What are your plans for the properties under your care?
We are unusual among land trusts because of our large network of nature preserves, which spans 23,000 acres and includes 40+ preserves and Stoneleigh: a natural garden. Natural Lands intends to hold the properties in perpetuity so they can continue to cool and clean the air we breathe, soak up floodwaters, provide wildlife with habitat, filter the water we drink, and bring improved health and joy to the hundreds-of-thousands who visit each year. Please note that the value of this network listed above does not reflect current market value.
Why do you have an endowment?
We like to say that we were lucky that our founder, Allston Jenkins, was an accountant. He recognized that working in conservation means taking on perpetual responsibilities that require perpetual funding. Annual distributions from our combined endowments—which have been made possible care of contributions from donors over seven decades—provide vital support to Natural Lands’ annual operating budget.
How do you use your endowment?
We rely on modest, annual distributions from our endowment (generally 4.5 percent or less) to help support our land stewardship and other programmatic activity. These funds are essential to our ability to meet our long-term obligation to care for our 23,000-acre network of nature preserves and Stoneleigh: a natural garden.
Over 70 percent of our endowment funds are restricted to specific uses, all of which support our mission to save land, care for nature, and connect people to the outdoors. Our endowment is not used to fund land acquisition or the purchase conservation easements, which require additional fundraising from public and private sources.
What impact do members have?
Natural Lands is member supported—in fact, member contributions, along with other contributions and grants, make up the majority of our revenue year after year. Member support is essential to our day-to-day mission delivery.
What’s your biggest expense?
We are a people-driven organization, and our biggest annual expense is the cost to employ our stellar team. Fully half of our approximately 100 staff members are preserve and garden based—tasked with caring for nature on and welcoming visitors to our properties. Experts in land protection, conservation easements, land-use planning, and public engagement make up the next largest group.
How do you fund land protection?
The process of conserving land can be a complex one, often taking months or even years. Once we connect with a landowner who is interested and willing to pursue conservation, we begin fundraising for the project. Most often, federal, state, county, and/or municipal grants, sometimes coupled with a donation of land, enable us to complete the transaction. Funds from our endowment or other assets are not available to be used to fund these projects.
Who reviews your financials?
We are audited annually by Kreisher Miller, an audit and accounting firm based in Horsham, PA. Last year, our auditors stated that our financial statements presented fairly, in all material respects, our consolidated financial position. These audited financial statements are available by request.
What do Guidestar and Charity Navigator say about Natural Lands?
We’re proud that we have a platinum rating—the highest available—on charity rating site Guidestar and a score of 100 percent on Charity Navigator, earning us a Four-Star rating.