Conservation Trust Funds 2020: A Global Review


Wolfs Company and our partner Aligning Visions  were commissioned by the Conservation Finance Alliance (CFA) and a Task Force of around 20 international experts to document the evolution of Conservation Trust Funds (CTFs) over the past decade in the report Conservation Trust Funds 2020: Global Visions Local Action. The report presents key trends among CTFs and provides insight into the expanding roles that they could play in conservation finance. This study was conducted in parallel to the update of the Practice Standards for CTFs (Learn more here).

CTFs are private, legally independent institutions that mobilize resources from diverse sources and direct these resources primarily through grants, to multiple nature conservation programs and projects. CTFs do not directly implement conservation projects themselves, but rather mobilize resources from a diverse suite of financing mechanisms to support local conservation efforts. At the time of publication, almost 110 CTFs were operating around the world.

The most comprehensive review of CTFs to date

As the most comprehensive study on CTFs to date, its results are based on more than 65 interviews with CTF representatives, donors and experts. In addition, it draws on the 2020 Global CTF Survey, which was completed by 50 CTFs, a systematic review of approximately 300 annual- and evaluation reports, and a 13-year analysis of 67 CTF endowments that have consistently participated in the Conservation Trust Investment Survey of the Wildlife Conservation Society. 

Key conservation finance insight for the years to come  

Among many more detailed results that can be viewed in the report, some of its key findings include:

  • Approximately 40 new CTFs have been established since 2010, joining the 68 active CTFs that were formed prior to 2009
  • Since 2009, at least US$1.1 billion has been mobilized to endowment and sinking fund accounts managed by CTFs to support conservation programs
  • CTFs disbursed well over US$2 billion for conservation programs over the last ten years, showing themselves to be an effective and transparent
    means of providing long term finance for nature
  • Over the past decade, CTFs have expanded their historic role as funders of terrestrial protected areas to increase support of marine and coastal
    systems, economic livelihoods, and climate change, in line with global priorities
  • Key areas for improvement of CTF management include more comprehensive and standardized impact measurement and improved asset management
  • CTFs have played a prominent role in combining increasingly diverse funding sources and piloting innovative financing mechanisms for conservation in recent years
  • Effective CTFs maintain independent governance structures while sustaining very strong ties with governmental agencies

Read the press note by the Wildlife Conservation Society here.

To support the analysis, Wolfs Company supervised Elisabeth Hartmann’s MSc thesis titled “Assessing the conservation impact of Conservation Trust Funds”  (2020) for the MSc program Environment and Resource Management of the VU University Amsterdam. Available here.

The publication of the review was celebrated by a webinar in which Wolfs Company was present alongside a number of speakers to introduce, highlight and discuss key findings of the report.