How We Rank And Why

Woodlawn property, future National Park

The Conservation Fund purchased the historic 1,100-acre Woodlawn property in 2012. The community swelled with support for our effort, writing letters and editorials in favor of making Woodlawn part of a new national conservation land. It became part of the First State National Monument in Delaware in March 2013. Photo by Jim Graham.

The Conservation Fund is the country’s most efficient conservation organization. We take our commitment to conservation as seriously as we take our commitment to you. You can feel confident that a gift to The Conservation Fund ensures we will put more of your money directly into conservation than anyone else.

The Conservation Fund consistently receives high charity ratings from charity watchdog groups. Find out more about how we rank as a charity and why.

Top-Rated Charity

The Conservation Fund has received the top rating, A+, from CharityWatch for over a decade. CharityWatch’s ratings look at two key categories: a charity’s effectiveness—how much of its budget is dedicated to its programs and mission, and its fundraising efficiency —the amount spent to raise $1 in charitable contributions. We have the top score among environmental groups in both categories. In fact, we put 96% of our budget into conservation and only 1% into fundraising.

We are a Gold Participant of Guidestar and are a Top Nonprofit according to Great Nonprofits. We were even included in Charity Navigator’s 10th Anniversary Top 10 Charities in recognition of our high performance over the last decade.

Charity Navigator

After eight years in a row with a 4-star ranking from Charity Navigator, this year we earned a 3-star rating: 4 stars for accountability and transparency and 3 stars for financials. 

How did we earn a 3-star rating this year for our financials when The Conservation Fund only spends 1% on fundraising and 4% total on overhead? Did we do something differently?  The answer is no. In 2012, we worked to save America’s favorite places like we always do. 

Charity Navigator looks at several different metrics to create its financial grade, including program expenses, fundraising expenses and years of available working capital. This year, we lost points in two areas: revenue growth and program expense growth. These categories are designed to measure a charity’s steady, consistent growth over time. This system works well for evaluating many charities, but it’s not ideally suited for organizations that buy and sell land over multiple years. 

A hallmark of The Conservation Fund’s work is to act swiftly when our partners call upon us to protect threatened places. The Fund completes over 100 land acquisitions a year, and the purchase price for those projects can vary greatly depending on location and quality of the land’s natural resources. Our federal, state and local partners look to us to develop and complete challenging projects that sometimes require multi-year conservation strategies.

And we’re ready for the challenge.

California forest

The Conservation Fund’s protection of Buckeye Forest (formerly Preservation Ranch) marks a significant moment in Northern California forest conservation. More than a decade ago, we set out to reassemble what was once a single forested property stretching nearly 30 miles along the rugged North Coast range. With the purchase of Buckeye Forest in 2013, we completed this goal.
Photo by Chris Kelly/The Conservation Fund.

Charity Navigator provides an important service to donors, but their rating methodology is unable to capture the entire fiscal picture of an organization like ours. Achievements like helping to establish the first national monument in the state of Delaware by protecting more than 1,000 acres along the Brandywine River for the National Park Service and preserving nearly 20,000 acres of Douglas fir and redwood forest in Northern California are not accomplished in a day, a month, or even a year.

We invited you to take a look at The Conservation Fund’s financials to learn more. Please read our annual report, which provides a comprehensive look at our fiscal health