This past week U.S. newspapers reported a handful of fundraising efforts to benefit The Nature Conservancy, ranging from art exhibit with a dinner to a community bake sale. Clearly this is a win/win effort. The Nature Conservancy benefits from the positive media publicity and the particants benefit from the feeling of having done something worthwile to help preserve our natural environment. Yet the stated financial impact of these efforts is negibible. The Nature Conservancy is one of the largest and most profitable organizations in the world. with $1.3 billion in revenue in 2007. The Nature Conservancy's revenue is already three times more than it needed to fund all of its worldwide programs. Unlike many non-profit organizations, its revenues do not come primarily from donations, but rather primarily from profits on real estate transactions in selling land back to taxpayers at inflated prices. In fact, The Nature Conservancy is by far the largest and most profitable real estate broker in the the world.
If The Nature Conservancy does not need the revenues from a community bake sale, then why are such intensive efforts put into organizing and publicizing such charitable community events? The Nature Conservancy is well aware of the value of media attention and public opinion and employs an large staff of PR and marketing experts specifically to cultivate this favorable public image. It may cost them thousands of dollars in marketing to promote a community finction that raises a few hundred dollars, but the larger value to TNC is the positive pubic image that it wants to cultivate, however misleading it may be.
The well-intentioned people behind these local fundraising efforts are likely not aware of the financial operations of The Nature Conservancy. It is hard to believe that the public would make charitable efforts to support The Nature Conservancy is they were aware of the full scope of this $100+ billion money-making empire. If these local artists and bakers could see the larger picture, they may well feel that they have been "used" and duped by The Nature Conservancy. Certainly there are plenty of non-profit organizations in need and deserving of the community's financial support, but The Nature Conservancy is not one of them.
For more information, see the financial report of The Nature Conservancy published on its Web site at http://www.nature.org/.