Sunday, 27 July 2008

WWF and my attempt to obtain transparency

Out of sheer frustration and a desire for transparency from arguably the world's most high profile conservation group......WWF, I am posting on the Blog a letter which be of interest.

In February this year I received from WWF an "Investor Invitation". Like any potential investor in anything I had questions to which I sought answers. As this 'Invitation' was about supporting orangutan conservation work, naturally I was especially curious.

I wrote to the Chief Executive of WWF UK on 15th February. He passed it on to their Director of Fundraising for reply. Her answers did not match the questions, so I wrote again and waited, and waited - nearly four months, but still no reply.

I think my letter below is self explanatory. Following it I raised some
questions which I would greatly appreciate your help in asking WWF at the email address supplied. Please try to write today and send me any reply you receive.
As a charity spending public money, don't you think we have a right to some answers? I'm not saying WWF are misuing public money; all I ask for is transparency, which will presumably remove any doubt.

7th April 2008

David Nussbaum
Chief Executive
Panda House
Weyside Park
Godalming GU7 1XR

Dear David,

Further to the reply from Pippa Carte of 5th March.

The information provided by Pippa, whilst interesting, did nothing to reassure me that money ‘invested’ with WWF will save a single orangutan.

In the absence of any budgets etc. I am even less inclined to believe all the money raised will be spent in Borneo. Can you confirm it will be?

I was one of the thousands of people who invested in WWF’s tiger conservation programme some 25 years ago. Despite the millions of pounds raised in the UK alone, for this programme, numerically speaking not a single tiger has been saved; worse than this, they are down to about 1500 in number – all during a time when, like many people, I trusted WWF with my hard earnt money.

Just how much money did WWF raise for tiger conservation and where has it all been spent? Why have you not saved any tigers? I think WWF has a duty of trust to answer this question as well as those below.

In all the time WWF has been raising funds for orangutans, numerically speaking again, not one has been saved. Even the government of Indonesia admits to a loss rate of 3000 a year over the past 35 years. I am not sure how WWF can claim this to be one of their “great successes.”

How will you (we) measure WWF’s performance (value for money) with this new orangutan fundraising campaign? What goals, checks and balances does WWF have in place I wonder? £720,000 is a massive sum of money to raise on orangutan conservation (I am aware this sum represents only a percentage of the overall amount raised globally for this same programme) and one would hope that at the very least you will halt the population decline.

A point I raised in my letter of 15th February regarding your claim “We Know Our Plans Will Work” has not be answered. It is a very brave conservation group who makes such claims concerning Borneo. And, based on the tiger project, why should anyone believe you?

With the odd exception, given WWF’s profile and spending power, in all my trips to Borneo I have to say how underwhelmed I have been by WWF’s presence. It’s really difficult to see what WWF does with all its money. Rightly or wrongly, whilst UNEP last year called the situation an “Orangutan Emergency” (much like the tiger was 25 years ago), the impression I have formed, especially in Indonesia, is one of WWF filing more reports, holding more meetings, whilst all around it the situation is getting worse and worse. A bit like rearranging the deckchairs on the sinking Titanic.

Where is WWF’s leadership and presence in Borneo?

Where is all the money going?

I regret to say I feel your fundraising brochure gives a false impression of what it will (can) do for orangutans. It would be helpful to see precisely what the budget covers and how this conservation programme’s effectiveness will be measured in three years time.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely.

Sean Whyte
Chief Executive

A new Blog:

Questions WWF needs to answer:

a) Of the £240,000 you sought to raise for orangutan conservation with your "Investor Invitation", how much was raised and how much of it will be spent directly in Borneo? i.e. not at Head Office, international travel, reports, etc. How much will go to the field/forest work?

b) How many orangutans do you expect to save with £240,000?

c) What makes you so sure “We Know Our Plans Will Work”?

d) How much money was raised during 2007 through your orangutan adoption programme? How much of this was spent directly in Indonesia, on what and where?

Please write to: David Nussbaum, Chief Executive, WWF UK and send to the only address they publish on their web site.

To send an email you just need to click on this address and a new email will be created for you to include your questions.