Management Review of Performance

2014/15 In Review


What are the highlights for NCC last year?

The renewal of the Natural Areas Conservation Program funding by the Government of Canada in May 2014 positions NCC to make significant advances in the conservation of important natural habitats across southern Canada.

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.

Land conservation is at the heart of our work. The federal funds support this, as does our commitment to matching the funding 2:1. Over the past year NCC has completed many land conservation projects across the country, stories of which you can find in the Year in Review section of this report.

We are also dedicated to connecting Canadians to nature in order to inspire a nationwide commitment to the protection of our natural heritage. This year we saw incredible numbers of individuals getting directly involved with NCC’s conservation work:

  • 2,650 Conservation Volunteers joined us at 253 events from coast to coast;
  • 46 interns spent their summer helping to advance our stewardship and land management goals;
  • More than 2,500 people came out to Conservation Speakers events and other presentations throughout the year.

What are some of the challenges NCC faces?

The rapid pace of technological change in today’s world affects every corner of society, including environmental charities that champion the natural, distinctly non-technological, world. Keeping up with changes in technology, both within our internal systems as a large and growing national organization, as well as with the tools we use to carry out our field work, is a challenge.

We must continue to use our finite resources effectively and efficiently. We approach upgrading our technological tools and systems in a financially prudent manner, while also seeking to benefit from the efficiency and accuracy that can be gained through the wise use of technology.

A continuing challenge is the need to raise and safeguard our Stewardship Endowment Fund, which underwrites the basic care for our properties. By setting aside some of the funds raised today we secure an investment return that is available to pay for the stewardship of our conservation lands for the long term.

Our Stewardship Endowment Fund is managed for us by a professional investment adviser, 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 safety of our capital with the need to realize a return that will allow us to meet our goals. In the current investment environment this takes some doing, and 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

Many people are surprised to learn that the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is a significant supporter of NCC’s work in Canada. This support recognizes that many wildlife species, particularly migratory birds, move between the two countries.

The key to accessing the USFWS funds, which can total more than $2.5 million annually, is to secure privately-sourced U.S. funds. Almost every private individual, corporate or foundation dollar raised in the U.S. in support of our work in Canada will be matched 2:1 by USFWS and matched again by one or more Canadian sources.

We work in close partnership with Friends of the Nature Conservancy of Canada (FNCC), a U.S. charity, to raise these all-important private funds. Gifts to FNCC 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.

In the last year more than $640,000 in private U.S. funds were raised to support NCC’s work in Canada. We look forward to building on this success to take full advantage of matching funds available through the USFWS.

What is NCC’s risk management strategy?

NCC believes that everyone in the organization, from the Chair of our Board of Directors, to our President, to all staff members, has a responsibility to actively identify, quantify, mitigate and manage the risks that the organization faces.

NCC defines risk as anything that may lead to a loss of revenue or which 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.

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).

To help us assess ongoing risk to the organization, our Risk Management Framework identifies nine broad risk areas. Each of these assesses individual risks identified according to the likelihood and severity of impact. This gives us a road map on 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.

Tim Ennis

How does NCC measure success?

We take a long view in measuring success – a view that goes well beyond a single generation. But even if success is dozens or hundreds of years in the making, we still need to constantly ensure that we are on track.

Our five-year strategic plan 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.

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

As we embark on a new capital campaign, we have in place a number of inspirational “stretch goals” — goals that we may not meet, but that we believe are worth the challenge. Among these stretch goals, we now include the degree to which we engage individuals in conservation (through events, Conservation Volunteers, internships, visiting properties).

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