Management review of performance

What are the highlights for NCC last year?

As we closed this fiscal year, we were pleased to report a number of positive outcomes. NCC reported a surplus this year, in addition to conserving a high number of properties (close to 70). In addition, we closed the year with a higher revenue in donations and grants, when compared with last year.

Further to last year’s annual report, in which we reported a commitment to invest in our fundraising team, we are starting to see positive dividends from this investment. We know, however, that this is a long-term initiative that will require perseverance over several years.

The Birch River project was another highlight that showcased NCC’s ability to bring together disparate parties for the sake of meaningful conservation. This project suggests an evolution in NCC’s role towards that of a facilitator in conservation, influencing greater conservation outcomes while serving as a bridge between different groups.

In the past year, NCC was heavily engaged in efforts to convince the Government of Canada to make a new commitment to conservation. NCC played a leading role in shaping the request to the federal government and stewarding it through federal budget cycle. This process also drew participation from other groups, including land trust partners.

In February 2018, the Federal Budget included a $1.3-billion commitment to nature conservation, including a $500-million Nature Fund. The fund itself is still being developed, but we believe it will include substantial support for private land conservation.

Finally, the senior executive management staff focused efforts on succession planning. Senior staff transition is a natural process in any organization, but we also want to ensure we are encouraging the development of our young leaders. We also worked with the human resources team to develop strategies to encourage retention among staff.

What are some of the challenges NCC faces?

One of NCC’s biggest challenges is the need to continue to engage the support of partners and other organizations and individuals as the urgency of our mission increases. NCC has achieved success in bringing government and partners to the table; however, we will need to continue this momentum moving forward.

In the past few years, we have realized retention of leaders and good staff, with a relatively low turnover rate. However, NCC recognizes that should our turnover rate increase, this would pose a threat to our long-term sustainability. NCC has recognized that more needs to be done to encourage career paths within the organization in ways that haven’t previously been explored.

Looking ahead within the context of the current state of the economy, we anticipate an ongoing period of some uncertainty with respect to the economy and the ability of Canadians to support our programs, should economic conditions deteriorate.

And as the political landscape continues to change, we will have to build new relationships across provincial governments while re-examining old programs.

In order to deliver our work as effectively and efficiently as possible, we must keep pace with technological change. However, we must continue to use our resources prudently and be strategic about which technological changes we wish to invest in.

What is NCC’s U.S. fundraising strategy?

NCC would like to recognize and thank the many U.S. donors and partners who support our work. In particular, NCC works in close partnership with American Friends of Nature Conservancy of Canada, Inc. (AFNCC), a U.S. charity, to help raise private funds in the U.S. Due to a number of significant cross-border funding initiatives, including through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), many U.S. donations can be matched 3:1, helping many wildlife species, particularly migratory birds that move between our two countries.

Gifts to AFNCC are deductible against U.S. taxes, making them attractive not only to Americans, but to Canadians required to pay U.S. taxes. AFNCC can accept gifts of cash, securities and ecologically significant lands in support of conservation work in Canada.

We also wish to recognize the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The USFWS is a significant supporter of NCC’s work in Canada. The USFWS contributes approximately $2.5 million annually to support NCC’s work to protect and care for wetlands and related migratory bird habitat in Canada.

What is NCC’s risk management strategy?

NCC closely monitors risks that may lead to a significant loss of revenue, significantly impair operations or negatively impact NCC’s credibility or public image.

The NCC Audit Committee is responsible for maintaining a constant review of NCC enterprise risks and the mitigation strategies to ensure these risks are minimized. To be effective, NCC believes that everyone in the organization has a responsibility to address and manage the risks that the organization faces — from the Chair of our Board of Directors, to our President, to all staff members.

Our Risk Management Framework identifies nine broad risk areas and approximately 50 individual risk categories that are monitored in order to help us assess ongoing risks to the organization. Each of these assesses individual risks according to the likelihood, severity of impact and mitigation controls. This helps us map out where to focus our risk management efforts.

Management regularly reviews the identified risks, including any actions to mitigate risk and any emerging risks. This is reported regularly to the Audit Committee, which in turn reports to the Board of Directors.

How does NCC measure success?

We know conserving nature is a decades-long process. In fact, our success will ultimately be measured by those who come after us. From a business perspective, we constantly set targets and evaluate our progress to ensure we are on track and staying true to our mission.

Our five-year strategic plan outlines short-term (annual) and longer-term goals against which we can measure our performance. By reporting against these goals or key performance indicators on a quarterly basis to our Board of Directors, we keep watch over our progress, correcting as necessary to stay on course.

In the last year, our strategy has not changed much. However, we are starting to expand our direct conservation goals to set more targets for collaborating with partners, working with Indigenous communities, providing tools and training to the land trust movement and expanding our focus to cover northern Canada. We are also launching new initiatives to encourage more Canadians to visit our properties, always respecting that conservation comes first.

Work will soon begin on the next five-year strategic plan, which will be implemented in 2021.

We continue to ensure an appropriate balance between how much of our donations are spent on overhead (including fundraising and communications) and how much flows through to fund our programs. We also have come to pay close attention to outcomes — the positive impact that NCC’s activities have on conservation in Canada, which we believe is a more tangible way for donors to see what their investment in NCC has achieved.

The more we can engage Canadians in the protection and celebration of our natural heritage, the more successful NCC will be at fulfilling our mission. We are proud to see the number of people involved in conservation activities increasing from coast to coast.