Management review of performance
What are the highlights for NCC last year?
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) continued to make progress against its long-term goals, with 62 additional properties acquired, plus important investments made for the future. These were in part funded by continued support from the Government of Canada under the Natural Areas Conservation Program, but also included important support from provincial and local governments, the corporate sector, foundations and individuals.
While overall donation and grant revenue fell slightly in the year (by less than one per cent), the Board of Directors and management of NCC have recognized the need to expand our fundraising capacity to ensure that the financial resources are available to meet our ambitious goals.
NCC is committed to ensuring it has the long-term resources and investments to properly manage our conservation properties for the long term. NCC has further increased its Stewardship and Science Endowment Funds to more than $123 million, in addition to maintaining prudent operational reserves.
We were also pleased this year with the initiatives and significant progress realized in making NCC properties more widely available to Canadians.
What are some of the challenges NCC faces?
Our biggest challenge will likely remain having the resources and talent necessary to successfully deliver on our ambitious strategic plan goals and to further the work within the larger Canadian environmental and conservation sector. Financial resources are only one aspect, but of equal if not greater importance is attracting and developing leaders and conservation professionals to further our mission.
NCC has been making critical new investments in technology, both within our internal systems and in the field. This is to keep pace with change and to ensure that NCC delivers its work as effectively and efficiently as possible. We seek to integrate new technology wisely, balancing the wise use of our resources with the benefits gained from new tools and methods.
We are continually challenged to raise the dollars needed for our Stewardship Endowment Fund to pay for the management of our conservation lands in the future. As important as this is to our work, it is often the most difficult area in which to raise funds.
Our Stewardship Endowment Fund is managed by a professional investment adviser, and overseen by our Investment Committee, which is comprised of financial industry professionals of the highest calibre. In the context of volatile markets, the committee ensures that our investment policy balances the safety of our capital with the need to realize a return.
How is NCC’s approach to fundraising changing?
We are responding to a need — conservation — that continues to grow. Recognizing the urgency of that need, we are driven to do more, better, and faster, to keep pace with the world around us. This means we must connect with and inspire new audiences with our stories of success. We must also engage with more people and more organizations that have the willingness and capacity to help us achieve even greater levels of conservation.
Ultimately, the approach NCC takes to raising funds to support its mission is not about the numbers alone, but about the passion that guides NCC in what we do. Our true success will be evident not by our progress against annual targets, but by the level of trust and commitment we achieve among Canadians, and others around the world, who choose to invest in us.
In order to achieve these goals, we must try new things. Here are some of the initiatives we have launched over the past year:
- made significant investments in fundraising infrastructure to improve fundraising capacity, including hiring additional fundraisers and support staff;
- increased access to technology support;
- contined to grow and develop NCC’s latest fundraising campaign;
- increased the visibility of core NCC giving programs, such as the Nature Legacy Society, to increase awareness of NCC’s charitable giving opportunities;
- continued to evolve NatureTalks, our nation-wide speakers' series; and
- increased NCC’s visibility among various social media channels to reach new donors.
What is NCC’s U.S. fundraising strategy?
NCC would like to recognize and thank the many U.S. donors and partners who support our work, including organizations like The Conservation Fund, The Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, The Bobolink Foundation and American Friends of Nature Conservancy of Canada (AFNCC), to name a few.
In particular, NCC works in close partnership with AFNCC, a U.S. charity, to help raise private funds in the U.S.
Gifts to AFNCC are deductible against U.S. taxes, making them attractive not only to Americans, but to Canadians required to pay U.S. taxes. AFNCC can accept gifts of cash, securities and ecologically significant lands in support of conservation work in Canada.
We also wish to recognize the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The USFWS is a significant supporter of NCC’s work in Canada and recognizes that many wildlife species, particularly migratory birds, move between our two countries. The USFWS contributes approximately $2.5 million annually to support NCC’s work to protect and care for wetlands and related migratory bird habitat in Canada. Due to a number of significant cross-border funding initiatives, including through the USWFS, many U.S. donations can be matched 3:1, helping species in both Canada and the U.S.
How has NCC’s conservation strategy changed?
Our strategy has not really changed, but we are starting to expand our direct conservation goals to set more targets for collaborating with partners, working with Indigenous communities, providing tools and training to the land trust movement and expanding our focus to cover northern Canada. We are also launching new initiatives to encourage more Canadians to visit our properties, always respecting that conservation comes first.
What is NCC’s risk management strategy?
NCC closely monitors risks that may lead to a significant loss of revenue, significantly impair operations or negatively impact NCC’s credibility or public image.
The NCC Audit Committee is responsible for maintaining a constant review of NCC enterprise risks and the mitigation strategies to ensure these risks are minimized. To be effective, NCC believes that everyone in the organization has a responsibility to address and manage the risks that the organization faces — from the Chair of our Board of Directors, to our president, to all staff members.
Our Risk Management Framework identifies nine broad risk areas and approximately 50 individual risk categories that are monitored in order to help us assess ongoing risks to the organization. Each of these assesses individual risks according to the likelihood, severity of impact and mitigation controls. This helps us map out where to focus our risk management efforts.
Management regularly reviews the identified risks, including any actions to mitigate risk and any emerging risks. This is reported regularly to the Audit Committee, which in turn reports to the Board of Directors.
How does NCC measure success?
At the Nature Conservancy of Canada we know our success can’t be measured by the month, the quarter or even the year. Conserving nature is a decades-long process. In fact, our success will ultimately be measured by those who come after us.
That said, from a business perspective we do constantly set targets and evaluate our progress to ensure we are on track and staying true to our mission.
We have updated the NCC five-year strategic plan, which outlines short-term (annual) and longer-term goals against which we can measure our performance. By reporting against these goals or key performance indicators on a quarterly basis to our Board of Directors, we keep watch over the course we are steering, correcting as necessary to stay on target.
We continue to prioritize operational efficiency, ensuring an appropriate balance between how much of our donations are spent on overhead (including fundraising and communications) and how much flows through to fund our programs. We also have come to pay close attention to outcomes — the positive impact that NCC’s activities have on conservation in Canada, which we believe is a more tangible way for donors to see what their investment in NCC has achieved.