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How is World Land Trust different to other conservation charities?
WLT always works through local partners. The Trust does not own any land abroad and does not put its own staff in charge of operations.
More on how WLT is different
Understand WLT terms
Common questions about donating to WLT
Questions relating to donations are answered on our donation information page.
- Why Save Acres with World Land Trust?
- How is WLT different to the other organisations buying rainforest?
- How can I get my friends raising funds for you?
- Can I become a member of WLT?
B: Buying an acre - what does it entail?
- When I buy an acre of rainforest or other habitat, what does that mean?
- How will I know where 'my' acre is located and can I visit it?
- In which project areas will my £100 save one acre?
C: Finances - where does the money go?
- How is £100 per acre figure arrived at?
- Why are not all projects £100 an acre?
- How do I know where my donation goes? And what percentage of it will go on administration?
- Why has WLT not signed up to the Fundraising Standards Board?
- How does WLT use affiliate websites for advertising?
D: Land purchase - why and how?
- Why are you buying land? Isn't it best to work with local people?
- What happens to the land after it has been bought?
- How can you ensure that the land is adequately protected and not used and/or destroyed by people after it has been purchased?
- Shouldn't you be saving land in the UK, rather than abroad?
- Why do the land sizes claimed to have been saved by Rainforest Trust and other NGOs differ so greatly from that of WLT?
- Why does WLT raise funds to purchase land inside areas designated as reserves? Surely, land inside a reserve is already protected?
E: How does WLT operate? Who do you work with?
- How do you decide where to buy land?
- Do you work with other organisations?
- Should this be the responsibility of Governments? Why is it left to individuals?
- How was World Land Trust started?
- How come your office is in Halesworth, if you are an international organisation? Why aren't you based in London?
F: Can I work or volunteer for WLT?
- Are there any jobs going with WLT?
- Can I volunteer to work overseas with your projects?
- Can I do a gap year project overseas with WLT?
- I have a Biology degree, how can I get a job in conservation?
G: Other questions
- Can I get a grant from World Land Trust?
- How can I contact Sir David Attenborough?
- Can World Land Trust supply speakers on conservation?
- Does WLT offset emissions from flights when staff travel by air to carry out their work?
If you can't find the answer you were looking for, contact WLT and we will do our best to help.
A: Supporting World Land Trust - why and how?
By saving acres with WLT you will be taking direct action to save tropical forests and other important wildlife areas, by funding the purchase of threatened habitats. The acres you buy are protected as nature reserves, owned and managed by local organisations. See the How we work page for more details on how the Trust operates.
When we started the Programme for Belize, we were the only organisation in Britain 'buying' rainforest. Because of the success of this way of saving rainforest and other habitats, several other organisations have now adopted this as a method of fundraising. Most of them are doing a great job, and we really do welcome their involvement - there is a lot of rainforest and other habitats that need saving and the more people doing it the better. However, because it has been successful there are also some organisations that have seen it as 'bandwagon' and an easy way to raise funds. Before making any charitable donation you should check the charity thoroughly - look at its annual report and accounts, see who the staff are, what their experience is, see who the Trustees are, and what they know about conservation - all fairly obvious and easy to do.
These are some of the ways in which WLT differs from other conservation organisations:
"WLT doesn't own a square inch of land overseas. Rather, it has consistently supported partner organisations in other countries [...]. As a result, 350,000 acres of land overseas are managed for conservation by organisations in the appropriate country."
Simon Barnes, from "Saved: the wildest place on earth", The Times, 18 June 2008
- Track record of achievements
- Implementation of projects is by local people working for local organisations
- High level of expertise among all staff and trustees
- Habitats are purchased for permanent protection - not limited sponsorship
- Have been operating since 1989, saving existing, mature forests
- Transparent about expenditure and who is involved in the Trust
- You can earmark donations for specific projects
Which charity should you support? Find out in John Burton's guide to evaluating a charity »
There are very good websites, already used by many WLT supporters, which allow you to set up your own fundraising campaign: Justgiving.com and VirginMoneyGiving. You can use them to ask friends to make donations instead of wedding gifts, sponsor you in a marathon, or support any other fundraising ideas you have. The sites are easy to use - so why not give them a go?
For more details about fundraising for WLT you can also contact WLT.
WLT has never run a membership scheme – concentrating instead on encouraging donors to make regular donations. Membership administration can be time consuming and costly and WLT aims to keep its overheads to a minimum. However, WLT does have a loyal band of WLT Friends who are committed to WLT’s objectives and this is not dissimilar to a membership. WLT Friends pledge a monthly donation of £5 or more via Direct Debit, helping us plan vital land purchases, knowing that they have pledged their donation in advance. WLT Friends are the backbone of World Land Trust and their commitment and support acts to influence other individual and corporate supporters when choosing to support us.
