I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to travel the country dozens of times this year and talk personally with our donors and supporters. From those conversations, some common themes surfaced again and again:
Environmental Defense Fund members are amazingly well-informed, and understand how urgently we must address the complex environmental challenges we face. But many also wonder what they can do, as individuals, to help – and they worry that what they can give isn’t enough to make a difference.
Someone shared a typical comment along these lines in response to Jeremy Symons’s recent blog post about the Senate’s vote to block the Clean Power Plan:
“EDF is doing great things. I’m really interested in how we can stop global warming. I feel so small and powerless and I need to be connected to others who actually care and are doing things to stop all the harmful gases that are constantly emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere, ruining our precious and unique planet.”
This is a natural, human reaction. When we’re confronted with big, overwhelming problems, such as collapsing fisheries and climate change we ask, “What can I do? What difference can I, just one person among 7 billion in this hurly burly world, really make?”
But that’s exactly why we come together to form this powerful and connected community of more than 1 million members. We come together to solve problems way too big for any of us to solve alone. We come together because that’s how movements change the world – and why your contribution matters.
With 1 million members, donations add up
Eighty-five percent of our members give less than $100 and the average gift we receive throughout the year is less than $50. Over the last year, however, our activists delivered nearly 2 million messages to key decision makers in Washington and around the world.
Thanks to this widespread support, our solutions have a platform and our mission has energy. And thanks to our many partners – small farmers, fishermen, big companies and other non-profits – we can multiply that energy even further.
We’ve always known, since our founding nearly 50 years ago, that it’s not enough to have the “right ideas.”
Our small band of scientists and lawyers who took on the harmful pesticide DDT in the late 1960’s were supremely talented, visionary environmental leaders who invented entirely new approaches to protect nature.
But as Charles Wurster, one of our founders, describes in his new book, DDT Wars, they could never have won a national ban on DDT without engaging the public and recruiting the first generation of EDF membership support.
A nonprofit’s formula for success
Today, EDF remains true to those roots. We’ve grown from a staff of fewer than 10 to more than 500. We’ve expanded beyond our cramped farmhouse on Long Island to a dozen offices on four continents.
The formula for success remains the same. Our staff experts crunch the data and develop the most effective solutions. But our solutions would just live as words on a white piece of paper without the energy and passion of our donors and activists who propel change.
Same thing when we engage huge companies such as Walmart or large countries such as China. When we can say more than 1 million members support strong environmental standards, this carries tremendous weight.
I am so grateful to spend every day working to build great environmental solution ideas into reality.
But the question for each of us is not what can I, alone, do. This is about what we can do together. And together, we can leave this world better than we found it – better for our kids and grandkids, and better for all the miraculous forms of life that call our shared planet home.