But it doesn’t really matter because Natural England is pathetically inept at raising money anyway.

In response to an FOI request I received this, today:

Remember these crowdfunders have been running for over a year. These are pitiful amounts which most unpaid teenage interns at an NGO would be able to better in a few months.

There are three main reasons why crowdfunders fail:

  • poor marketing (not putting the proposition to the right people in the right way)
  • an unpopular proposition (I don’t want to pay for that!)
  • an unpopular proposer (I don’t want to pay them!)

Natural England suffers from all three at once but the greatest of these, I’d guess is the top one. However, the other two cannot be dismissed too lightly.

So let us turn to the most abject failure of the lot – the southern reintroduction of Hen Harriers into England. Some proper conservationists are mildly in favour of this scheme but not many it seems to me. And the RSPB, most raptor workers as far as I can make out and Ruth Tingay, Chris Packham and I are against it (for what that’s worth). Read this recent blog from Raptor Persecution UK for an insight into things and which revealed that Natural England have been funding Hen Harrier satellite tagging in Spain – that £50 won’t have funded much of it though!). And read this blog about the media reporting of RSPB’s position, and look at the comments on the blog for a good flavour of views pro and anti).

The southern reintroduction of Hen Harriers will cost £0.55m. That person’s £50 has got them one ten-thousandth of the way there already! And given the slow progress, I bet the overall costs have risen.

Given how badly the project is going – a struggle to find a site willing to take the birds, and a struggle to find a country willing to donate birds – one has to wonder why Natural England is ploughing on with it.

Time for Tony Juniper to pick up the ‘phone to George Eustice and say;

Secretary of State, it wasn’t your £50 was it? But come on, it’s time for us to climb down on this one; it’s a waste of time, a waste of money, it further eats away at NE’s reputation and it probably won’t work anyway. It’s a waste of your money, a waste of NE money and a waste of the taxpayers’ money. It’s time to drop it. I’ll ask Mark Avery and Ruth Tingay to go gentle with us but you can see that what with Badger culling, gamebird releases, general licences and failure on Hen Harriers they might not be wholly sympathetic. But it’s time to bite the bullet (and that reminds me, when are you going to do something about lead ammunition?).

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6 Replies to “Natural England and crowdfunding”

  1. Yet again we might ask, are they fit for purpose certainly not (in my opinion & based on case files built up over many years) in my neck of the woods (Y&H).

    Recall we were promised best ever, world beating guardian of nature & the environment (my words but you get the gist) team, so where are they?

    Surely it would be a kindness to put them out of their misery after recent debacles & TJ out to grass or whatever it was he was promised

    Then again I suppose DEFRA need a protective wall to deflect criticism from the Minister & or Govt policies

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  2. if that's the best they can do..... and how much time/cost did it take to design, run and conclude the campaigns? Probably way more than the money they received!! Might be worth asking if there was any other funding for the Hen Harrier project - did your FOI request cover that?

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  3. Agree with all you say Mark. It almost beggars belief what Natural England are up to. The sums of money raised are pathetic. I must say I am very surprised that those in charge at NE allow all this to happen. The Hen Harrier relocation to southern England, for example, is a project recommended by the shooters (probably so they can kill more hen harriers on their grouse moors and still say the numbers of hen harriers are increasing).
    The more one sees about what NE are up to, the more one realises they have a very questionable relationship with the shooters.
    If I were part of NE’s senior administration I would not wish to operate in this dubious fashion and would resign my post as I think several senior NE personnel should now do, including Mr Juniper.
    There certainly seems to be plenty of scope for Wild Justice in court at the appropriate time.

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  4. If NE want to know how its done they'd do far worse than consulting fellow Defra family member Forestry England. Faced with disastrous finances inbthe late 90s/ early 20s due to low timber prices Forest Enterprise as it then was peaked at £15m pa external funding - mainly for visitor facilities, land restoration around towns and cities and habitat restoration. That was 25% of total income. It also implemented ruthless efficiency - which is not the same as simple cuts - and certainly my experience of NE is that there is a lot of headroom for efficiency improvements.

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    1. Forestry England is “competing” with charities these days https://www.forestryengland.uk/membership - but not on a level playing field.

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  5. If they didn’t spend quite so much time and money in a useless attempt to eradicate grey squirrels and muntjac deer because they are ‘invasive alien species’ - in addition to the projects already mentioned - they might get a bit more support

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