Biodiversity conservation and the protection of the ecosystems is critical to the human existence. With the purpose to conserve the last pristine places protected areas are established. National Parks are the jewel of those protected areas. They serve not only the purpose of preserving natural and cultural heritage but provide valuable services to humans. Resources for environmental conservation are scarce. With an increasing number of parks and competing with human welfare issues, it is difficult to raise the funds for the National Parks. Governments are also overcommitted in their budgets making National Parks usually a low funding priority. International giving is growing, but biodiversity conservation does not rank high in the giving priorities. Parks need to look at a comprehensive funding approach, that transcends government budgets and combines income generation activities with traditional fundraising strategies.
Key to ensuring a sustainable funding stream to protected areas is to diversify the revenue streams:
- Create the capacity: More often than not public entities and NGOs underestimate the resources needed to implement a successful fundraising strategy. Building partnerships requires adequate technology, staff, processes, and contacts. Proposals need to be prepared, donation pages maintained, donors stewarded, funds tracked, reports prepared. This requires a team, automated process and coordination with the project and other park staff.
- Understand the donor: Possible donors and supporters are likely to receive many proposals. Targeted donors need to be selected carefully, o ensure success. Identifying individuals, organizations or companies that align, share values or have a history of supporting those issues that the Protected Areas are seeking to fund. People that have been to the area or have a connection are also more likely to give.
- Donor stewardship: As in marketing, it is easier to gain a donor than it is to regain one unsatisfied donor. In a competitive environment, it is crucial to stand out and meet all donor requirements, plus more. Information, timely reports and complying with the guidelines for funding are critical. For most donors, appropriate donor recognition is a significant incentive to give.
- Get with the times: Online fundraising is a powerful key, recognized by marketers and investors alike. Borrow their tools and reach out to new possible funders. Use social media to tell the story and guide possible donors to a donation platform; use crowdfunding tools for smaller projects; develop social media campaigns; keep donors abreast of progress through blogs and media sites; do target email outreach; and other creative options.
- Diversify: While not strictly fundraising there are mechanisms to raise funds for protected areas. Entrance fees, concessions, and souvenir shops are the more traditional ones. Other options are tourism, which can offer an array of guided tours and unique experiences; environmental services like water and energy; cross-marketing or royalty opportunities for companies. Borrowing ideas from marketing and financing could also expand these options.
The Rwenzori Mountains National Park (RMNP) is one of those valuable places in need of funding. The RMNP is a World Heritage Site and a RAMSAR site and plays a critical role not only for local communities but for the country, the wider region and the world. In addition to preserving unique and endangered species, RMNP hosts the only equatorial glacier in the world. It is a water catchment area that services the surrounding agricultural lands and population, but its waters travel as far as the Nile river. Its rich forest and soils serve as carbon sinks and for climate adaptation. Communities benefit from its services and even generate economic value through tourism and improved agricultural yields of their fertile lands. The RMNP also has a sacred and cultural significance for communities.
Planet4People, working for WWF and in collaboration with the Uganda Wildlife Authority and RMNP staff, had the opportunity to present a fundraising strategy that will seek the funds to ensure overall conservation of the unique RMNP ecosystems for ecological, economic and cultural values, and to enable it to remain a national and an international scientific reference for sustainable development.