B: Buying an acre - what does it entail?
The acres of threatened habitat we 'sell' are real acres in real places, but you do not actually own them. The land is always owned and managed by WLT's Local Partners in the countries where we operate.
The price of £100 an acre is an average. We have worked out, what we consider to be a fair average, taking into account the costs of actual purchase (legal fees, taxes etc). See How is £100 per acre figure arrived at? for more information.
You can specify in which project area you would like to save acres and you can certainly visit the area you have helped save, though we do not identify individual acres. As projects get established, basic field stations are built to enable small groups to visit. See Visit WLT's Conservation Projects for more information.
For donations of £5,000 and more we can identify a specific area that the funds have saved.
A donation of £100 will save one acre, on average, in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico. Or donate to the Buy an Acre Fund and your donation will be used in the project area where it is most urgently needed among the projects where £100 saves an acre.
In our other project areas such as Malaysian Borneo, India and Kenya land prices are much more expensive and variable and we are therefore unable to specify in advance how many acres your donation will buy. However, rest assured that your donation to these projects will be used for land purchase and protection and nothing else.
C: Finances - where does the money go?
The price of £100 an acre is an average. This is because not only do land values vary geographically, but they also vary locally. Access to roads, whether or not there is forest, or if they have been cleared for cattle ranching all affect the price. So we have worked out, what we consider to be a fair average, taking into account the costs of actual purchase (legal fees, taxes etc) but not including long-term management and protection. In some parts of South America our partners are able to buy land very cheaply, and it is in those projects area where we offer our supporters the chance to save an acre for £100.
It is a complex issue, and for donors making large donations we are always happy to discuss an individual project and what the exact costs are. But rest assured, donors 'buying' half an acre, one acre or five acres: £100 really does, on average, save an acre.
In other parts of the world land is very much more expensive and land prices vary enormously, which means that for our projects in those areas we are unable to specify in advance how many acres your donation will save.
How much land your donation will save depends on the project area. In some parts of South America our partners are able to buy land very cheaply. In other parts of the world land is very much more expensive and land prices vary enormously. For donations to these areas we don't always know in advance how many acres your donation will be able to buy. What we can guarantee, is that your donation will be used for land purchase and protection and nothing else. Your donation is saving real acres in real places, permanently - it is not a limited sponsorship, or 'adoption' of a piece of land sold over and over again.
WLT is completely open about its finances and unlike many other charities, publishes summaries of its finances on its website, so you can see where your money actually goes. See our financial page for more information. You can also see what donations are spent on by visiting the reserves saved by World Land Trust and its partners. Other information is published in Annual Reports and Accounts, WLT News, and eBulletins.
WLT considered this very carefully, but the code we would be signing up to is exceptionally long and complex, and consequently very difficult to understand. Furthermore it is a voluntary code, with no real methods of enforcement, which we believe is a major weakness. We do not believe that self-regulation by fundraisers is an effective way of ensuring high standards.
We believe that the standards we set are much higher than many other fundraisers, and that the standards we work to are those appreciated by our supporters. However we will continue to monitor the activities of the FRSB and will reconsider on a regular basis, if it is shown to be effective.
WLT does not actually employ fundraisers, as we believe that everyone that works with us, or for us, in one way or another is a fundraiser. We believe that the best way of raising funds is to be efficient and to do what you are good at.
Some other websites include links to the WLT in return for a small commission on any donations resulting from clicks on those links. These links help WLT reach a wider audience in a cost-effective way. Commissions are paid out of the WLT's general funds and not out of the funds restricted to land purchase projects, so you can rest assured that however you found WLT, your donation will be used for our conservation projects and nothing else.
D: Land purchase - why and how?
This question addresses two important points. First, World Land Trust itself owns no land outside the UK, and has a strict policy that includes local people in all its projects. Before a project is initiated WLT identifies a local partner organisation with whom a Memorandum of Understanding is signed and a work programme agreed. Ownership of the land purchased is with this partner organisation, not WLT.
WLT is responsible for fundraising and overseeing the project in the early stages and the local organisation works with the local community to achieve the conservation goals. Support from local government is also a top priority. Local people are employed as park wardens and, when possible, local scientists are used to carry out research at the project sites; also volunteers from nearby towns and universities are invited to take part in projects to conserve their native land and wildlife.
