Case Study - The Nature Conservancy

Client Situation.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is one of the best-known conservation management organizations in the world. Its key strength is stewardship and management of "natural" lands. At the time of Lighthouse's engagement with TNC, the organization was also under new leadership and undergoing a major strategic overhaul to reassess its past and future approach to its mission. The immediate challenge: a large, unique piece of property had been proposed for donation to TNC Georgia. Though the bulk of the gift was pristine land, 70 buildings came with it. The buildings and the inability of TNC or any other steward to simply remove them due to their history, presented a unique challenge.

Challenges.

  1. A comprehensive strategy and business plan had to be developed to demonstrate the use and stewardship TNC planned for the property, and make the financial case for an endowment request from the donor.

  2. There was mixed support for TNC as owner and steward of the property, locally and regionally.

  3. Multiple parties and perspectives had to be appeased or considered in developing an acceptable plan, including: local residents near the property, other conservation groups in the area (competitors), TNC's corporate goals and mandates, the capacity and goals of the Georgia chapter, historic preservationists, existing staff, and even differing opinions among the donors themselves.

  4. Though past proposals had been made for the property, no detailed cost, use plan, or other data existed that supported the current use proposal by TNC.

  5. No effort had yet been made to engage the various constituents affected to gauge their opinions, fears, support or opposition to any plan that would be put forth.

  6. A short timeline had been imposed and resources were limited.

Lighthouse Role.

Working in partnership with the client and a conservation-consulting group, Lighthouse led a comprehensive strategy and planning process. The goals were to not only deliver a strategy and supporting plan that served as a guide to TNC in making its case to the donor, but also provide a vision and flexible road map to TNC's management of the property. The process included the following:

  1. Full market assessment evaluating: competitive organizations; local constituents and communities impacting or impacted by activities on the property; decision makers across TNC; the Georgia Chapter and its Board.

  2. Full historic assessment of the property and its buildings.

  3. Complete cost analysis of alternatives for each of 70 buildings: demolition, stabilization, and renovation.

  4. Strategic assessment of alternatives and recommendation for the property overall and its components.

  5. Exploration/recommendation of partnering alternatives, including those that could share costs, provide revenues.

Successes.

  1. A comprehensive plan was delivered to TNC Georgia and presented to both TNC Corporate and the donor. The plan established recommendations for use of the land and the buildings and a comprehensive cost assessment and endowment request. It also built a unique and flexible framework for ongoing discussions.

  2. A staged recommendation also accompanied the proposal that gave TNC the opportunity to manage the property on an interim basis until negotiations over the actual gifting of the property could be concluded. This advice proved critical and creative, allowing TNC to establish an anchor role in management of the property while giving the donor and other concerned parties a chance to see TNC in action.

  3. The recommendations, including the endowment proposal and use of the buildings, have repeatedly proven accurate and valuable since delivery of the plan in 2001.

  4. Discussions actively continue as to the endowment portion of the gift, even in a difficult charitable and philanthropic period. This is in no small part due to the clarity of vision, direction and detail provided by the plan.

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