Environmental organisations cite lack of public understanding as their biggest challenge in new report


Environmental organisations are struggling to communicate the sheer scale and complexity of the climate crisis to the public and funders, according to a new report by grant-making charity Garfield Weston Foundation.

The report found that almost half of organisations highlighted lack of public understanding as their biggest challenge when it comes to the environment.

Over a quarter of organisations also fear Brexit and COVID-19 are weakening charitable efforts when it comes to policy work.

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.

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

The Garfield Weston Foundation’s Director, Philippa Charles, commented: “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.”

This report is based on the findings from a survey directed at non-profit environmental
organisations in the UK.

The survey was sent to a sample of 150 non-profit organisations, and included organisations of all sizes, UK geographies and thematic issue areas.

During this period, 68 different organisations across the UK responded, 86% of which
were UK registered charities.

Surveys were completed primarily by executive leadership (59%) and senior fundraising staff (38%).

The survey findings included:

  • Almost half of organisations (48.5%) believe the biggest challenge the UK charity
    sector faces is a lack of public understanding about the urgency to act on
    environmental issues.
  • Almost 80% of organisations are unable to achieve their strategic impact goals
    because they cannot raise funds as quickly as they need to.
  • 75% of organisations find financial sustainability a big challenge and almost 60% of
    organisations struggle with staff capacity.
  • Almost one in four organisations (24%) struggle to identify sources of funding
  • Over a quarter of organisations fear Brexit and COVID-19 are weakening charitable
    efforts when it comes to policy work.
  • Over half of organisations (55%) reported that one of the biggest challenges their
    organisation faces is the ability to persuade the public of the need to act rapidly
  • Nearly 60% of organisations would need an additional 50% of income to reach their
    strategic goals.
  • Whilst half of surveyed organisations’ income primarily comes from trusts and
    foundations, only 30% of them believe trusts and foundations understand their
    environmental work
  • Three-quarters of organisations stated they feel confident in the skillset necessary to
    raise funds, yet almost half of organisations (46%) consider income generation one
    of the biggest challenges

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.

The Foundation Trustees has already donated over £40 million since April to support charities affected by COVID-19.