Annual Report

Nature Now

Transforming Conservation in the Face of Global Challenges

Alaska An aerial view of Alaska’s Wood-Tikchik State Park, the largest state park in the United States at nearly 1.6 million acres. © Michael Melford

The transformation we need in an era of change comes now, at a time of unprecedented challenges.

All that we face today calls on us to work for meaningful and lasting changes that will lead us to a world of new possibilities for people and nature. For The Nature Conservancy, this is the challenge of our time. It’s also the moment for which 70 years of experience and commitment have prepared us. Now is the time to act; now is the time to transform our world and to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends.

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Jennifer Morris CEO of The Nature Conservancy. © TNC

From the CEO

To Build a Future for Nature Now

In May 2020, I joined The Nature Conservancy as chief executive officer—one of the proudest and most joyous days in my 25-year career in conservation. Of course, the first few weeks did not go as I expected. Or the first few months. The deadly COVID-19 pandemic surged, wreaking havoc on fam­ilies, health care systems and economies around the world. Nearly a year later, many of us continue to work from home and maintain physical distance from friends, colleagues and loved ones.

While it was a challenging first chapter for me at TNC, an or­ganization I had long admired and hoped to work for one day, we were able to forge connections and make remarkable progress.

I “met” thousands of colleagues and hundreds of trustees and supporters on Zoom instead of in person. My colleagues and I learned about our partnerships with Indigenous com­munities to use fire to restore healthy forests through conversations and photos, without ever feeling the heat of a controlled burn. We celebrated the creation of Colorado’s new 20,000-acre Fishers Peak State Park without looking up at the towering mountains. And we learned how to plant cacao trees via a social messaging app alongside planters in Brazil without holding a seedling in our hands or smelling the damp soil of the surrounding rainforest. You can learn more about these and other TNC projects in the stories that follow.

Many of the challenges that marked 2020—a global pandemic, record temperatures, fires and hurricanes, and long-overdue reckonings with racist systems and calls for equity—are continuing to impact our lives. But 2020 was also marked by a spirit of resilience, tenacity and creativity. The world came together to tackle problems in new ways, with unprecedented speed and collaboration. Never before has the scientific community rallied so many minds and resources so quickly. The development of powerful new vaccines in less than a year has raised hopes for quick action on other global threats, like the climate emergency.

This past year we learned, with more clarity than ever before, just how interconnected our health and well-being are to the health of our planet. In May 2020, the World Health Organization published its Manifesto for a Healthy Recovery from COVID-19, which recommends protecting and preserving nature as a top priority. Protecting nature supports economies, provides clean air and water and healthy food, and it can also reduce the risk of future zoonotic disease out­breaks, which science tells us are driven in part by habitat loss and climate change.

Indeed, the pandemic revealed the power of nature to help heal—not only through nature-driven solutions like regen­erative agriculture, carbon sequestration and clean-energy sources like wind and solar but also in helping many people manage life in a world turned upside down. In 2020, visits to natural areas and parks expanded to record levels, outdoor gear and bicycle sales boomed, backyard birding took off in popularity, and hiking and nature walks surged. Around the world, people rekindled their connections to nature and sought solace in the outdoors.

With this optimistic spirit, I reflect on all that The Nature Conservancy was able to accomplish with the help of partners, supporters and our volunteer leadership in 2020—and look ahead to a promising decade of nature conservation at a global scale. I am hopeful we can harness the tenacity and resilience that all of us developed in this difficult year to build a better future together.

Warm wishes,
Jennifer Morris
Chief Executive Officer, The Nature Conservancy

Our Priority Achievements

From the Chief Finance Officer, Leonard Williams

Financial Overview

Leonard Williams smiling with sunny green outdoors in the background
© Bill Marr/TNC

During the past fiscal year, TNC’s leadership gave no small measure of time and attention to addressing and correcting for the effects on our employees, conservation work and fundraising of the COVID-19 global pandemic that shook the world’s health care, cultural and financial institutions to their core. In response to the pandemic, TNC made many significant changes to how we did business—closing our offices globally, moving our 4,000-plus staff to a virtual work environment and developing creative ways to remain connected to our donors and supporters.

Management adopted an appropriately conservative approach to expense management in that unprecedented year, pulling back as markets plummeted in the spring by reducing spending by 20%, cutting top salaries by up to 15%, freezing all pay increases, making targeted reductions to our workforce and halting nearly all travel.

Fortunately, economic stimulus measures taken by leading economies around the globe helped stabilize financial markets and enabled TNC’s supporters to continue to generously contribute to the organization. In fact, with the engagement and generosity of our donors and supporters, FY20 was our best year on record in terms of top-line revenues. The conclusion of the Our World Campaign and a number of unique fundraising opportunities, including completing the MacArthur Climate Challenge and raising several large donations to support TNC’s climate and Blue Bonds work, helped fuel this substantial growth.

In spite of the challenges caused by the pandemic, we were able to leverage our global reach and our capabilities in science and conservation—together with mobilizing nearly $1 billion in capital—to achieve significant conservation gains.

We further took the opportunity in FY20 to reassess the structure of our investment portfolio and implemented a number of strategies to improve portfolio health. This resulted in performance for the portfolio that outpaced our established benchmarks.

Looking forward and hoping for a vaccine-enabled return to normal, we see a business with an exceptionally strong balance sheet, continuing robust support from donors and contributors, a crisis-tested resilient workforce and culture all set to advance our ambitious mission to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.

Leonard Williams
Chief Finance Officer

Dues & Contributions by Donor Type

(Hover to see breakdown, touch on mobile to see breakdown.)

Programmatic Efficiency

(Hover to see breakdown, touch on mobile to see breakdown.)

Financial Summary

For the fiscal years ending on June 30, 2020 & 2019 (in thousands)

Note: The figures that appear in the financial summary shown are derived from the 2020 & 2019 consolidated financial statements that have been audited and have received an unqualified opinion.

Support & Revenue
2020 2019
Dues and private contributions 783,245 595,311
Government contributions 126,423 127,764
Total Dues & Contributions 909,668 723,075
Investment income 78,252 93,994
Other income 93,178 139,021
Land sales and gifts 148,943 99,464
Total Support & Revenue 1,230,041 1,055,554
Expenses & Purchases of Conservation Land & Easements
2020 2019 2020* 2019*
Conservation activities and actions 536,341 520,142 53.0% 49.2%
Purchases of conservation land and easements 156,210 232,085 15.4% 22.0%
Total Conservation Program Expenses & Purchases of Conservation Land & Easements 692,551 752,227 68.5% 71.2%
General and administrative 180,679 161,705 17.9% 15.3%
Fundraising and membership 138,127 142,548 13.7% 13.5%
Total support services 318,806 304,253
Total Expenses & Purchases of Conservation Land & Easements 1,011,357 1,056,480
Net Result—Support & Revenue Over Expenses & Purchases of Conservation Land & Easements1 218,684 (926)

* % of each dollar spent

Asset, Liability & Net Asset Summary
2020 2019
Conservation lands 2,150,851 2,128,184
Conservation easements 2,386,747 2,288,383
Investments held for conservation projects 941,950 774,397
Endowment investments 1,334,391 1,309,105
Planned-giving investments 315,736 322,475
Property & equipment (net of depreciation) 152,334 141,972
Other assets 2 588,371 745,774
Total Assets 7,870,380 7,710,290
Accounts payable and accrued liabilities 145,425 219,410
Notes payable 338,123 398,491
Other liabilities 3 420,291 375,754
Total net assets 6,966,541 6,716,635
Total Liabilities & Net Assets 7,870,380 7,710,290