We want to inspire people about the natural world so that they value it, understand their relationship with it and take action to protect and restore it.
The Wildlife Trusts want to help nature to recover from the decline that for decades has been the staple diet of scientific studies and news stories. We believe passionately that wildlife and natural processes need to have space to thrive, beyond designated nature reserves and other protected sites. To achieve this it is vital that the richest wildlife sites are protected and sustained as a starting point from which nature can spread back into our wider landscapes. And at sea we must also protect areas now for a future when our marine wildlife can thrive more widely.
Society needs this as much as our wildlife does. A healthy natural environment is the foundation for everything that is of value to people – food, water, shelter, flood prevention, health, happiness and creative inspiration. It’s the source of our prosperity and our wellbeing. We want to inspire people about the natural world so that they value it, understand their relationship with it and take action to protect and restore it.
We stand up for, and look after, natural and wild places close to where people live.
We manage more than 95,000ha of land, across about 2,300 individual locations, each shaped by its location and its relationship with the local people who value it.
Every year, more than 7 million people visit our nature reserves, but we’re not just about land management. Every day we are working to help people from all walks of life discover and enjoy nature. We run over 11,000 events a year, helping more than 380,000 people connect with nature in their local patch. We work with about 5,200 schools and welcome people to more than 120 visitor centres. Through our work, we advise more than 5,300 landowners on how to manage over 200,000ha of land for wildlife.
We are motivated by a personal emotional connection to the natural world. The 650 trustees, 40,000 volunteers, 800,000 members and 2,000+ staff of Wildlife Trusts across the UK value the natural world – and particularly its wildlife - and we believe there should be more of it.
There are 47 individual Wildlife Trusts covering the whole of the UK and the Isle of Man and Alderney. Together, The Wildlife Trusts are the UK’s largest people-powered environmental organisation working for nature’s recovery on land and at sea.
Each Wildlife Trust is an independent charity is deeply-rooted within the local communities from which it was formed - most had been established by the end of the 1960s (usually, but not always, at a county-wide level), often set up by local activists determined to save what they could - the last remaining meadows, ancient woods, heaths - in the face of widespread devastation to our natural environment.
Our strength lies in our localness and our knowledge of local places and people. Our work comes out of, and is accountable to, the local communities we are part of. However, our additional strength lies in the fact that all 47 Trusts are able to come together to champion nature to national audiences. Each Trust is a corporate member of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT, registered charity number 207238), a charity founded in 1912 by banker and philanthropist Charles Rothschild. This federated structure is adopted widely in the social, or people-focused, charity sector where a national voice and local needs are equally important. This structure suits our personality down to the ground. We are people-focussed in the way we deliver our work – working with local people to improve our local environment and quality of life.
As the umbrella organisation, RSWT is a relatively small central coordinating team for The Wildlife Trust movement that provides leadership for the strategic development and ensuring that the interests of The Wildlife Trusts are represented on all occasions when a strong collective voice is required. It has responsibilities for collective work at an England level and for orchestrating our collective work at a UK level. It also has a role to play in ensuring our federated structure is as effective and efficient as possible, driving the sharing of resources, skills and knowledge, as well as raising funds from national sources that can be distributed back to the individual Trusts for conservation work.
The Wildlife Trusts are very grateful for support from members and legators. This support accounts for the majority of our income and is vital to our efforts to secure nature’s recovery.
Grants for particular projects are received from local authorities, statutory agencies and governments through rural development programmes. Landfill Tax Credits have also provided vital support for land purchase and community engagement. The support of key lottery operators and distributors, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the BIG Lottery Fund and People’s Postcode Lottery is greatly appreciated as is that from a wide range of charitable Trusts.
The Wildlife Trusts enjoy many partnerships and relationships with businesses right across the UK. Each Trust pays RSWT a small annual Contribution meaning that The Wildlife Trusts UK office is run on around 2% of the organisation’s overall income. Just as Trusts are keen to reflect their true local ownership and be accountable to their local members, it is equally important that the central charity (RSWT) is fully owned and working directly for the 47 Trusts. In 2012 governance changes took place and RSWT’s Council is now comprised entirely of Wildlife Trust Chairs and Chief Executives This is replicated in other federated charity structures, and is thought to be the most effective method of working, binding a movement like ours closer together.
To maximise our impact we need to make sure that we are run by the very best people. Our trustee boards are comprised of local people passionate about nature and their local area but also have particular expertise that contributes to the running of local charities. Trustees are elected by Trust members at Annual General Meetings and serve in a voluntary capacity.
We heavily rely on the dedication and commitment of our 40,000+ volunteers. Without them a lot of our work wouldn’t happen and we therefore place emphasise on ensuring they are backed up by an equally dedicated staff team who can engage and lead local communities, our members, businesses, decision makers in the running of our Trusts.
(Above) Wildlife Trusts Chairs in 2015
Our current staff to volunteer ratio is approx 1:18. A survey of TWT salaries in 2011-12 showed that over 60% of TWT staff are paid <£25,000/pa, and just over 1% are paid >£60,000, these all being CEOs.
Our structure also enables (and requires) a large number of Trust staff and trustees thinking beyond their Trust boundaries and supporting work at a national level.