Innovating for Nature
We believe—and our science affirms—that we can create a world where people and nature thrive together. To jumpstart the changes needed to get the world on a more sustainable path, we are innovating on our traditional approaches to conservation, finding new levers to affect change and working with a host of new and often unlikely partners.
Letter From the CEO, Sally Jewell
Innovating For Nature
Most days in the California deserts boast clear, wide-open skies. These arid lands—rich in both biodiversity and the cultural history of many Native American peoples—are also ripe for solar development. As secretary of the interior, this is where I first saw The Nature Conservancy’s innovation at work, when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) turned to TNC for help designing a blueprint for renewable energy development across 22.5 million acres of the iconic Mojave and Sonoran deserts of Southern California. When done right, clean energy development is a crucial strategy in the fight against climate change, but it must be sited in places where impacts to people and nature are minimal. Fortunately, science tells us there is more than enough already-altered land (former mines, brownfields, degraded agricultural lands or rooftops) to meet the growing need for renewable energy. Working with TNC, the BLM developed a plan for these desert regions that steers renewable energy development to lower-impact, high-potential areas. This minimizes harm to wildlife and habitat while also speeding up the permitting process for energy companies. The Nature Conservancy’s partnership with the BLM in California was about more than protecting the state’s deserts—it was about putting science in the hands of developers, utilities, government agencies, Native American tribes and local communities to influence change at scale. We are also using similar strategies to encourage smart wind power development in the Midwest and Great Plains and to enable a mix of low-impact renewable development in other nations, such as Croatia, Colombia, India and Gabon. In my role as interim CEO of The Nature Conservancy, I have the privilege of seeing this kind of innovation in action every day. In 2019 alone, TNC launched dozens of projects that are bringing together partners in new ways to inspire change on a much greater scale. These programs—many of them still in their pilot phase—are already protecting an area of ocean nearly the size of Germany and helping to conserve a 253,000-acre forest in the heart of Appalachian coal country that will safeguard wildlife, sequester carbon and support the local economy. This year we also celebrated achievements that were the culmination of many years of hard work, deep collaboration and shared learning. In Mongolia, the government approved 22 new national protected areas covering 8.6 million acres, informed by TNC science. In Canada’s Northwest Territories, we supported the establishment of Thaidene Nëné, a 6.5-million-acre protected area that will serve as a model for Indigenous-led conservation. And in Melbourne, Australia, we helped the city launch one of the world’s first urban “greenprints”—a comprehensive initiative to develop and advance plans for expanding tree cover, creating wildlife habitat, improving public health and lessening the impacts of climate change. The time to innovate for nature has never been more critical, as the climate crisis continues to imperil our lands, our waters and our very well-being. Across lands, rivers, oceans, climate change, agriculture and cities, all of the projects featured in the pages that follow demonstrate how The Nature Conservancy is answering this challenge. I am optimistic that by working with partners, volunteers and supporters like you, we can create a future where people and nature thrive together. Sally Jewell Interim CEO
From The Chief Conservation Officer, David Banks
Deeper, Truer and Wiser
This past year, I had the privilege of sitting with Native American elders and a group of TNC leaders from North America, New Zealand, and the Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities program. Hosting us at the River Forks Ranch, the Nevada Chapter had constructed an arbor out of cedar and pine to shield us from the cold morning wind. We sat for three days around a sacred fire at the foot of the Sierra Mountains and were welcomed by the Washoe people in Washoe territory. We spent our days learning about the damage settlers have inflicted on Native people in North America and what we could do for a better future for all. Together we agreed that we needed to break down barriers and work together in a spirit of hope. The rapidly changing environment demands that we work hand in hand to address the challenges to a rapidly degrading world.
At TNC, we firmly believe—and our science tells us it is possible—to create a world where people and nature thrive together. To succeed, we need to make some significant changes to get the world on a more sustainable path. To jump-start these changes on the scale necessary to avoid a bleak future, we are innovating on our traditional approaches to conservation, finding new levers to effect change in complex systems and working with a host of new and often-unlikely partners.
We are focused on four areas: 1) tackling climate change; 2) protecting oceans, lands and water; 3) providing food and water sustainably; and 4) building healthy cities. In these priorities, we are achieving significant results. In North America, our Cumberland deal protected 254,000 acres of working forest in Appalachia that will sequester 5 million tons of carbon. In Mongolia, we helped protect 8.6 million acres of land, surpassing our ambitious goal for 2022. Our FishPath software for sustainable fisheries management is in high demand by governments in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. And in Australia, TNC worked with local and global leaders on crafting Living Melbourne, a plan for a greener city that provides health benefits, smart infrastructure, and a science-based road map to identify, plan and implement the highest impact conservation projects.
Our strength is in our values, in our staff, and in our ability to bridge divides. Our successes stem from our people driving change and building a diversity of partnerships essential to achieving our conservation goals. Sitting around that sacred fire in Nevada, one of the elders noted our efforts to do our work “bigger, faster, smarter” and challenged us to also be “deeper, truer and wiser.” Filled with that spirit, I look forward to where we can go—all of us together.
Interim Chief Conservation Officer
From the Chief Finance Officer, Leonard Williams
The Nature Conservancy raised more than $1.055 billion in total revenue and support in 2019. This includes nearly $600 million in private support, similar to the three prior record-setting years for the organization excluding an extraordinary gift of $165 million in 2018. Thanks to our strong financial position, we were able to deploy more than $752 million on conservation programs, land purchases and conservation easements in 2019.
