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How The Nature Conservancy Works

        Science | Conservationists

How Nature Conservancy Projects are Paid For
The Green Swamp Preserve is North Carolina's largest preserve and boasts many rare plants and animals.
The Green Swamp Preserve is North Carolina's largest preserve and boasts many rare plants and animals.
Photo courtesy of Cecil Frost

Conservancy officials like to describe the group's operating methods as "nonconfrontational, market-based economic solutions." This means that they work only with willing sellers and donors -- often people who have worked, lived and played on the land for years -- and that they support their work through gifts, exchanges, conservation easements, management agreements, purchases from the Conservancy's revolving Land Preservation Fund, debt-for-nature swaps and management partnerships.

Almost half the Conservancy's donations come from individual gifts with the remainder from bequests, foundations and corporate gifts. The Nature Conservancy uses 86 percent of its funds for conservation programs; experts say at least 60 percent of donations received by a charity should go directly to carrying out its purpose -- not to administrative costs. (In 1996, Money magazine's "10 Most Efficient Nonprofits" list included The Nature Conservancy, the only conservation organization to make the list.)

Preserves are managed by the Conservancy's volunteers and land management staff through restoration techniques such as reforestation and prescribed burning. Many Conservancy preserves are open to the public for educational purposes as well as some recreational activities, such as hiking, bird watching and photography. (Check with your state's Conservancy office to find out if preserves in your area are open.)