I am a glutton for punishment when it comes to wildlife conservation. Each January I sacrifice time with my family, sleep and my liver to attend the Wild Sheep Foundation’s Sheep Show. There are more Life Member plaques in my trophy room than I can count and enough conservation organization publications in baskets throughout my house to keep me reading for the rest of my life. Ducks. Trout. Elk. Sheep. Deer. You name an animal and I have supported a conservation organization related to it at some point in my life.
If trial and error make one an expert, I am an expert in a lot of things. Along the way my time and money have been donated to many conservation organizations, some more deserving than others. People have asked how to pick a conservation organization to support, hoping to not make my same mistakes. An acronym is always fun to try, so below is my attempt at putting together a list of the criteria to consider when selecting where to donate your time and money:
This is the idea that there are chances to act locally. Many organizations start small and get big. If you want to just write a check to an organization and not be able to see firsthand how your dollars are working, it gets really easy to stop supporting the organization. There are plenty of national organizations that have local chapters with influence on how time and money is spent.
This is true for both adults and kids. Supporting organizations like WSF that fund science-based conservation makes you learn more, even if you simply read the monthly publications. RMGA just put out a video in the past year to help hunters identify the sex of a mountain goat, which will help hunters focus on shooting billies rather than nannies. Education for kids is also a big consideration. Finding organizations that have youth programs, youth memberships and youth education shows they want to grow the future of conservation.
I have been to many banquets and conservation events, and you can tell a lot about an organization by the members that attend. I support organizations that draw successful, fun people. Some of the events I have attended over the years are as dull and uneventful as watching cricket. And the people were boring and self-absorbed. No thanks.
Conservation comes down to two things—donating time and/or money. Finding an organization that provides programs beyond a yearly membership fee shows they are creative in their conservation efforts and willing to do what it takes to get support. Likewise, organizations that coordinate or support conservation events in the field offer plenty of opportunities to do more than just write a check or go to a banquet/auction. Animal counts. Guzzler builds. Relocations. They all get you right in the action.
Short term investments for long term payouts. We want to see the time and money that we put in going to good use. Organizations that constantly update members on projects, issues and management just plain get it. People want to see results. Finding an organization that demonstrates real investment into real results is tough, and hard to quantify. But any organization that has turned its membership investment into worthy product is going to brag about it. And they should. And results come in all sorts of ways. You might have to go digging a bit, but it will be there.
This is a big one. “Show me yours since I gave you mine”. Complete financial transparency and policy decision-making is key. A clear and concise Mission Statement, followed by accessible and understandable financial information is a must. If it isn’t on their website or easily obtained in an email or two, then there is a problem. Not to say the organization is corrupt, but transparency breeds accountability. Accountability is the key to staying on task both short term and in the long run.