I’ve been planning today’s post on choosing an environmental group for a full year.
A year ago, I contributed to six environmental groups for the first time. And for the past year I’ve been collecting every solicitation mailing these and other environmental groups sent me. Here’s the result:
From the “six o’clock” spot, moving clockwise, we have:
Natural Resources Defense Council, safeguarding the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the places we treasure.
Environmental Defense Fund, working to solve the most critical environmental problems facing the planet.
National Wildlife Federation, protecting wildlife and its habitat and inspiring the future generation of conservationists.
World Wildlife Fund, conserving nature and reducing the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.
The center pile is filled with all the other organizations that I heard from throughout 2016. Here they are, in no particular order:
Audubon (three mailings; two of them contained a beautiful 2017 calendar)
Earth Justice (Because the earth needs a good lawyer. Now.) (I love their tag line; plus, they sent me labels. I really wanted to choose them.)
Conservation Law Foundation (they had no return address on mailing envelope)
Friends of the Earth (Ed Begley seems to be their spokesperson; they like bees)
Appalachian Mountain Club
The Wilderness Society
National Parks Conservation Association
Also in that pile, outside the classic environmental fold:
League of Women Voters
Habitat for Humanity
The Humane Society
National Museum of the American Indian
There is much need, so many voices calling, asking. I understand why many folks don’t give at all. It’s not only exhausting to slog through all the marketing missives, there is so much overlap. Sure, there’s some slight variation, but who has time to do the research? Life’s too short.
What to do?
Following last week’s post, I knew I wasn’t going to be giving to six environmental groups again. But I wanted to support one. So, today I’ll show you the process I went through to make my pick.
I did it through the process of elimination.
First to go, the National Wildlife Federation and World Wildlife Fund. They had mailed me FAR MORE over the past year than any of the others; I wanted less of my small contribution to pay for duplicate mailings. Of course, I like the mailing labels they send, but I now have enough to last me years.
Next to go was the Sierra Club. I have nothing against the Sierra Club; it does very good work and they didn’t overwhelm me with mailings. But their work seems geared to recreational visitors, outdoors types and, frankly, living up here on my 30 acres, that’s not a cause that speaks to me. (My decision may get me in hot water with my son Dave, who serves on the Ohio Sierra Club board of trustees. Sorry, Dave).
The Nature Conservancy was hard to eliminate. I was first introduced to them through one of their local events where they gave away saplings that aren’t common up here. My white oak is now nearly fifteen feet tall and the sycamore about ten. So, I’ll send a one-time gift to my local STATE affiliate and say, “Thanks for the trees. Carry on the good work.”
Choosing between the EDF and the NRDC, was hard. Harder still when I added Earth Justice to the fold. I so resonated with that tag line.
... driven by a passion for justice and a commitment to excellence. We fight for the right of all to a healthy environment. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to take on critical environmental issues and bring about positive change. We exist because the Earth needs a good lawyer.
These three organizations do pretty much the same work. But, the EDF mails its information on 30% recycled paper, while the NRDC uses 100% recycled paper. And, to top it off, the NRDC has Robert Redford. How could I resist?
To be sure, I turned to Charity Navigator (also a nonprofit, so you can donate to them too). It’s amazing what they do with data.
At the Charity Navigator site, I chose those three organizations, hit “compare,” and up came a three column listing of them, on a broad array of measurable variables. The biggest difference I could see was in CEO compensation. While NRDC was by far the largest of the three ($155 million in revenues, compared to EarthJustice’s $48 million), the CEO of the NRDC, Rhea Suh, receives $53,798 in salary, or .04% of expenses, compared to EDF’s .40% and Earth Justice’s .88% of expenses.
And so I have committed to one more small, monthly, contribution, this one going to the National Resources Defense Council.
I still want to tackle the gun lobby with my checkbook, though I won’t be blogging about that decision. I am though, still eager to hear your suggestions.
How about you? How are you faring with your donation decisions this year?
Next: The Culture of Philanthropy[box] Interested in reading At Home on the Kazakh Steppe? I hope so.
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