Management review of performance

What are the highlights for NCC last year?

Conservation work continued across Canada, with 95 additional properties acquired. 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 and individuals. We have committed to match funds received from the federal program on a 2:1 basis – that is, for each dollar received from the government we commit to raise $2 from other sources.

Many supporters have made multi-year commitments. Having dedicated funding in place for the next few years allows us to undertake strategic planning to ensure we are working in the areas that are most in need of habitat protection. It also allows us to plan for the future and to be proactive in the face of rapid change.

NCC’s business aims for the long term, with projects frequently taking more than a year to come to fruition. And, of course, once acquired, NCC has a responsibility to provide ongoing stewardship of its conservation properties.

What are some of the challenges NCC faces?

The most urgent and immediate challenge organizations such as ours face is climate change, which poses a very real and urgent threat to us all. Our conservation planning process has been adapted to take climate change models into account. We know that the conservation of natural habitat is a key strategy to help species and communities mitigate the effects of changing climate, and adapt to the impacts. Healthy and resilient ecosystems, for example, buffer against both drought and flood threats. NCC continues to conserve lands at a scale large enough to help mitigate the impacts of this very global threat.

In addition,  NCC staff are working to keep pace with changes in technology, both within our internal systems and in the field. While it may be tempting to try and keep up with all technological advances, we must continue to use our resources prudently, while also seeking to benefit from the efficiency and accuracy that can be gained through the wise use of technology.

In addition to raising funds for current securement projects, we are continually challenged to raise the dollars needed for our Stewardship Endowment Fund. The fund underwrites the basic care of our properties. By setting aside some of the funds raised today in our Stewardship Endowment Fund, we secure an investment return that is available to pay for the stewardship of our conservation lands in the future. As important as this is to our work, it is often the most difficult area for which to raise funds.

Our Stewardship Endowment Fund is managed by a professional investment advisor, and overseen by our Investment Committee, which is comprised of financial industry professionals of the highest calibre. The committee ensures that our investment policy balances the safety of our capital with the need to realize a return, often in challenging investment markets. We are grateful to the members of the committee for the time they devote to this task.

What is NCC’s fundraising strategy?

NCC takes its fundraising strategy very seriously, knowing that donors face an abundance of choices when deciding where to invest their charitable dollars. We work very hard to ensure donors know exactly where their donation has gone and seek to ensure the biggest return on every dollar donated.

One strategy we employ to enhance the impact of our donors’ dollars is to work more closely with partner agencies, landowners and industry organizations with whom we share conservation goals and ethics.

NCC has developed a broad portfolio of donors, and engages with individuals, corporations, foundations and governments to develop funding initiatives that help achieve lasting conservation results while also meeting our supporters’ giving and investment priorities.

Some fundraising and outreach initiatives on which we are focusing include:

  • continuing to create new corporate partnership opportunities to help companies engage their employees while meeting their organization’s sustainability and community investment targets;
  • continuing the successful Natural Areas Conservation Program, a multi-year funding partnership with the federal government;
  • providing diverse opportunities and encouragement for Canadians to connect with and spend more time in nature; and
  • expanding our fundraising outreach across the country, with an eye to building a larger and more diversified constituency of supporters.

U.S. fundraising

The United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is a significant supporter of NCC’s work in Canada and recognizes that many wildlife species, particularly migratory birds, move between the two countries. USFWS contributes more than $2.5 million annually to conservation initiatives in North America. These funds are used to secure private individual, corporate or foundation dollars in support of our work in Canada. The key to unlocking the funds is through privately sourced U.S. donations. All U.S.-based donations to NCC are matched 2:1 by USFWS and matched again by one or more Canadian sources.

In addition, we work in close partnership with the American Friends of Nature Conservancy of Canada (AFNCC), a U.S. charity, to raise these all-important private funds. 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. FNCC accepts gifts of cash, securities and ecologically significant lands in support of conservation work in Canada.

What is NCC’s risk management strategy?

NCC defines risk as anything that may lead to a loss of revenue or that negatively impacts NCC’s credibility or public image, including:

  • loss of conservation values
  • loss of revenue
  • increase in costs
  • decrease in donor satisfaction

Any of these may also make it harder for NCC to achieve its mission.

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.

On the other hand, a risk may bring the possibility of future gain (for example, taking a risk in expanding the fundraising team may yield positive results).

Our Risk Management Framework identifies nine broad risk areas in order to help us assess ongoing risk to the organization. Each of these assesses individual risks according to the likelihood and severity of impact. 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 appropriate Board 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 true to our mission.

We are currently updating our 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 on a quarterly basis to our Board of Directors, we keep watch over the course we are steering, correcting as necessary to stay on course.

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 working on plans to encourage more Canadians to visit our properties, always respecting that conservation comes first.

We continue to prioritize operational efficiency, ensuring an appropriate balance between how much of our donations is 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.

The more we can engage Canadians in the protection and celebration of our natural heritage, the more successful NCC is at fulfilling our mission. We are proud to see the number of people involved in conservation activities increasing from coast to coast.