New tools for conservation funders

Find out how the philanthropy community is funding the new tools against climate change.

Mar 14, 2023
Table of contents

New Tools for Conservation Funders

Philanthropy plays a crucial role in conservation and climate change efforts, and donations are expected to grow significantly in the years ahead. In fact, charitable giving for climate change mitigation has increased over threefold since 2015. Philanthropic organizations have played a key role in preserving and protecting the earth's natural resources and vulnerable ecosystems, as well as incubating and scaling up new technologies. 

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Data and graphs are from The ClimateWorks Foundation’s report on Funding trends 2022: Climate change mitigation philanthropy

For philanthropists focused on natural climate solutions, we believe Lens can help improve monitoring efficiency and confidence that investments are having the intended outcomes on-the-ground. There’s no one-size-fits-all to how donors approach charitable giving and program oversight. But below are a few ways Lens can help funders and grantees drive progress towards their mission.

  1. Funders often support grantees by providing specific tools so they can more efficiently plan and execute on their projects. We see value in subsidizing Lens subscriptions for organizations that do land stewardship or restoration work. Current Lens customers have found savings and efficiency gains, enabling them to spend their time and resources on more strategic work. For grantees, this could look like monitoring for invasive species in vulnerable habitat; restoration of a wetland to help mitigate increasingly severe weather patterns; or even assessing damage after a natural disaster such as a wildfire or flood. Lens is an adaptable tool, and it’s why we recommend that funders consider it as a part of the arsenal for supporting grantees. Grantees receive access to an innovative technology with insights only found through remote sensing data, and funders readily see the efficiency gains provided with such insight that make space for more funding and more opportunity to scale.
Example of a wildlife crossing structure in Texas, imagery copyright Nearmap 2021. Use Lens to monitor before and after innovative wildlife conservation, habitat improvement projects, and more. 
  1. Building off this first point on capacity building for grantees, this can also yield consistency in monitoring and evaluation in final grant reports submitted to funders. Monitoring and evaluation is an important element of the grantmaking lifecycle, which helps with accountability and affords learning opportunities. For example, if a certain type of project is funded and then does not yield the intended outcome, the funder and grantee alike can learn and iterate in future projects. And for philanthropies that give out similar grants within a certain program, it can be helpful to unify the process with consistent metrics and tools. Lens makes it easy to add new project areas any time and generate consistent PDF reports with imagery and analytical data quantifying changes, as shown in the example below. Streamlined data collection and processes can save everyone time and make it possible to identify the projects with the greatest impact to inform future funding strategies. This feedback mechanism can benefit philanthropic foundations as well as the broader community of funders.
Generate clear and organized reports from notes made in Lens and customize the details to include for different audiences, such as funders and other stakeholders 
  1. Zooming out, Lens can also help funders demonstrate and measure their program impacts at scale. As momentum for conservation and nature-based climate solutions builds, it’s increasingly important for funders to track the beneficial outcomes of their investments in certain program areas. Transparent reporting enables philanthropies to tell a clear and compelling story about the good work they are catalyzing in the world. Below is an example of how portfolios could be created in Lens for each project or funding area to allow administrators as well as grantees to access the same data.
Organize properties into portfolios to keep everything organized. For example, you could group by geography, program area, or project type.

Whether a foundation is deploying capital directly or indirectly through grantees, the reality is: we can’t manage what we don’t measure. Earth observation data has enormous potential to support philanthropic efforts aimed at land conservation, improved management, restoration, and more. With more data and tools for analyzing and documenting changes, Lens can help organizations conduct rigorous and efficient monitoring. Lens is easy to use, even for folks without a background in GIS or remote sensing, making it possible for all kinds of users to get started and start gleaning new insights today. If you’d like to learn more, feel free to set up a demo with one of our team members or sign up for Lens today.