Crowdfunding – whereby a large amount of money is raised by the proportionally smaller donations of dozens, hundreds or thousands of contributors – has taken flight over the past few years as a means for individuals and organisations to raise funds for their passion projects. In large part, it is associated with the arts: raising money for amateur theatre groups, for student films, for independent artists’ exhibitions, for the self-publishing of books. There isn’t much you can’t crowdfund, and the support of a combination of friends, family and interested strangers has successfully funded projects as varied as collecting meteorites from the Nullarbor or paying the vet bills of two dogs who had a brush with a porcupine.
As the practice has evolved, particularly in Australia, more and more groups have come to recognise the potential of crowdfunding to support conservation. In 2014, a group of lobbyists and scientists who have studied the montane ash forests of the Central Highlands of Victoria for more than 30 years, launched a crowdfunding campaign on Pozible to gather public support for the proposed Great Forest National Park: a large protected area for the region which would preserve more than 500, 000 hectares of forest. The highly successful campaign, which raised $71, 965 (significantly exceeding its target of $60, 000), directed funds to community outreach and broader awareness-raising about the park proposal to the Victorian public.
Funds are also being crowdsourced for conservation on the ground. In November, a campaign led by Mt Rothwell Landcare Volunteers entitled “Quoll in the hand, worth 2 in the bush” successfully raised more than $11, 000 for a captive breeding program for Eastern Quolls: an iconic species that is extinct in the wild on the Australian mainland. Another campaign, “Where do Wedgies Dare?”, run by environmental scientist Simon Cherriman, has raised more than $20, 000 to monitor a pair of wedge-tailed Eagles by GPS tracking, with the aim of learning more about the raptors’ biology.
This growing propensity to turn to the general public for funding could be seen as an indicator that funding from traditional sources is increasingly less available. However, an initiative by DELWP (the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning) in Victoria demonstrates that the government is aware of the medium’s potential. The Threatened Species Collection, currently running on Pozible, is a group of five campaigns aimed at protecting some of Victoria’s most vulnerable species. Each campaign in the collection that successfully reaches its target will receive dollar-for-dollar matched funding from DELWP. White-bellied sea-eagles and brush-tailed phascogales are among the species intended to receive support from the campaigns, run by a collection of community landcare and conservation groups. This and similar projects would allow the government to invest in those issues deemed most important by the Australian public itself.
That crowdfunding for conservation is enjoying such success in Australia indicates just how much the general public cares for the natural world. The community is already heavily involved in conservation on their own land and in the lands that surround them, and is deeply invested in the future of the country and its species. Crowdfunding for conservation projects is a natural extension of an extant love for the Australian landscape, and the inclination of its people to take conservation into their own hands.
Cover image by Robert Geary Photo and is used with permission.
Alex Mullarky is a freelance journalist and works part-time in threatened species conservation. Her other passion is ex-racehorse rehabilitation and she is currently completing her Masters.
You can find her on Twitter at @ajmullarky