Most worthy environmental organization to donate to

As of right now, I basically have no one who will inherit anything to my name. It’s tricky donating to non-profits because you can’t fully trust them. I don’t have a whole lot that will make a huge impact but it would be nice knowing that my “life’s work” will go to something I believe in. What are the most environmental groups to donate to? I’m looking for ones that are on the extreme end of conservation and keeping things wild.
No organization is perfect but the top of my list is the National Park Service and NRDC.
NRDC started to make me mad with the wording in their mailers last year and I had to unsubscribe. I think NRDC does a lot of good work in the legal system and lawsuits though.
I’d like to go even more extreme for protecting wild areas than the NPS.
I’ve also looked into the National Wildlife Refuge System.

An update to this August 13th.
I tried the Nature Conservancy and several other people. No one is willing to help me or give me anything but the mindless malarkey of brochures. I guess I can’t even leave my property and life savings to anyone. So much bureaucracy!


I think from a standpoint of fighting for wildlife, the center for biological diversity has a good reputation and a strong legal team. Otherwise there are many other organizations that are very hands on in protecting and working to protect specific animals that might be worthwhile.


You know you’re using one of those non-profit you can donate to right now.)


So, as the director of a biodiversity conservation NGO I get asked this a lot. Here’s my take on it.

As a general principle the effectiveness of your donations depend greatly on the amount you’re donating, the size of the organization you’re donating to, and the focus of said organization.

For example, a small donation (@$10,000 or less) will generally be vastly more effective when donated to a small NGO rather than to a large one, and a large sum of money (@$100,000 or more) will generally be more effective when donated to a large organization as a small organization may not have the capacity to take advantage of a large sum of money all at once (although setting up an endowment with those funds to provide constant support for a smaller organization would be very effective too).

In general the smaller NGOs have lower overhead costs and place substantially more of their resources into conservation activities than big NGOs do.

You need to pay close attention to what you want your support to accomplish. Do you want it to benefit something in a highly regional areas or are you more interested in the funds going to support policies and laws that affect a large area?

Are you interested in supporting activities in your local area or are you looking to support activities elsewhere in the world?

Do you have a particular species, ecosystem, or issue you’re interested in?

Enormous volumes of money go to conservation of iconic species (and there is absolutely benefit to that), but there are thousands of Critically Endangered and tens of thousands of Endangered species that receive almost no conservation support, plants and invertebrates are especially underrepresented in the conservation world.

Addressing issues of education, livelihoods, food security, and health are often the most critical and effective tools for biodiversity conservation, but they also tend to the be slowest. Is funding those a priority?

Anti-poaching activities? Lots of funding goes to on-the-ground anti-poaching activities, but that’s not addressing the actual problem, which is demand for said items, which is an education, legislation, and enforcement issue in the countries of the end user, not on the poacher’s end of things. If you’re interested in anti-poaching work, then that’s something to keep in mind.

Sorting out what your particular interests are is the first step in all this and will help you find the key subjects necessary to find an appropriate conservation organization to support.

Until you sort out what it is specifically you hope to have your support accomplish no-one can give you a useful or valid answer as we don’t know what your priorities are.


I agree!

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For me personally, while I totally understand how helping humans can lead to helping the environment (part of my degree is in multi-disciplinary sustainability), I want something absolutely least on the human side of things and most on the wild side of things. If I got into the specifics I’d probably land in hot water on here. :)

That’s me. Others are welcome to post on here what org they are donating to and why they personally want to support that.

That’s a great write-up. Thank you. The only thing I’d really modify or add to it is that donating a small amount to a large organization might not seem like a big impact but it could be a big impact for that one person that the money helps hire for example. Every small action can result in big change. Whether it is the final action that is the catalyst or just part of the whole of small actions that have good overall results or lead to a catalyst. I think it’s important for people to think in terms of every small action, otherwise they are likely to feel powerless. Every small action makes up the sum of the world we live in and that’s vitally important. But I do get the point you make.


From my perspective, given that the biggest threat to biodiversity is habitat loss (in an even more urgent and equally big sense as climate change), land protection is fundamentally the most important piece of the conservation puzzle at this moment in time. Look into land trusts in your area- most are regional, consequently relatively small and as noted above put less of that money into overhead and more of it directly into conservation. Not all are great, but most are. I do work for one, in the areas of acquiring and stewarding natural lands for conservation, so that’s my bias.

For a larger and more general organization, though, I’d plug The Nature Conservancy. They’ve focused their land protection efforts on creating big protected areas with lots of connectivity and resilience, usually in collaboration with smaller land trusts and government agencies to pull off projects at scales outside the capacity of regional land trusts. They also produce a great deal of the conservation science that organizations like mine rely on to strategize and practice conservation and restoration. Finally, they redistribute a lot of funding to regional land trusts to support the whole “ecosystem” of conservation organizations. I’m pretty sure a good chunk of my salary comes from Nature Conservancy grants, and that’s true for staff at many other land trusts and conservation organizations around the world.


