Top 7 UK Rewilding Charities
Where does your money go?
If you’re looking for an ethical Christmas gift or thinking about leaving a legacy to a UK rewilding charity, it can be tricky to know which is the best choice.
To make your life simpler, we’ve independently assembled the facts and figures that show what these charities do and how they spend their money. Every organisation listed below is officially registered, so you can rest assured that they’re monitored by national charity regulators.
Kent Wildlife Trust
- Established 21 July 1959
- 5% of budget spent on fundraising
- 80 paid employees
Focus: Rewilding Land
It might seem odd to pick out a specific Wildlife Trust when there are so many across the UK. However, Kent are leading the way with rewilding – their Wilder Blean project will see European Bison released back into the wild for the first time in this country. This massive initiative is changing the conversation around rewilding and bringing in a young audience of enthusiasts. You can donate specifically to this project – the link below will take you to the relevant page.
Bison are ecosystem engineers, which are expected to change the structure of the plantation at Blean and bring back a mosaic habitat, benefiting many other species. You need only look 2 counties over to Knepp in West Sussex, to see the benefits this mosaic woodland can have for biodiversity.
Like several of the other charities on this list, Kent Wildlife Trust saw a surge in income in 2019/20 and 2020/21, though their large base of existing supporters meant this change was about a 50% increase, rather than the doubling seen elsewhere.
Running a joint initiative at Maple Farm in collaboration with registered charity, Charity Buddy:
- Charity Buddy established in April 2020
- Organisation owns a 30 acre rewilding project
- Volunteer-led organisations
Focus: Rewilding Land, Community Engagement
Charity Buddy and Young Wilders are doing a remarkable thing – despite a fundraising total an order of magnitude lower than their competitors, they are one of the first actively-rewilding charities or non-profits in the UK.
Their 30 acre project at Maple Farm is worked on by volunteers, helping to keep their costs down, and they haven’t focused on gimmicks like selling sponsored squares. Instead, they’ve just rolled up their sleeves and gotten down to work, planting hedgerows and trees on this degraded pasture.
Their work is supported on Patreon by a number of small-sum donors, but they really deserve more support, given how much they have achieved, with so little funding. They’re adept at social media, which has helped them to build a cult following online, so it’s possible that we’re looking at the start of something much bigger here.
- Established 17 February 2020
- 5% of budget spent on fundraising in 2021/22
- Bought first site in January 2023
Focus: Raising Funds to Rewild Land
When they first launched, Heal’s marketing hook was ‘sponsor a 3x3m square of land for rewilding’. It’s a nice and simple message which got them a burst of press attention, and catapulted them into the top tier of rewilding search results.
Though they were a newcomer to the scene, the charity have since persuaded both Direct Line and Triodos Bank to lend them most of the £5.25M cost of their first site in Somerset. This was bought in January 2023, with some help from an undisclosed ‘6 figure’ sum of donations that had been accrued since the charity was founded.
Now that the land has been purchased – a farm with some buildings and degraded fields of low agricultural value (good practice for rewilding), the charity needs to fundraise to pay back the loans. The site will function not only as a rewilding project, but also as another useful example of rewilding a farm. The hope is that a second site will come eventually in the North of England.
We have previously examined the finances of Heal Rewilding, as, after two years of fundraising, their annual reports stated that just £92K of £373K raised to that date had been allocated towards the ‘land fund’. However, Heal reached out to explain that this figure only comprised funds specifically allocated towards land purchase (i.e. ‘restricted funds’), and other money raised may also be used for land purchase, maintenance etc.
The charity also operates events, including coordinating with other organisations like Knepp on initatives that increase youth involvement in rewilding, and community outreach.
Trees for Life
- Established 18 March 1993
- 21% of budget spent on fundraising
- Employee info not available due to Scottish system
Focus: Rewilding Land, Funding Projects
One of the oldest charities in this list, Trees for Life have been working on rewilding since the early 1990s when they started practical work to protect existing pinewood in Glen Affric, Scotland, alongside planting and non-native tree removal to expand native woodland cover. Their nursery grows trees, mainly from seed found on site, to re-establish a diverse forest habitat in the Highlands. They are also working to reduce grazing pressure so that natural forest regeneration can occur.
Trees for Life are also funding a collection of other rewilding activities, including a study to determine if it’s possible to reintroduce the Lynx in Scotland, a training programme for people to learn rewilding skills and a red squirrel reintroduction scheme, as well as providing delivery and leadership on these projects.
The charity saw a surge in income in 2019/20 and 2020/21 which led to them being overfunded, but they have wisely invested this money in a new rewilding centre. This will help to promote their activities and provide an ecotourism beacon, boosting the local community and economy. Their ambitious Affric Highlands initiative (in partnership with Rewilding Europe) is also bringing together the community and businesses to restore local habitats across large areas of the central Highlands.
- Established 26 Nov 2014
- 9% of budget spent on fundraising
- 6 paid employees
Focus: Political Impact, Public Education, Building Network
While they’re the biggest dedicated rewilding charity in the UK by income (£765K last year), the fortunes of Rewilding Britain have varied in the past few years. This is largely due to their position at the top and connection to founder George Monbiot, which has made them into a lightning rod for anti-rewilding sentiment. However, this organisation has done more than most to make people in the UK aware of rewilding.
This charity is largely focused on bringing the rewilding message to a wider audience, with their work focused on outreach and lobbying. They’ve done well to get rewilding onto the government’s agenda, and the post-Brexit farming landscape may be changing in large part due to their work, with the fantastic ELMS scheme a testament to their impressive lobbying efforts. Rewilding Britain also connect enthusiasts in a network that allows people to share knowledge and news on a national level.
This charity’s income spiked in 2019/20 to nearly double the previous year, dropping back in 2020/21, though they’re still seeing substantial donations. They’re trialling an Incubator Fund that will allow new projects to get off the ground, just like Rewilding Europe, which marks a slight shift away from education and political work.
- Established 28 June 2011
- 9% of budget spent on information/awareness
- Employee info not available due to Dutch system
Focus: Rewilding Land, Funding Projects & Captive Breeding
The largest dedicated rewilding charity in Europe, this organisation has projects across 9 different regions, including one in the Scottish Highlands. Their clever system allows them not only to buy up land in partnership with other organisations, but also influence the management of land owned by other people.
Once they’ve identified an area of interest, Rewilding Europe can buy land, fund local rewilding initiatives with their in-house bank or provide expertise and, crucially, livestock for landowners. This livestock includes valuable and rare colonies of European Bison and Taurus cattle, which they breed and lend out for conservation work.
This is the wealthiest dedicated rewilding charity in Europe, earning €5,406.918 in 2020. They’re also politically influential in the region, with 5% of their budget going to lobbying work in the same year. However, most of their funding comes from non-profit organisations and lotteries, with only 5% from private donors.
- Established 22 October 2020
- No further details due to recent registration
Focus: Rewilding Land, Building Network
The Somerset Levels have been extensively drained and used for peat extraction over the past few centuries. Prior to this, the land was largely marshy, at or below sea level. Somerset Wildlands was created to try and restore some of this habitat, which is often very cheaply priced relative to land elsewhere in the South of England.
The charity is relatively new, but has attracted some media attention already and the team behind it has relevant experience. The founder owns 20 acres of land at Godney Marshes which he has dedicated to rewilding since 2016. In late 2022, the team identified a large new site and is currently fundraising to support its purchase.
This charity has two main functions – the first is to buy up land for rewilding and the second to form a network of landowners in the region to help advise and motivate them with rewilding projects.
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