Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Endowments funds - why the WLT doesn't have one

27 April, 2009 - 10:54 -- John Burton

Why doesn't the World Land Trust (WLT) have an endowment fund? Endowment funds are set up to provide long-term sustainable income, usually to fund the core costs of running a charity. In order to do this, a fund of several million pounds would be needed, particularly at a time when interests are at an all time low.

At the World Land Trust we believe that the crisis for the world's wildlife is so serious that to tie up several million pounds that could be used to buy land would be not only wrong, but possibly irresponsible.

Of course if someone was generous enough to give us several million pounds (or dollars or Euros or yen) specifically for creating an endowment, we would be legally obliged to accept under those conditions. But the view was iterated by all of our partner organisations at the symposium where we all met in Belize last year: time is not on our side, the best investment any conservationist can make is land. Its price is increasing faster than almost any (legal) investment that can be identified on the money markets, so it makes no sense whatsoever to hoard money when we can fund land purchase.

So unlike many other conservation groups we do not have huge investments. At any one time we may have money in the bank, but that is because sometimes it takes several months or even a couple of years to complete a land purchase.

When you are checking out a charity, it's not a bad thing if they have endowments and long-term investments, but thought should always be given as to what their priorities are. If it's saving endangered species, then act NOW.


Submitted by Dominic Belfield on

This is why I remain such a keen supporter of WLT. I love your well-focussed, trenchant and clear-headed sense of purpose.
I’ve increasingly come to loathe much of the “charidee business” which fails to see that it embodies the whole pathological state of affairs it purports to alleviate.
Instead of ‘protecting Nature’ – why don’t we organise our affairs such that we stop destroying it in the first place? Nope! Way too simple, no money in it, and it doesn’t give us that warm ,warm feeling that flinging our loose change at charidees does.
I love WLT’s direct, effective approach; no endless organising of conferences, international jamborees huffing and puffing after righteousness, and more worthy but useless ‘reports’ – just hard habitat, on-the-ground, real places.
If we want the next generation to develop an appreciation of nature, they to see the real thing, not another museum exhibit. And – “if you build it – they will come…”

Submitted by John Burton on

It is very heartwarming for all of us at then WLT to get feedback like this. After 20 years, we can measure our success by the number of places which still exist, but might have disappeared had we not stepped in. This must be right.

In some of my previous incarnations I helped dish out thousands of pounds on research which, while often very worthy, is very difficult to justify with hindsight. And also 20 or 30 years ago research seemed the right thing to do. However, now, we don’t need yet more research to tell us that the spaces for wildlife are disappearing at an alarming rate. It is quite irresponsible not to save what little is left.

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