What are the highlights for NCC last year?
On May 15, 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced an extension of the Natural Areas Conservation Program with a renewed investment of $100 million. This funding was designated for the conservation of important natural habitat in communities across southern Canada.
The announcement brings the Government of Canada’s commitment to the program, to date, to $345 million.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada administers the program and has committed to match every federal dollar 2:1. The knowledge that we have dedicated funding for the next few years allows us to plan better, to ensure we are working in the areas that are most in need of habitat protection, to plan for the future and be proactive.
The conservation of the Waldron and Kenauk properties also marked significant milestones for NCC in Alberta and Quebec, respectively. Both of these properties will allow local residents to continue using the land as they have for generations and will support their local economies, while ensuring their conservation values are protected. The Waldron represents the first time NCC has successfully engaged a rancher-owned cooperative in negotiating a conservation easement. Meanwhile, while part of the Kenauk property is conserved, another portion of it will continue to be harvested sustainably.
What is one of the biggest challenges NCC faces?
Faced with an ever-increasing range of conservation challenges across Canada, we need to continue to use our finite resources effectively and efficiently. Our conservation process helps us ensure that we remain focused on what is most important.
The possibility of non-renewal of federal funding, which has been a key driver of NCC’s conservation actions in the last several years, was a risk and threatened our ability to plan future conservation actions. However, the funding was renewed in May 2014.
A multi-year legal dispute between NCC and new owners of the Penny ranch to enforce restrictions in a conservation easement in the property had a major impact on the organization. However, the court’s decision was delivered in May 2014, upholding the principle that easements are valid conservation vehicles in Alberta.
What is NCC’s fundraising strategy?
NCC has an ambitious vision for the future – a vision that can only be realized with the help of the thousands of Canadians who support us each year. Whether protecting an acre of grizzly bear habitat as a holiday gift, leaving a bequest in their will or donating ecologically significant land, Canadians demonstrate their love of nature every day through their generosity to NCC.
NCC works with individuals, corporations, foundations and government to develop funding initiatives that help achieve lasting conservation results while also meeting our supporters’ giving and investment priorities.
Some fundraising and outreach initiatives on which we are focusing include:
- developing new corporate partnership opportunities to help companies engage their employees and meet their sustainability and community investment targets;
- continuing the successful, multi-year partnership with the federal government under the Natural Areas Conservation Program;
- encouraging people to reconnect with and spend more time in nature; and
- building a larger and more diversified constituency of supporters across the country.
NCC has received U.S. revenue for many years, which has helped lever additional funds for our work in Canada. Over the last year it was determined that a more focused effort should be made to secure U.S. resources to enhance conservation in Canada as well as match the significant North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) revenues that are administered through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
To that end, NCC expanded the team of U.S. revenue-focused staff. A business plan has been prepared for the period 2014-2017, delineating various initiatives and approaches to increase U.S. revenue available to NCC.
Through the NAWCA grants, NCC is able to obtain $2 U.S. for virtually every privately sourced American dollar. This lucrative matching opportunity is a real catalyst for us to generate more U.S. revenue. The U.S. fundraising goal for 2017 is to secure in excess of $2 million non-federal revenues, which is double the current amounts.
Conservation engagement fundraising
Funding for the national and regional conservation engagement programs such as Conservation Volunteers and interns has been quite successful in the past number of years, but in order to meet NCC’s future goals a significant increase in revenues will be necessary over the next five years. A conservation engagement fundraising team consisting of Regional and National development staff has been assembled to help facilitate the increase of revenue sources to the program.
What is NCC’s risk management strategy?
NCC believes that everyone in the organization, from the Chair of our Board of Directors, to our President, to all staff members, has a part to play in managing our risk. They all have a responsibility to actively identify, quantify, mitigate and manage the risks that the organization faces.
NCC defines risk as anything that may lead to a loss of revenue or which negatively impacts NCC’s credibility or public image, including:
- loss of conservation values
- loss of revenue
- increase in costs
- decrease in donor satisfaction
Any of these may also make it harder for NCC to achieve its mission.
On the other hand, a risk may bring the possibility of future gain (for example, taking a risk in expanding the fundraising team may yield positive results).
To help us assess ongoing risk to the organization, our Risk Management Framework identifies nine broad risk areas. Each of these assesses individual risks identified according to likelihood and severity of impact. This gives us a road map on where to focus our risk management efforts.
Management regularly reviews the identified risks, including any actions to mitigate risk and any emerging risks. This is reported regularly to the appropriate Board committee, which in turn reports to the Board of Directors.
How does NCC measure success?
Our work is for the long term, so some of our successes might be beyond the lifetime of any NCC staff currently living. We measure how well we are performing against our five-year strategic plan, using annual (short-term) and longer-term goals as yardsticks. Our performance against these goals is reported on a quarterly basis to our Board of Directors.
In the past, we’ve also focused a lot on operational efficiency — how much of our donations are spent on overhead (including fundraising and communications) and how much flows through to fund our programs. However, over the past couple of years we have started to also focus on outcomes — the positive impact that NCC’s activities have on conservation in Canada, which we believe is a more tangible way for donors to see what their support has achieved.
We have also started to challenge ourselves by setting more “stretch goals” — goals that we may not meet, but that we believe are worth the challenge. Among these stretch goals, we are now beginning to include Canadians’ engagement (through events, Conservation Volunteers, internships, visiting properties) as one of the ways that we measure success. This reflects NCC’s increasing emphasis on connecting Canadians to the landscapes they have helped to conserve.