Building a new Environmental Fund is a daunting task – but one hopefully made easier by building on the experience of the Funds that have already made the leap successfully. An oft referenced work by the Global Environment Facility from 1998 cites “essential factors” for effective start-up including:
1) The biodiversity conservation issues to be addressed require a financial commitment of at least 10-15 years;
2) There is active government support for creating a public-private sector partnership by setting up an independent foundation outside direct government control;
3) There is a critical mass of people from diverse sectors of society who can work together to achieve biodiversity conservation and sustainable development; and
4) There is a basic fabric of legal and financial practices and supporting institutions (e.g. banking, auditing and contracting) in which people have confidence.
These critical issues are usually addressed through the following start-up activities:
Produce a Feasibility Study. What is the purpose of the proposed Environmental Fund? How would it be financially sustainable? How should it be structured? What opportunities exist for international funding? These questions, and the “essential factors” above, are usually answered during an in-depth feasibility study.
Explain why an Environmental Fund is needed and form a Steering Committee. Environmental Funds are usually public-private partnerships that rely on good working relationships and political support from their inception. Some emerging Funds shared presentations that explain what is involved in creating and capitalizing a fund to attract support as well as influential steering committee members.
Write a Profile. Once a feasibility study is concluded and a Steering Committee is established, many Funds write a profile describing their intended structure, the types of investments they hope to manage, and how grants will be allocated for in-country conservation. A well-developed profile serves to: clarify roles between the Fund, government agencies and nonprofits; attract donor attention; and provide a basis for legally establishing the Environmental Fund. Additional profiles are available in Communications that reflect Funds at different stages of development.