Groups struggling to fund green activities

Andrew
Andrew Robinson
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Non-government organizations in N.L. look for new routes to stability

Doug Ballam was scheduled to give a talk Thursday night in St. John’s on how environmental non-government organization can look to stabilize their funding. — Submitted photo

For non-government organizations (NGO) in Newfoundland and Labrador focused on the environment, Doug Ballam says there is a bit of a cash crunch, and those groups need to find ways to fill funding gaps.

“Environmental non-government organizations largely depend upon three sources of funding — individual contributions, grants from foundations, and also funding from governments,” said Ballam, a Mount Pearl resident with experience in the sector. “In Newfoundland and Labrador, the NGO community basically receives the least from all three of those sources.”

Ballam was scheduled to give a talk Thursday night in St. John’s on ways environmental NGOs can stabilize their funding. The event was hosted by Nature Newfoundland and Labrador.

“In Newfoundland and Labrador, there’s so little funding there’s not much to destabilize. We’re basically at ground zero with this.”

According to Ballam, an average of between one to two per cent of charitable donations made by the public goes to environmental groups. In Newfoundland and Labrador, he said that figure is closer to one per cent.

Government cuts have also hurt some NGOs. The Newfoundland and Labrador Environment Network lost its core funding last year when Environment Canada cut its $547,000 annual contribution to the Canadian Environment Network.

Ballam believes environmental groups in the province still operate under the shadow of negative publicity generated by anti-sealing groups.

“In many cases, the environmental community in Newfoundland is still largely tarred with that brush, and unfairly, of course.”

Oxfam Canada said its decision announced earlier this year to close its St. John’s office was partially the result of a decline in donations received from Newfoundland and Labrador combined with an overall operating deficit for the national organization that exceeded $1 million.

In Ballam’s view, it’s important for NGOs to consider the defining characteristics of people who make donations.

For example, it said it has been found immigrants who have lived in a particular area for an extended period of time give more to non-profit groups.

“I would just encourage NGOs to look at engaging immigrant communities in their projects and organization,” he said.

Those involved in environmental NGOs should also strive to become more engaged with the business community and attempt to reach out to more grant-giving foundations, he said.

Ballam suggests groups find creative ways to attract donations. In New Brunswick, he said a special licence plate with an environmental theme is contributing $7 per plate to environmental NGOs.

Ballam believes there’s also a need to dispel the myth that environmental groups in the province are anti-development.

“Environmental groups in the province are largely just our neighbours and friends who are just concerned in one way or shape about the environment, and there are many benefits NGOs provide.”

Ballam added that environmental NGOs play an important role in collaborating with governments and industries to have an greening effect on the economy.

arobinson@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TeleAndrew

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Environment Network, Environment Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Mount Pearl, New Brunswick

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  • Nick
    September 21, 2012 - 14:11

    People here relate to ecological and community enhancement far more than traditional preservationist approaches to environmentalism, in my opinion. Well spoken, Doug.