Nurturing for nature

Tracing its history to 1919, the Hamilton Naturalists’ club now oversees ten nature sanctuaries covering over 500 acres of protected habitat, mainly in the Hamilton area. In addition to managing those lands, the club focuses on research that informs their stewardship practices, and outreach to take environmental education to both adults and children.

With 14 years as a staff member and ten previous years as a volunteer, Jen Baker, the club’s land trust manager, has witnessed the club’s growth and evolution over the years. Notably, in 2000 the club received a substantial bequest. The board of directors “took this opportunity to assess the future of the organization,” she says. As a result, they established an agency endowment fund for the club with Hamilton Community Foundation. Two decades later, the fund is a boon, says Baker. Because of the way HCF manages its funds, the club can budget for a predictable revenue stream from the endowment. “Income from the endowment fund helps to cover the basic costs of maintaining the nature sanctuaries — things like taxes and garbage collection and other needs that donors don’t necessarily think of. That allows us to fundraise for the bigger, more exciting projects.”

The club’s focus on youth takes it into Hamilton classrooms and then brings the students out into the natural environment. For many children, it’s unknown territory. Income from the endowment fund, in addition to other grants, helps make sure there are no financial barriers to participation: the club pays for transportation and provides binoculars for the kids to use, for example, so there is no cost to families.

“I have nothing but good things to say about the relationship with Hamilton Community Foundation,” says Baker, who admits she is not a finance person. “The community foundation’s staff has been incredibly patient explaining the financial aspects of the fund: they even attended one of our board meetings. They are generous with their time and expertise, and we have real confidence in their management of our fund.”