Secondly, why buy the land? There is much debate about the 'correct' way to conserve land, and we do recognise that land purchase is only one of the several methods that can ensure the survival of threatened habitats. However, WLT feels that ownership of land gives a great deal more control over its future than other forms of protection, and, once purchased, the land belongs to the local organisations who take over the responsibility for its protection. See Land Purchase as a Tool for Conservation for more details on our land purchase policy.
A management plan is developed by WLT and its local partner, aimed at securing legal protection for the land. Each project, because of its urgency and degree of threat, comes with a different set of problems, and so the solutions for each will differ, but long term conservation of the land and its wildlife is always the key objective.
In addition to land protection, WLT also helps develop forms of sustainable and environmentally friendly income activities for the local community. This might be ecotourism, crafts or sustainable forestry on the land, with a view to assisting the project to become an independent entity and not reliant on further funds from the Trust. After this, the project continues to be managed by the local partner, leaving WLT to fundraise to save more threatened land elsewhere.
3. How can you ensure that the land is adequately protected and not used and/or destroyed by people after it has been purchased?
Unfortunately there is no single answer to this question. As mentioned above, because each project presents its unique problems we need to find different ways of ensuring protection. The essential element of all our operations is that we work with local people, and enthuse them about 'their' habitats and 'their' wildlife.
By involving local conservationists and local communities we reduce the risks of encroachment considerably; they know the local situation and can head off any potential conflicts. If there is occasional incursion into the forests this is quickly dealt with by park wardens who are familiar with the borders.
We believe that maintaining an active and visible presence, through wardens and researchers, and providing jobs for local people, is an effective method to ensure long-term security. And of course, the purchase of the land ensures that our local partners have clear title to the land, so that any encroachment would be illegal.
Britain has an extensive network of protected areas, and the costs of acquisition of new ones are very high. There are also already in existence numerous organisations devoted to conserving land in Britain. It is worth noting that a new 15,000-acre reserve in Britain could cost between £6 and £60 million while WLT funded the purchase of a similar sized ranch in Patagonia for £250,000. WLT does have one small UK reserve at Kites Hill, but this was generously gifted to us and did not involve purchase costs.
5. Why do the land sizes claimed to have been saved by Rainforest Trust and other NGOs differ so greatly from the WLT?
It all depends on what is meant by saved. In the WLT we only mention the lands we have been directly involved with, and normally only lands that have actually been purchased. Other organisations use different measurements, and may include the whole area under consideration. It would be perfectly legitimate for us to claim that we have helped save two areas of 100,000 acres each, when we purchase a corridor of say 10,000 acres. We could justifiably claim that we have helped save 210,000 acres for wildlife. But we don’t. Every land purchase is different, and sometimes long leases are also involved. So the only way of answering the question is really on an individual basis. The same applies to the huge variations in land prices.
6. Why does WLT raise funds to purchase land inside areas designated as reserves? Surely land inside a reserve is already protected?
In many countries including the UK, the fact that land is designated as a protected area and governed by the state does not necessarily mean that it is being managed for conservation. Biosphere reserves, national parks and protected areas will usually include some element of privately owned land - as is the case with national parks in Britain. Funding for national parks is often inadequate and those living within parks or within a park’s sphere of influence may not be provided with alternative sources of income or other motivations to be stewards of the land. If resources are not mobilised for effective management, protected areas can be little more than “paper parks” and serve little or no conservation function. Therefore, when WLT puts funds towards purchasing land within a reserve, it is because the property being purchased will only be fully protected for conservation if the land is owned by a local conservation organisation.
E: How does WLT operate? Who do you work with?
This is largely opportunistic. Through research and contacts throughout the world, the Trust learns when land becomes available which is in direct threat of habitat destruction. For example, when WLT Honorary President, Jerry Bertrand, was leading an eco-tour through Patagonia, he discovered that there were vast stretches of coastline, relatively untouched and rich in wildlife in Patagonia. He also witnessed firsthand the demise of much of the coastal steppe for unsympathetic development, as land became available due to the crash in the price of wool on the world market. Patagonia's coastline and steppe are extraordinarily rich in wildlife and this was clearly an emergency that needed to be addressed.
Every potential project which comes to WLT (and there are up to 20 in any year) is put through an evaluation process, based on a set of project selection criteria agreed by WLT Trustees, including the biodiversity value, the level of threat, and possible risks associated. The evaluation ensures that the land being purchased is of high conservation value and that it is appropriate for WLT to become involved.
Yes, always. World Land Trust is a member of IUCN - the World Conservation Union, and all its projects are carried out with local non-government organisations (NGOs). World Land Trust has an extensive network and is able to establish new partnerships almost anywhere in the world. We have also been helped by British companies assisting with study tours for our overseas project partners.
