An Interview With Anthony Ramos, director of marketing and communications, Wildlife Trust
Wildlife Trust was founded in 1971 by British naturalist, author and television personality Gerald M. Durrell, who is perhaps best known for his many entertaining books based on his life’s work with animals, as well as a dozen series on the BBC.
Wildlife Trust has expanded its mission to include not only endangered species conservation and training for local scientists, but also international conservation organization development, resolution of human-wildlife conflicts, integrated conservation and community development projects, as well as a new field linking environment and health called “Conservation Medicine.”
Here, we talk with Director of Marketing and Communications Anthony Ramos about the organization and its fundraising strategies and challenges.
FundRaising Success: How do you fund your mission?
Anthony Ramos: Wildlife Trust is funded by foundations, government grants, private donors and corporate partners.
FS:What are the biggest challenges your organization faces as far as fundraising is concerned? How do you overcome them?
AR: In tightened economic times, as with most organizations, one must work harder and smarter to gain new donors, to generate awareness and raise more funds from a diversified base of contributors.
FS: Do you foresee any big changes in the way you reach potential donors and other supporters in the near future?
AR: We employ both traditional and electronic communications strategies to touch donors in a meaningful way. We strive to be more responsive and interactive with our various constituencies.
FS: How would you describe your fundraising philosophy?
AR: We believe our programs drive the energy and passion of our donors, scientists and associates. Wildlife Trust is a unique organization filling a niche in conservation science. Through wildlife and habitat conservation, our scientists are also discovering the routes of emerging infectious diseases as they pass from wildlife to humans due to environmental changes. Our opportunity is to communicate all this in a way that is accessible to our target audience.
FS: How do you reach out to supporters and potential supporters in ways other than purely fundraising? Are you engaged with social media sites like MySpace, Facebook, etc., and online social networking?
AR: The power of social networking has helped us to get our breaking news, research and related stories out to larger audiences. It is vital to utilize all the tools in your communications arsenal to reach donors on varied levels.
FS: Can you describe a recent successful fundraising effort?
AR: Our annual conservation and award galas have a very strong following. Each year our guest list continues to grow while making our events cost-effective and successful. Last spring, we initiated a new fundraising benefit, “An Evening with Flora, Fauna and Flamingoes,” that featured a cocktail reception, a silent auction and wildlife ambassadors, including a very social flamingo named “Pinkie.”
FS: Any major difficulties or setbacks you've faced along the way? Things you would do differently with your fundraising?
AR: After years of relying primarily on restricted grants, we have been diversifying our base of donors. In these economic times, it is difficult to adhere to a long-term strategy, which is key to your success, when there are so many short-term challenges.
FS: What advice would you give to organizations similar to yours, in size and annual operating budget?
AR: Every organization needs to have a key differentiator; what makes your organization different than the rest? The not-for-profit market continues to grow, and it is vitally important to create a brand that is recognizable, unique and clearly demonstrates your mission.
460 West 34th Street, 17th floor
New York, NY 10001
Annual Operating Budget: $7.5 million
Annual Contributed Income: $5.5 million primarily from restricted government and foundation grants and/or contracts; $2 million in unrestricted donations from individuals, foundations, corporations and special events.
Mission: Wildlife Trust empowers local conservation scientists worldwide to protect nature and safeguard ecosystem and human health.