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Environmental charities and funders trapped in ‘vicious cycle’, finds report 

22 Oct 2020 News

Environment charities and funders are “stuck in a vicious cycle” where work is underfunded, leading to less impact and less ability to attract funding, a report has warned. 

Prioritising our Planet, published last week by the Garfield Weston Foundation, urges funders and charities to work more collaboratively and improve storytelling.

The funder commissioned research after it did not receive as many applications as it anticipated when it made funding available for environmental causes. As part of the research, carried out by IG Advisers, 68 environmental organisations responded to a survey.

Just 30% of respondents said they felt funders understood their environmental work, leading to a “big disconnect between grantmakers and their grantees”, the report says. 

The report warns that environmental charities often do not have enough funding or staff capacity to achieve the impact they aim for, with nearly 60% of respondents saying that they need at least 50% more income. 

“The environmental sector is clearly stuck in a vicious cycle,” the report says. “Limited resources do not enable staff to carry out impactful work at scale, and poor programmatic work will, in turn, be unlikely to attract funds.

“Both environmental organisations doing the work, and grantmakers who enable it, will need to work together to break this cycle.”

Invest in better storytelling 

Nearly half those who responded to the survey said that the public does not understand the urgency of the climate crisis. 

One of the key recommendations in the report is to do storytelling so that people understand the complexities and immediacy of the challenge. 

To do make this possible, it says: “Funders will need to be willing to invest in capacity building, with charities ensuring this support is directed at enhancing communications.”

In response to the findings, the Foundation is partnering with the Media Trust to develop a programme specifically for environment charities, in order to help them build capability in the area of communications, messaging and profile-raising. It will run next year. 

Highlight positive solutions 

Beccy Speight, chief executive of RSPB, which helped informed the report’s conclusions, urged charities to place more emphasis on positive solutions. 
 
She said: “We know that if we are too hard-hitting and the news is too bleak, then people switch off. What we haven’t done enough of yet is highlighting the positive solutions as well as the dangers. We need to get that balance right.
 
“The next 18 months are pivotal. Covid-19 has given us an opportunity to raise awareness of climate change and nature. We need to highlight the value that tackling the carbon crisis and restoring habitats can bring, such as jobs and new opportunities in a more resilient and healthy economy.”
 
Philippa Charles, director of Garfield Weston, added: “We need to break this vicious circle so that organisations have clear messages, the public understands the urgency to act and funders are motivated to provide support.
 
“While the pandemic is causing significant uncertainty across all areas of our society, our trustees are very clear that as well as helping charities with revenue funding, supporting organisations tackling all aspects of climate change remains a key priority.”

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