In many parts of the world, governments simply do not have the funds to adequately protect land they already own. Many developing countries are heavily in debt to the developed world, and we all share a responsibility for ensuring that the world's wildlife survives into the future. Wherever possible we try to ensure that we have the support of the local government and we are working particularly closely with the government of Paraguay.
In January 1989, the Massachusetts Audubon Society made a grant of US$10,000 (approx. £6,670) to John Burton to set up an office in the UK, for the sole purpose of raising funds for a brand new project concept: Programme for Belize. The target was to double the original US$10,000 by the end of the year, but by the time of the official launch, in May, when the late Gerald Durrell, and his wife, Lee, came over from Jersey to officiate, £25,000 had already been raised. The charity was formed and subsequently became World Land Trust.
5. How come your office is in Halesworth, if you are an international organisation? Why aren't you based in London?
With modern communications the location of an office is relatively unimportant. Phone, fax and email mean that we can be in contact with our partners in Patagonia or Philippines or anywhere else in the world, just as easily from rural Suffolk as London.
WLT finds that there are considerable advantages to its rural location, mainly in that running costs of an office are dramatically less in Suffolk. Staff salaries are also lower, due to the relative cost of living, but quality of life is much better. The extra costs of regular visits (by train) to London for meetings, is easily offset by the reduction in other costs.
Finally, we are based in an area with lots of nature reserves, where we can actually see and appreciate the wildlife we all consider so important to save.
F: Can I work or volunteer for WLT?
The WLT is a relatively small organisation, and our staff turnover is extremely low. Jobs at WLT's office in Suffolk, UK are posted on our vacancies page.
From time to time our overseas conservation partners recruit internationally. Details of paid positions, that are relevant to international applicants, with partner organisations will be detailed in the news pages of WLT website.
World Land Trust does not run general volunteer programmes at our project areas, although we do encourage our supporters to visit our partners’ projects and to offer voluntary assistance. If the organisation runs a volunteering programme we suggest applying to them directly (contact details for all our project partners are on our website).
Very occasionally, World Land Trust is asked by one of its project partners to recruit an international volunteer, to acquire a specialist skill not available locally. These skills have been very varied - from drainage engineers, skilled builders, and marketing experts. These opportunities will be advertised on our vacancies page as and when they arise.
World Land Trust does not have programmes for gap year students. We do however, have a comprehensive internship programme for graduates.
Biologists and field conservationists are a relatively small part of a conservation organisation, so unless you have a degree in these fields, it may be more useful to look at the range of roles required by a conservation organisation. Experience in any of the following is likely to be useful: accounting, fundraising, database management, web design, IT, editing and copywriting, education and project management. Having an active interest in wildlife is always an advantage if applying for a job in conservation so volunteering at your local nature reserve is likely to stand you in good stead. If you have not worked in conservation before, look at our information page on How to apply for Conservation jobs.
G: Other questions
World Land Trust does not give grants to individuals, and does not support expeditions. Grants are normally only made to NGOs with a good track record of land management. Before applying to the WLT it is essential to have read the Projects Criteria.
Sir David asks us to remind enquirers that he is in his late 80s and is not taking on new commitments. He is still heavily involved in filming and is booked up many months in advance so is generally unable to accept invitations to speak at events and conferences. Also please note that Sir David is unable to endorse products, read manuscripts, accept invitations to write forewords in books or attend book launches. As you may expect, he is bombarded with requests and consequently we are reluctant to pass on letters. If you really believe your wish to contact him is important you can write to him c/o WLT and we will forward the letter. Please see the address below. (Please note that we can only forward actual letters, not emails, and we cannot guarantee a response.)
WLT can usually supply a representative to speak at a public or private event if travel expenses are reimbursed (and very occasionally, when they are not). Speakers are usually staff members, but from time to time we do have interns and other volunteers who are prepared to give talks. Please bear in mind the costs of travel from East Suffolk, and also the time involved.
Air travel is an unavoidable activity because the global reach of WLT’s work means that staff are required to visit projects in order to monitor them. However, the scale of WLT’s impact in terms of emissions sequestered through habitat preservation far outweighs the emissions produced from carrying out its work. Furthermore, all WLT funds are spent on conservation so if we offset the flights we would have to take money earmarked for one conservation activity and transfer it to another. That seems self-defeating, so we do not do it.
If you have any other questions, we will do our best to answer them. You could also write to the Editor of WLT News for the 'Dear WLT' letters page if you would like feedback from other supporters. Please contact us »