Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

They like you, they really like you....

Folks at The Nature Conservancy should be feeling pretty good about themselves. A nationwide Harris Poll found TNC to be the most trusted among 13 national large non-profits. That's great news for an organization that's been rocked by investigations in recent years over controversial easement practices. Looking at the results, it's clear that most people still view TNC, and I think land trusts in general, as a non-controversial organization.
According to the poll, of those who are familiar with it, 27% of respondants trust TNC a "great deal" with 52% marking "fair amount" for a combined "trust" rating of 79%. Only 16% said "not very much" and 4 % were at "not at all".
The AARP finished second on the trust rankings, the Sierra Club came in fifth with 59% trust. Greenpeace came in with a somewhat surprising 56% trust. I say surprising because the more controversial the organization, the lower its scores tended to be. The NRA and AFL-CIO came in at the bottom.
Part of the reason for the high TNC score may be a lack of familiarity. Only 47% of respondants said they were familiar with it. The groups with the highest negatives also had the highest level of familiarity. 90% of those polled knew what the NRA was, 81% know Greenpeace.
An interesting breakdown shows that Democrats & Independents trust TNC the most... at 85% & 80%. Republicans lagged behind at 68%. (Republicans liked the Chamber of Commerce & the Business Roundtable the most).
So the poll indicates both good things, and work for TNC, (as well as the Sierra Club).
The good news is that the recent Senate investigations and newspaper series haven't shaken the trust of people who know what TNC does, but only a bare majority of Americans are even familiar with the organization. So while there is work to be done, so far, so good.


Anonymous Tim Abbott said...

For all its size and resources, TNC has long had very low public recognition. For most of its over 50 year history, it was content to be "the quiet conservation organization." It went about raising money and Saving The Last Great Places and this resonated with its membership.

About five years ago, TNC commissioned a survey that found only 3% of respondents were familar with the organization, which is practicaly the same result as the 4% cited in the Harris Poll. At the same time, there were many more respondents in TNC's survey who indicated that they cared about TNC's bread and butter issues.

As a result, TNC embarked on a brand marketting campaign (remember those Paul Newman spots?, updated its logo, and started an aggressive, major gifts cultivation effort. This fundraising strategy raised unprecedented levels of major gifts but at the expense of de-emphasizing TNC's overall membership, which regrettably dropped by more than 200,000 over the next few years. To its credit, TNC learned from that mistake and is now making deeper investments in serving and growing its membership at all levels.

Science-based, solution-oriented and non-confrontational methods probably explain why those who know TNC generally think favorably about the organization. As John Sawhill was fond of saying; "Reputation is everything."

9:38 AM  
Anonymous Tim Abbott said...

Ah, I see I missed a rather important decimal place when I first commented on the Harris Poll. %47 recognition is a huge improvement over 3% in the old TNC poll.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Pat Burns said...

I wondered about that...
Improving from barely any recognition to half the country in 5 years is a very impressive public relations feat.

12:25 PM  

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