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Charities struggling to persuade public to act rapidly on environmental issues


Environmental charities are struggling to convince funders and the public to hand over their money

Environmental organisations are struggling to communicate the sheer scale and complexity of the climate crisis to the public and funders.

A new report by the Garfield Weston Foundation has found almost half of organisations highlighted lack of public understanding as their biggest challenge when it comes to the environment. 

The Foundation commissioned I.G. Advisors to survey 68 environmental organisations across the UK, including the Woodland Trust, the RSPB, Buglife and Hubbub. The report, Prioritising our Planet, reveals that three-quarters of environmental charities are finding financial sustainability a challenge, while almost 80% admit they are unable to raise the money they need to achieve the impact they want. Over a quarter of organisations fear Brexit and Covid-19 are weakening charitable efforts when it comes to policy work.

RSPB chief executive, Beccy Speight, said: “We know that if we are too hard-hitting and the news is too bleak, then people switch off. What we haven’t done enough of yet is highlighting the positive solutions as well as the dangers. We need to get that balance right. 

"The next 18 months are pivotal. Covid-19 has given us an opportunity to raise awareness of climate change and nature. We need to highlight the value that tackling the carbon crisis and restoring habitats can bring, such as jobs and new opportunities in a more resilient and healthy economy.”

Garfield Weston decided to commission the report after receiving very few applications from charities working on environmental issues despite encouraging the sector to apply for funding. The report comes at a critical time for the environment, with many influential figures speaking out. The Foundation recently supported Sir David Attenborough’s latest film in partnership with the WWF, and welcomes the newly announced Earthshot prize which encourages action to find solutions to some of the greatest environmental problems.

The Garfield Weston Foundation’s Director, Philippa Charles, said: "While we are all experiencing a Covid-19 crisis, we also still face an environmental crisis. This report highlights the need for powerful conversations between environmental organisations, grant makers and the public, to ensure that excellent organisations are able to do what they do best.   We need to break this vicious circle so that organisations have clear messages, the public understands the urgency to act and funders are motivated to provide support.

"While the pandemic is causing significant uncertainty across all areas of our society our trustees are very clear that, as well as helping charities with revenue funding, supporting organisations tackling all aspects of climate change remains a key priority.”

The research also found that only 30% of those surveyed believe trusts and foundations understand their environmental work and one in four organisations struggle to identify sources of funding.

In response to the findings, the foundation is partnering with the Media Trust to develop a programme specifically for environment charities to help them build capability in the area of communications, messaging and profile-raising. The programme will run in 2021. The Garfield Weston Foundation is also encouraging charities working on all issues relating to the environment to apply to them for funding.

During the pandemic, the foundation trustees aim to give away more than ever before and have already donated over £40 million since April to support charities affected by Covid-19. 



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