During my time as CEO of World Land Trust this rarely happened (unfortunately). But sometimes a fundraising appeal can raise more money than the initial target, and this indeed did happen recently when we concluded the appeal for the Olympic Rainforest in Brazil. Coinciding with the Rio Olympics and supported by our Patron Steve Backshall and his fiancee, Helen Glover, it was an incredibly successful appeal, and also brought WLT a lot of new supporters. So what happens to the surplus?
First it must be borne in mind that most of our land purchases are agreed in currencies other than sterling. Consequently we have to be prepared for fluctuations in the value of sterling (and in this particular case Brexit meant that sterling had devalued by around 10% since the initial agreement to purchase was made — in this instance in Brazilian Reals). However, should we still be over target, when the land is all paid for, the funds will definitely be used to support the same project, as there are always many other expenses involved. In particular the the costs of the Rangers (Keepers of the Wild) who are so critical to the long term protection of the land once purchased. I have always been able to assure all donors that any excess funds always go to the project that has been donated to. Unlike some other charities, I always prided myself and WLT on transparency and not using small print that allows funds to be diverted. I believe that this has been critical to the trust that we have built up not only with our donors, but with our Trustees, Patrons, Council Members and all other supporters. My personal no-no areas were threefold: ‘free’ gifts, aggressive fundraising techniques (particularly phone and chugging), and the use of small print.
What do you, my readers think? I know not everyone agrees with me, and there may be a case for widening our approach. Many fundraising methods require spending significant amounts of money to be spent up front. But they can also potentially bring in much larger amounts than WLT currently raises. It’s a debate frequently held inside charities, but rarely discussed by the donating public. And only apparent if you have a detailed understanding of how accounts are presented. It is particularly relevant, as there is currently a Donor Experience Commission looking at all aspects of how the donating public perceive charities, and the way they respond and interface with the donor. I am actively involved, and would welcome responses to these and any other issues, either here on my new blogs for the public to see and comment on, or in emails direct to me. In fact comments on anything relating to a doniors experience with the World Land Trust would be more than welcome. negative or positive — without feedback we cannot improve.
I should point out that this level of transparency has also built trust with our overseas partners; think how they would feel if we raised money for ‘their’ rainforest and it went to a completely different project — or even just supporting WLT’s core costs?