2020 was a transformative year for the business community, the nonprofit sector, and for each of us as individuals. The COVID-19 pandemic had profound impacts on the world and how we do our work. We were able to navigate these challenges and finish the year strong. Additionally, the Black Lives Matter movement caused us to reflect on our work and responsibility to address systemic injustice both within our organization and in the conservation movement as a whole. Here’s a summary of our progress during this pivotal year:
Our funding helped 12 projects cross the finish line in 2020. These projects permanently protected 11,594 acres (including 483 giant sequoias), 1.3 river miles, and one climbing area. Our grantees also helped stop the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska, and the Temperance Flat Dam in California.
In August, we celebrated the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, which included full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
In 2020, we awarded $1,746,000 from our general grant fund, $130,000 from our Public Lands Defense Fund (PLDF), and $125,000 in Community Grants that supported small organizations during the onset of the pandemic.
We launched the PLDF in 2017 and awarded a total of $777,000 in funding to help defend our public lands system during the Trump administration. Shortly after the 2020 elections, we sunsetted the PLDF to focus our attention on groups working to secure new protections for wild places.
In the spring, we conducted a polling project to understand the potential impact of our community on the 2020 elections. Our polling suggested that as many as 24.6 million outdoor community members might not vote in the 2020 election. Using this and other polling data, we launched a Get Out the Vote effort in September. (We did not endorse or support specific candidates and are prohibited from doing so based on our IRS nonprofit status.)
In March, we hosted nearly 40 participants from 30 member companies for our annual Washington, DC, fly-in. We also engaged in a new kind of advocacy that led us to divest from Bank of America, our longtime financial partner, due to their stance on financing oil and gas activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
We welcomed 24 new members to The Conservation Alliance in 2020, including Bank of the West as our newest Pinnacle Member. We added members from the outdoor industry, as well as the financial, renewable energy, and technology sectors. We also added a significant new foundation, which made a multi-year commitment to both our grant fund and our operating fund.
Shortly after the pandemic began to take a toll on businesses, we reached out to each of our members to see how they were doing. We made accommodations for those who needed them to ensure every company that started as a member in 2020 ended the year as a member.
In addition, several large cause-marketing initiatives brought in significant dollars, more than covering our operating expenses and allowing us to dedicate 2020 unrestricted funds to our grant fund for 2021.
JUSTICE, EQUITY, DIVERSITY, AND INCLUSION
In 2020, we began our journey to make The Conservation Alliance a more just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive organization. We are committed to understanding the dynamics at play in conservation philanthropy, and launched a task force to lead us through the process of determining how to do this important work. In October, our task force began working with Marcelo Bonta of J.E.D.I. Heart to facilitate individual, organizational, and systemic change processes.
We are grateful for the support of our member companies, Leading Edge members, and the other donors who supported our work to protect wild places in 2020.