You decided its time to do your part to save wild animals. However, you’re concerned. Who do you trust with your money? Where do you find a project you can feel good about? How do you know your funds are really going to help save wild animals? These are such valid questions, ones we’ve asked ourselves time and time again.
After eleven years of helping people saving wildlife we’ve learned a few things. There are some important factors that matter to us, and many of our donors. (We actually call them Wildlife Champions now. Because that’s what they are, true Champions caring enough to give to save wild animals.)
Three Things You Should Know When Giving to Save Wild Animals in 2021
We’ve asked our Champions. There seems to come a time when the stars line up and getting involved is the right thing to do. For some its reading an ebook like POACHED! For others its having traveled to Africa and sat at a waterhole watching a magnificent elephant herd come in to drink. For others its giving birth to a child and wanting her to see a real live lion one day. Whatever the motivator, they clicked the donate button and joined the Nikela Champions Circle.
What follows are answers to three common questions:
ONE: How do I determine if a wildlife conservation project is legitimate?
Definitely the first question to answer. Once while in conversation with a trophy hunter I asked, “If you’re really into preserving wild animals why not donate the $50,000 you’re paying to kill directly to a wildlife conservation project?” His reply, “How do I know which one is legitimate?”
Although that seemed like an excuse, the question itself is valid. For the sincere, it doesn’t take too much digging on the web to come up with a short list of legitimate projects. The only problem, you’ll more than likely come up with the big organizations. The ones with huge budgets with money set aside to spend on marketing experts.
For us and our Champions legitimacy is established in a much simpler, down to earth manner. Russ and I personally know each Wildlife Hero we support. All but one we’ve visited in our old Land Rover. We’ve spent time with them and seen first hand the work done to save wild animals.
When we first started out eleven years ago we requested all sorts of documentation. Why? Well, because that’s what everybody else did. We soon realized that some of these Wildlife Heroes are just single handedly on a mission to protect wildlife. Sure, some have established bonafide organizations. But, bottom line we’ve found that the “proof is in the pudding” as the old idiom goes. Their legitimacy lies in the results they get. The work they actually do to protect, rescue and preserve wildlife.
Because we have been involved with all our Wildlife Heroes for a minimum of two plus years, they’ve proven themselves to us.
“I recently lost my dog… reflecting on that loss I realized that my love for animals is one of the strongest passions in my life. I’m so happy to contribute, and hope I can give more in the future. Thank you for your work.” ~ Emily C.
Over 900 orphaned and confiscated monkeys living free because of the tenacious rescue rehab work of one woman, named Silke.
78 poachers giving up their spears and snares for shovels to dig fish ponds, take up bee keeping and learn vegetable gardening. This is saving elephants, lions, hippos and in particular the endangered pangolin from being poached. All thanks to one determined man, named Moses.
Month after month protecting endangered rhino during the full moon cycle with his strategic drones and on the ground skills. All thanks to a veteran at anti-poaching, a man named Peter.
From her first tiny orphaned baboon to rescuing tall giraffe, injured zebra, surrendered servals, confiscated pangolin she runs an ever growing rescue rehabilitation center. And did I mention, this all started in her early twenties. Baye is our youngest Wildlife Hero.
Mitigating farmer elephant conflict with beehives and keeping the crops of an entire village protected and twenty plus elephants from being speared. To date 92 beehives with their resident bees do a marvelous job as peacemakers. All thanks to one visionary young man, named Moses.
To Summarize: We personally vet each project or Wildlife Hero before we invite you to assist. Does this mean everything always works out? Nope, in reality some times things go wrong. However, you can rest assured that every Wildlife Hero we invite you to support is doing the absolute best she/he can.
A huge elephant may be saved from an irate farmer’s spear. Or maybe a mischievous monkey gets a second chance at living free. A rhino may escape a poacher’s dart and live another day. Or a pangolin may be snatched from the poacher’s pot. All this, because you cared enough to give.
TWO: How do I know my funds actually go to help save wild animals?
What a great question. After all, you’re donating to save wild animals not to pay for someone’s salary (unless so specified, as in the case of Felix, a Ranger Scout protecting elephant in Malawi.) You also don’t want your gift going to pay for slick brochures or even promotional or thank you items. You know, like a mug. When Australia (where my sister lives) was on fire I made a personal donation to help the rescued Koala bears. I received a lovely bracelet. However, I got thinking… I would much rather have had my entire gift go to help pay for a poor burnt koala’s recovery!
Over the last eleven years I’ve received so many offers for T-shirts, fancy knives, carvings even a beautiful acoustic guitar. All these artisans where generous. Most were very good at what they produced. However, when someone makes a donation to Nikela I’ve always wanted 100% to go to help right there on the ground. Nikela is not about reward gifts but about helping people saving wildlife just because its the right thing to do!
“After several visits to Africa I understood that the best way to support nature conservation in Africa is via hands-on grass-root projects. Nikela is just doing that and they have also understood that the well being of local communities and wildlife habitats go hand in hand. I enjoy reading Nikela’s newsletters as they always focus on the positive even though they are facing huge challenges in the too rapidly changing environment.” ~ Pirjo I
When you, for example, donate to Lynn’s project (Lynn and her team protect the elephants and their home in Malawi) every penny goes to help. You give $50 and Lynn gets $50 (minus any bank or transfer fees she might have at her end.) We cover all the bank and admin fees on our side. Basically, that’s Russ and my personal contribution, along with paying for our travels.
To Summarize: We visit each project as often as we can. The ones in Southern Africa are a bit easier for us to reach regularly. Thankfully the internet allows us to stay in on-going communication with all of them. Our Wildlife Heroes provide photos, video clips and stories as to what’s happening. Moses in Uganda likes to call them “action reports.” We share these updates with you frequently so you can be part of the experience. We try to make it as real as possible for you.
THREE: How do I know if my contribution is making a difference?
You work hard for your money. You care and want to help. However, you also want to know your modest contribution can and does make a difference. After all, for some organizations $10 or even $50 isn’t a big deal. However, when it comes to our Wildlife Heroes, these modest amounts mean so much. With fuel costs on the rise, Peter says every dollar we send makes a difference to their ability to patrol and keep rhino protected.
No gift is to small to make a difference. Especially when 100% of it goes to help right there on the ground and not to overhead costs or non-essential stuff.
“I met Margrit and Russ at Ngorongoro in 2016. Learned what they did and became an instant supporter. Every penny goes directly to the conservationists in the field which is HUGE. I feel like I am making a big difference thanks to Nikela. Y’all are the best!” ~ Liz H.
Most of all, because we stay in close communication with our Wildlife Heroes we can keep you updated with videos and stories right there from the bush. Moses sends us updates on beehive maintenance, honey harvests and grateful reports from the farmers. Sorry, no interviews with elephants that have gone unharmed!
From Marnus we get amazing stories about his experience with truly wild lions. Along with his team of Lion Rangers Marnus tracks lions to protect them from poachers. Most of us will never get as close to lions as he does, however, through his stories we can feel his passion and our need to assist in their survival.
To Summarize: When you become a Champion and donate to the project/Wildlife Hero of your choosing you join Nikela’s Inner Circle. You get exclusive access to videos and stories, not only from the Wildlife Heroes, but also our travel adventures, including some of the wild places we experience.
So, you’re right. It does matter. It matters very much that you pick carefully who you donate to to save wild animals in Africa. We hope that your choice will be one of our Wildlife Heroes.
When you’re ready to get involved and join Liz, Pirjo and Emily in the Champions Circle…
It’s real easy.
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Nikela is a fundraising nonprofit on a mission to help people protecting nature, especially doing wildlife conservation.