In addition to the success of our fundraising efforts, in 2019 we bolstered our balance sheet through the refinancing of $100 million in long-term debt using a creative funding structure that significantly lowered our capital costs. Additionally, in 2019, the management of our long-term investment portfolio produced returns in excess of our benchmarks, which served to help support the long-term prospects of the business while also allowing for further spending in support of our mission.
While programmatic efficiency dipped to 71.2% in 2019, down from 74.2% in 2018, this is in a range we find broadly acceptable, as we expect some fluctuations in this metric due to the cyclical nature of conservation-land-purchase activity.
The financial results shown here are derived from TNC’s audited June 30, 2019 consolidated financial statements, which have received an unqualified opinion. The Conservancy’s completed, audited financial statements can be obtained online or by calling (800) 628-6860.
Download our Form 990 (PDF).
Chief Finance Officer
Dues & Contributions by Donor Type
(Hover to see breakdown, touch on mobile to see breakdown.)
(Hover to see breakdown, touch on mobile to see breakdown.)
For the fiscal years ending on June 30, 2019 & 2018 (in thousands)
Note: The figures that appear in the financial summary shown are derived from the 2019 & 2018 consolidated financial statements that have been audited and have received an unqualified opinion.
|Dues and private contributions||595,311||791,713|
|Land sales and gifts||99,464||115,203|
|Total Support & Revenue||1,055,554||1,288,540|
|Conservation activities and actions||520,142||523,959||49.2%||46.8%|
|Purchases of conservation land and easements||232,085||306,594||22.0%||27.4%|
|Total Conservation Program Expenses & Purchases of Conservation Land & Easements||752,227||830,553||71.2%||74.2%|
|General and administrative||161,705||163,778||15.3%||14.6%|
|Fundraising and membership||142,548||125,350||13.5%||11.2%|
|Total support services||304,253||289,128|
|Total Expenses & Purchases of Conservation Land & Easements||1,056,480||1,119,681|
* % of each dollar spent
|Investments held for conservation projects||774,397||861,423|
|Planned giving investments||322,475||325,927|
|Property & equipment (net of depreciation)||141,972||126,947|
|Other assets 1||745,774||546,461|
|Accounts payable and accrued liabilities||219,410||116,595|
|Other liabilities 2||375,754||349,445|
|Total net assets||6,716,635||6,598,473|
|Total Liabilities & Net Assets||7,710,290||7,409,864|
From The Board Chair, Fran Ulmer
Passion Drives Innovation
This is my first year as chair of TNC’s global board of directors, but I have been deeply involved with our organization since 2004, when I first joined the board of trustees for the Alaska chapter, and later when I joined the global board in 2011. I chose TNC as the conservation organization I wanted to commit more time to for many reasons, but most importantly because we use science, common sense, community partnerships and nonpartisan policy work to achieve our mission.
I believe in TNC. I believe that our colleagues, partners and supporters are making a huge difference in the world to conserve the critical lands and waters on which all life depends—and to find innovative solutions to the complex challenges we face. Growing threats from climate change, environmental destruction and habitat loss require us to respond with urgency and at scale to create a more sustainable future. I believe TNC can rise to this challenge.
TNC has taken on bold, innovative initiatives and partnerships to pilot new ways of doing conservation on a massive scale. This year, we’ve launched new projects that we hope will inspire more people to adopt and incorporate sustainable practices. From Mongolia to Canada, strong partnerships with government leaders and Indigenous communities have helped protect tens of millions of acres in 2019. Innovative financing and conservation strategies advanced new approaches to help slow climate change in the U.S. And in Peru, we have piloted new ways to spread sustainable fisheries management practices around the world.
These projects demonstrate that conservation at scale—executed with innovative partnerships and strategies—can be done. But we cannot do it without you and your support. Please join us as we work to make an even bigger impact in 2020 and beyond.
With sincere gratitude,
Frances A. Ulmer
From The Chief Operating Officer, Wisla Heneghan
Empowered to Innovate
In order for TNC to deliver conservation at scale globally and meet the urgency of our mission, innovation must be embedded in all that we do. Our people must be empowered to try new ideas and ways of working. We must utilize the best data and latest technology creatively to inform and support our work. Our processes and organizational structures must be sufficiently nimble to take advantage of opportunities to achieve lasting conservation at scale.
We are working closely with our colleagues worldwide to improve our operations, tapping into the expertise and innovation found in every corner of TNC. Expanding on our history of solving complex problems, we are approaching challenges through a systems lens, by understanding the dynamic nature of the challenges we aim to address and adapting as we go.
We recognize that our people are our key strength and that diversity is core to leading innovation. This is translating to greater investments in developing our people and in hiring and retaining a diverse, highly engaged team. We have launched a number of programs designed to expand our collective skill sets and put into practice new ways of effectively leading in an increasingly interconnected world.
We have developed technology and processes that provide easier access to the conservation and financial information most relevant to evaluating the effectiveness of our conservation and fundraising initiatives. This allows us to determine the best investment opportunities for driving conservation at scale and helps us collaborate more efficiently, sharing knowledge and experiences globally.
We are focused on embedding Our Values of Integrity Beyond Reproach, One Conservancy, Respect for People, Communities and Cultures, Tangible Lasting Results, and Commitment to Diversity into everything that we do. These are our bedrock and they are critical to TNC achieving the same level of excellence in how we work as we do in what we achieve for conservation. I am inspired by your commitment as team members, partners and supporters, and by your drive to find new ways to make a meaningful impact on conservation. Thank you for all that you do to make powerful change happen in the world.
Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel