Once upon a time I was a wildlife conservation ‘civilian’ and was really confused about how I could help animals in the most effective way. I used to get mailings with pictures of all sorts of animals that had been rescued from one place or another, sometimes I even got cool things like stickers or return address labels. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the number of organisations out there all stating that they were helping wildlife or animals in general.
After I made a career change (post 9/11 but that’s a whole different story) I got the chance to look under the hood (bonnet) of many of the large conservation groups that used to send me direct mail solicitations. I remember the President of one of those bragging to me that he could give himself “whatever salary he wanted because the money that comes in from direct mail campaigns is unrestricted.” (meaning that it is not tied to any specific field project). I don’t know if he noticed my look of disgust or not.
One huge conservation org had meetings all over the world about every topic under the sun and prepared lengthy reports to multilateral oversight organisations such as the UN and CITIES but didn’t accomplish much in the field, from what I witnessed. Another charity tried to buy its way into a successful project that had been spearheaded by a tiny conservation group – they offered a tiny percentage of the needed budget so they could promote the results to their millions of donors and fundraise off the back of those results.
I was a part of one of those organisations for a while and attended the fancy parties and grandiose meetings that oozed pomp and affectation as everyone patted themselves on the back for one symbolic accomplishment or another. But I did not last long in that environment.
I have always been one to stand up for the underdog, especially when the underdog displays integrity and great achievement. When I finally joined WildAid in 2002 I was confident that all the discouraging misuse of funds that I had witnessed had not been a total waste as I was doubly committed to give my ‘all’ to a group that didn’t waste a cent. And they didn’t disappoint. Despite the fact that there were four founders, all with different conservation priorities, they were all totally focussed on solving a problem, not becoming rich or famous. That’s the reason that I still work with these people today. And it’s one of the reasons I founded For the Animals.
Tomorrow I will talk about the three charities that originated as WildAid and their impressive contributions to protecting wildlife and its habitat all over the world. I do not benefit in any way by sharing this information, except that I love seeing conservation dollars well spent.