Without a doubt, we’re energized by reports of work being done in the woods and knowing wildlife benefits will follow. However, that same passion doesn’t usually accompany financial reports. Nonetheless, financials drive the business equation and as we say, “No margin, no mission!” This address, accompanying our 2022 annual report, is an occasion to focus on funding, and most importantly, what it means for RGS & AWS habitat management now and in the years to come.
We’ll set the bar for this discussion noting that 90% of money raised went directly toward our forest wildlife mission. Delivering 90 cents on the dollar shows we’re focused, efficient and living up to our word. Beyond numbers on a page, I see this every day working with staff — our team’s dialed in and working with a great sense of purpose.
We’re leading projects that leverage local and national funds. I recently looked back through several years of financial data leading up to 2020. At any given time, we had about $500,000 of funded agreements and grants in place (i.e., the funds we pursue for habitat work through public agencies and foundations). As this report goes to press, we have more than $10,600,000 of funded agreements in play. That’s a 20-fold increase representing the delta for our updated business model. Pretty exciting, but not the end of the story.
A friend and fellow RGS & AWS member recently called them “multiplier projects.” The term fits. Each agreement requires that RGS & AWS come to the table with skin in the game, the ever-important and sometimes elusive “match.” So, we need cash in hand to negotiate each funded agreement. This is where locally raised funds really shine. When we leverage $20K raised at a chapter’s banquet to bring in an additional $100K in habitat funding, it magnifies the hard work of local RGS & AWS volunteers.
Yes, we’re expanding into new funding arenas that expand mission impact — that doesn’t mean we can abandon traditional fundraising! Support from individual donors, membership and events is more important than ever. Without a strong, donation-supported core, we can’t pursue millions of dollars in innovative projects that work for wildlife. In modeling our financial future, unrestricted contributions are a key catalyst (or Jake brake) for our upward habitat trajectory.
RGS & AWS is growing, but not just for growth’s sake. Our progress is intentional and centered on habitat. Over the past year, we added 18 new positions that hit the field supported by an interrelated portfolio of new agreements, local and national contributions and generous donations.
Recruiting new staff, some of whom are just beginning their own conservation careers, reminds me that our work is generational. We’re positively affecting habitat today. We’re leveraging funding for enterprises important to us. We’re ensuring access to habitat so people can share the wonders of grouse, woodcock and all forest wildlife. It’s work worth doing, and with sound financial footing, it’s a legacy that’ll continue for years to come. Truly generational impact.
On this June day, I’ll put this capstone on our 2022 annual report, review 2023 year-to-date financials and work on balance sheets projecting through 2025. Is this as energizing as touring a new habitat project? Yes, absolutely! Because it’s essential to ensure that RGS & AWS remains a vehicle to deliver our shared conservation passion. While the phrase may not appear in our tag line, healthy financials are the basis for healthy forests, abundant wildlife and conservation ethic. In all these things, 2022 was another solid year, yet clearly not a time to rest on our laurels. There’s much work to do.