November 30, 2015|By Dave Phillips| Finance

Many aspects of the Fund’s business model are very distinct and enable us to be nimble and highly entrepreneurial. These are the top five qualities that I feel set the Fund apart and allow us to be so successful:

1.  We are independent and do not have a membership.

Membership programs are expensive to maintain, whether it’s buying lists of donor names or handing out giveaways. We believe that our financial resources are better spent on conservation.

Operating with a lean business model has earned us a loyal community of supporters who generously fund our operations. And since we approach conservation from a non-partisan viewpoint, we gain support from both sides of the aisle, and thus do not need a large membership to influence policy or legislation.

2. We do not have an endowment, and instead invest our funds in conservation projects so they are continually “working.”

This enabled us to avoid shocks brought on by downturns in the financial markets, and has enabled the Fund to have 30 consecutive years of positive operating results. Since our founding in 1985, the Fund has averaged a 38% compound annual growth rate.

3. The fuel that powers our work is our land conservation Revolving Fund.

Established in 1986, it provides ready capital for acquisition of lands and waters of high conservation value. Funds are continually in use for conservation: upon repayment, we “revolve” the money back into the fund. Every dollar in the Revolving Fund is used to acquire property—no overhead, no administrative expenses.

Since its establishment, an average of over 90% of this Revolving Fund has been invested and continually reinvested in communities throughout America. When we are asked to conserve high priority land for one of our partners such as the National Park Service or a state wildlife agency, we use our Revolving Fund to acquire the land and hold it until the public agency can buy it back from us. When they do, the money is returned to the Revolving Fund for the next land conservation project.

Revolving-Fund-Model V3 blog
4. We are financially efficient.

A great deal of scrutiny has been focused on how efficiently a not-for-profit organization operates, with particular focus on its proportion of funds which directly support the programs that advance its mission compared to funds used to pay overhead costs (eg, how much it takes to pay staff, cover office space and other essentials).

We are proud to say that The Conservation Fund puts on average 96 cents of every dollar into our mission—more than any other environmental charity, and we have been doing this for 30 years.

5. Our culture sets us apart.

We are nimble, relatively small, results-driven and focused on implementing solutions rather than pointing out problems. We are entrepreneurial by nature.

American land that needs protection is disappearing rapidly, and our use of natural resources today is not sustainable. We must act now to conserve the natural resources vital to our—and our children’s—future prosperity. Given the scope of the challenge to protect America's natural resources, the Fund needs to scale up its work exponentially to keep pace with destruction of natural ecosystems, large-scale landscapes and to engage more Americans in conservation.

Do we need additional capital? Absolutely. The Conservation Fund has built a very strong balance sheet, but we keep that money busy. With most of that money in use at any given time, to grow our programs thoughtfully, we need additional capital that is dedicated to making conservation work for America.

We appreciate the continued support of our current donors and partners and look forward to proving the strength of our business model to new supporters.

Giving Tuesday infographic