Practice Standards for CTFs

A PDF of the full standards is available in English, Spanish, and French through clicking the links below. Contact the Secretariat to have a copy sent to your email if you have any issues with the download. Please read on for further information about the Practice Standards and contact us with any questions you may have.






These Practice Standards for Conservation Trust Funds (CTF‘s) are the result of a nearly one-year collaborative initiative aimed at developing evidenced-based norms for use by CTF‘s and those institutions and individuals who provide financial and technical support to them.

The initiative was developed through the Conservation Finance Alliance (CFA) - a global voluntary network established in 2002 to help address the challenges of sustainable financing for biodiversity conservation. The CFA includes almost all CTF‘s and major donors to CTF‘s, as well as many other conservation organizations, networks and individual experts. 

Conservation Trust Funds are private, legally independent institutions that provide sustainable financing for biodiversity conservation. They may finance part of the long-term management costs of a country‘s protected area (PA) system as well as conservation activities and sustainable development initiatives outside PAs. The core business of CTF‘s has been to mobilize resources from diverse sources – including international donors, national governments and the private sector – and to direct them in the form of grants to multiple programs and projects on the ground through non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community based-organizations (CBOs) and governmental agencies (such as national parks agencies).

Over time, CTF‘s have proven to be institutions of innovation, leading some to develop new business areas outside of grant-making. Many CTF‘s now play roles in policy making, capacity building and strengthening of civil society as well as provide services to design financial mechanisms, ensure fiduciary management for the assets of indigenous communities or support corporate responsibility actions in the private sector.

CTF‘s are institutions with varied financial arrangements. Many begin by managing one single endowment or sinking fund, as is the case of CTF’s that were created to support a given protected area or a network of protected areas. Over time, CTF‘s diversify their programs and their funding mechanisms, with the creation of “Funds” that are sums of money dedicated to conservation interventions that are distinct from the CTF’s initial activities and which may even require a separate governing body. As CTF‘s evolve into multi-Fund entities, they may manage a combination of endowments, sinking funds, or revolving funds.

CTF‘s also have as their purpose the efficient management of financial assets as sinking funds or endowments. The CFA sponsors the publication of an annual Conservation Trust Fund Investment Survey (CTIS) that collects and analyzes information about the investment practices and performance of CTF‘s. The 2012 CTIS indicated that the 35 participating CTF‘s manage the equivalent of over USD 672 million in endowments and sinking funds that range from the equivalent of USD 1.3 million to over USD 120 million.

The Practice Standards have been designed for CTF‘s that are private independent legal entities. CTF‘s usually include government representatives on their governing bodies and explicitly try to promote and implement national biodiversity conservation policies and strategies, but CTF‘s are not themselves controlled by governments nor part of a government ministry. However, many aspects of these Practice Standards for CTF‘s as private independent legal entities and for the separate Funds managed by such entities can also be usefully applied to (or be adopted and adapted for) quasi-autonomous environmental funds that are hosted by (or are part of) government agencies or ministries.

The present Practice Standards concentrate on the core business of grant-making and do not attempt to develop norms in the newer business areas which are both diverse and offer limited experience on which to develop evidenced-based standards. Nonetheless, the majority of the Standards are still applicable to the CTF‘s as the institutions that “house” the new businesses or to the design, management and evaluation of the Fund that carries out the business.

Over the last two decades, CTF‘s derived valuable lessons from their experiences and have shared best practices among themselves, through CTF networks such as RedLAC – the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Environmental Funds – and CAFE – the Consortium of African Funds for the Environment. Select international donors and non-governmental organizations have also accompanied the development and strengthening of CTF‘s and have now come together to collectively develop these Practice Standards for CTF‘s;



These voluntary Practice Standards for Conservation Trust Funds are intended to serve as a tool for improving the design, management, and monitoring and evaluation of CTF‘s. CTF‘s and their donors can decide to use, aspire to, or adapt the Practice Standards to fit their particular needs. It is hoped that they will also serve as a basis for greater harmonization of international donor rules, standards and policies for CTF‘s, resulting in lower transaction costs for CTF‘s.

The Practice Standards are also intended to increase the understanding of how CTF‘s function, by current and potential donors, national governments, civil society organizations, and CTF‘s themselves. It is hoped that this increased understanding of CTF‘s will in turn lead to more effective and efficient management of CTF‘s, and to increased donor support for CTF‘s (including support by private companies and other non-traditional donors). To this end, the Standards cover six core areas that are considered essential to the development of CTF‘s as effective institutions: 

  • Governance addresses the composition, functions and responsibilities of a CTF governing body or bodies and the content and role of governing documents.

  • Operations covers strategic planning, grant-making; interactions with government, and partnerships with other organizations.

  • Administration takes up organizational roles and responsibilities, operations manuals, use of financial resources and auditing.

  • Reporting, Monitoring and Evaluation reviews conservation impact monitoring; frequency, format and content of technical and financial reporting to donors; and dissemination of results.

  • Asset Management discusses the components of investment strategies, fiduciary responsibilities and relationships with various types of investment professionals.

  • Resource Mobilization: covers fundraising and managing payments for environmental services (PES), compensation funds, offset payments, etc; mobilization and management of additional funding sources to enhance overall financial sustainability of biodiversity conservation, particularly protected area (PA) systems.

Finally, the Standards are not “set in stone” but will continue to evolve and be periodically updated by the CFA. Topics that should be considered for future standards include information technology, human resource management, financial management and communications. Although it is possible that they could eventually evolve into a system of voluntary “certification” standards for CTF‘s, they are not designed to serve that purpose in their current form.

Providing Feedback

The CFA encourages feedback from users of the Standards in their hard copy or PDF versions. Visit our contact page to submit any comments or questions to our secretariat.