This group evaluates and rates non-profits.

They only really cover the larger organizations; perhaps that could still be useful for your research.


To throw in my two cents, I would prefer to work with local groups like your local Conservation Districts, Forest Preserves, even City Parks, yes these are government organizations that get tax money, but in many cases they don’t get as much as people think they do and a lot of their work is dependent grants and donations. What I would do is join a couple of the volunteer groups (attacking invasive plants, assisting in prescribed burns, seed collecting, ect) in your area and see which organization you are most happy with their vision and results and donate to them. This means your little area gets the benefit.


That’s good advice.
Just a note to that. Prescribed burns are not something I like to support because they don’t go after the root problem in that case.

Personally, I donate to the Nature Conservancy because I think their approach is more effective than a lot of other environmental organizations. Rather than spending lots of money on programs or campaigns, they use the money to purchase endangered habitat and then enter into partnerships with governments to steward it. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, as they do have programs and campaigns, but their main focus is on directly protecting endangered habitat, either through purchase or partnerships.

That said, the Nature Conservancy is a huge organization that already has lots of money. If you prefer donating to smaller organizations (where your donation will have a bigger impact, but probably also go more towards overhead), I also like the Cofan Survival Fund, which is a small organization that protects the environment indirectly by supporting indigenous communities in the Ecuadorian rainforest. They have a good track record and received a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

For the record, I have no connection to either organization other than being a financial donor.


I think ecosia is doing better without taking donations

I second the suggestions from @Naturephotosuze @Earthknight and @er1kksen. Some additional advice would be to think of any examples of conservation you are impressed with, or admire. Who’s running those projects? From what I can understand of what you are interested in, finding an organisation that focuses on land purchases might be a good option, such as Rainforest Trust in the US or World Land Trust in the UK. They focus on acquiring land and turning it into nature reserves, especially in places with highly threatened species. They don’t do it themselves, but funnel the money to local partners to set up and run the reserves. I know of several projects in Brazil supported by these organisations, and they are a big part of what gives me hope.


There are a lot of organizations people have suggested, but three that interest me very much are the Southeastern Grasslands Initiative, which is dedicated to preserving and restoring the lost grasslands of the southeastern United States, re:wild (formerly known as Global Wildlife Conservation), who not only work with local communities to preserve land, but have done excellent work in rediscovering lost species, with 7 found over the last 4 years alone, and Island Conservation, who do excellent work in removing invasive species from islands so that they can recover to a natural state. Also see if there are any domestic organizations in your country who are battling destructive fossil fuel projects or things like that, or are also supporting land preservation and ecological restoration.


Big thing to remember about prescribed burns: Weed control is only a side benefit. If you ever get a chance to visit preserves after a burn, the blooms are amazing. Especially if the last burn was several years ago. The stuff being burned and opened up isn’t always invasive species (although it does help to control them) it’s the native grasses that were overwhelming the flowers, and in the immediate years after a burn the bees become quite abundant.


Sorry, still not my thing.

I winnowed out the many organizations over the years by seeing how my money was spent. To me, I want my legacy to permit the natural environment I loved to survive. So my major legatees (and orgs still receiving my support), after the family gets a share, will be Nature Conservancy, Mass Audubon, Native Plant Trust and Earthjustice. They have actual programs carefully planned and vetted by scientists, with solid results.
Though I still donate my time and effort in various trails and park volunteer efforts, I agree with the statement about NGOs-- though many of them are ineffectual, nevertheless. I personally look at Charity Navigator and see how much the big muckymucks are spending on themselves, plus the percent going into their fundraising.


Yes, I know of examples of small non-profits in my area that are kind of fake environmental groups. They do a great job at marketing just to make an income for themselves to live on with the pretense that they are doing good. In the mean time they are stealing funding away from the real scientists doing the research that they based their misdirected efforts on. I know scientists who have asked for funding and gotten the response “oh we already funded that,” and the donor gave donations to the NGO that was using the science wrong instead of the scientist researcher doing the important work.

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I as a GINK (green no kids) also like to support environmental education for children. They will grow up to become decision makers. If they have never been taught to engage with nature … who cares if some flower bug whatever is destroyed by the planned limestone mine?!


To piggyback on this a bit, human fire suppression has caused a great loss of habitat diversity. Before humans fires were a natural, healthy part of the ecosystem and many species of plants and animals require these grassland or early successional habitats to survive. As an example, approximately 40% of species that are threatened or endangered in my state live in these habitats and cannot survive in forested areas. Prescribed burns also reduce fuel loads (such as dead trees and other vegetation) so that when these fires occur they aren’t as severe.

In case anyone is interested, my state has written a nice article on the subject: . Though some of the statistics are specific to Massachusetts, the concepts are universal.