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Many grassroots conservation organizations are facing layoffs, cutbacks, and even the prospect of ceasing operations completely because of the twin crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic and global recession.
In response to the crises, Razan Al Mubarak, the Founding Managing Director of the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (MBZ Fund), announced this week that the organization will expand its grant-making focus to include relief grants of up to $25,000. The grants can be used to cover core operating expenses, such as staff salaries, office rent, and other essential overhead costs.
"It's clear that conservation organizations cannot protect threatened species if they cannot meet basic needs like staff salaries and rent,” said Ms. Al Mubarak. “Our hope is that other foundations and philanthropists join the MBZ Fund in easing restrictions so conservation organizations can make it through this challenging time and weather the economic impact of the pandemic.”
Ms Al Mubarak said the Fund decided to expand its grant-making practices after conducting a survey in April 2020 of more than 300 of its grantees in 85 different countries. Aimed at gauging the effects of the pandemic on its grantees, the survey found that many conservationists were very concerned about the financial futures of their organizations. Sixty-eight percent of respondents said their organization had been negatively impacted, with 57 percent reporting their organization was experiencing financial difficulties and 22 percent reporting their organizations planned to eliminate jobs. Many grantees highlighted the loss of revenue for their organizations due to park, zoo, and aquarium closures, the decline in eco-tourism, and the reduction in student enrollment for courses and fieldwork experiences. A summary report of the survey can be viewed here.
The MBZ Fund is a philanthropic endowment providing micro-grants of up to $25,000 to support in-the-field conservation projects for the world's most threatened species. Since 2009, the Fund has provided over $20 million to more than 2,150 projects in over 160 countries, supporting more than 1,400 different species and subspecies. Many grantees have succeeded in rediscovering lost species, discovering new ones, and reducing threats to countless others.