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The Search for Funding - Strategies for Success

Contributed by Dr Peter S Wyse Jackson, Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Descanso House, 199 Kew Road, Richmond Surrey U.K. TW9 3BW


Botanic gardens need to plan carefully if their fund-raising efforts are to be successful. The search for funding is not an easy task; it requires determination, persistence, imagination and good humour. Botanic gardens need to decide what they want to achieve in the short, medium and long term and develop a clear strategy for fund-raising (Wyse Jackson 1998). There are several key steps that those responsible for fund-raising should follow:

  • check the fund-raising strategy with others;
  • assess the strategy and ensure that it is realistic;
  • document the strategy; and
  • decide on the level of support being sought i.e. if you are looking for general support or special project support (remember general support comes from governing bodies i.e. government, local government, endorsements etc.).

Revenue Sources

Self Generated Income

Botanic gardens can generate income from various sources:

  • admissions
  • sales of plants and income from shop
  • special consultancies (e.g. landscaping contracts)
  • supplying a line of tropical plants for offices
  • fees for courses, educational services
  • special events
  • fees from photo shoots, weddings
  • friends' membership, subscriptions
  • supplying facilities.

Unrestricted Income (not regular revenue)

Unrestricted income can be obtained from sponsors and donors. This type of funding can be hard to source but it is extremely beneficial to have, several examples include:

  • wills
  • annual or regular - solicited donations campaigns
  • corporate membership schemes
  • benefits in kind:
    legal advice
    volunteer services (cost it out)
    accountancy services
    marketing expertise
    use of equipment
    food and drink.

Special Events

Botanic gardens can play host to special events such as gala dinners, exhibitions, auctions and concerts.

Support Groups

There is the potential for support groups to make a significant contribution to the botanic garden budget through fund-raising and using their contacts. Consider if there is the potential for your botanic garden to have a sub committee with a special remit of raising money. Also consider getting people involved such as Trustees, Friends and Volunteers and building up a portfolio of donors; make sure you keep them informed.

Project Funding

Projects are an ideal way to get new activities funded. Grants can be obtained from individuals, foundations, government, commercial organisations etc. Consider the following:

• you can package ongoing activities as projects if they have a clear beginning, middle and end;
• create a mini business plan for your project and include it in the project proposal; and
• who will fund your project?

Strategies for Revenue Generation

There are several strategies for revenue generation:

  • create visitor attractions in your garden to enhance revenue sources;
  • consider what visitors enjoy most and like best e.g.
    floral displays
    natural features
    spectacular glasshouse
    giant tree
    spectacular shop
    exhibitions; and
  • know your strengths and market them.


Planning is an important part of fund-raising. A strategic approach is very important and botanic gardens should develop an institutional strategic plan that is linked to a business plan. This plan needs to clearly outline:

  • priorities for the future
  • the targets that you hope to achieve
  • how much it will cost
  • how it will be paid for.

Fundraising Database

Setting up a computer database can be a very effective way of managing fund-raising information. The data recorded might include names and addresses of actual and potential donors, information on applications made and the result and solicitations.

The database can also be used for developing mailing lists, special appeals, membership management and sending invitations to events.

How to Find a Donor

Many donors are willing to support projects that have a clear beginning and end, rather than supporting the ongoing general operation of the botanic garden.

National foundations give international support and can be located through:

  • lists - national
  • credits in other reports
  • the Internet
  • asking colleagues and partnership organisations.

Governmental sectors also support projects and many opportunities of support from governmental ministries such as:

  • agriculture
  • overseas aid and development
  • education
  • science and technology
  • environment.

International Aid Agencies Providing Support to Developing Countries

Bilateral aid agencies

  • Department for International Development (DFID)
  • US AID
  • Swiss Aid
  • Davida (Danish)
  • Irish Aid, etc.

Multi-lateral aid agencies

  • United Nations Agencies e.g. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
  • European Union
  • Global Environment Fund (GEF).


There are also a range of other international organisations that support conservation work:

  • World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) - National bodies and WWF International
  • MacArthur Foundation, etc.


Many corporations and commercial concerns have a policy to give funds to community projects. The first step is to compile a list of major commercial companies in your region and undertake research to see if they will donate to good causes. Following this, find the names of key people; a personal contact is the best way to build a relationship with a company.

Many donors provide forms for applicants to complete. Good project proposals:

  1. are clear, well presented and concise;
  2. use limited jargon (include technical aspects in appendices);
  3. are interesting and innovative (what makes it special?);
  4. are well argued;
  5. consider what the project will achieve, as opposed to what they will do;
  6. include letters of support and collaborations;
  7. meet the support categories e.g. registered charity;
  8. benefit the sponsor/donor;
  9. include an exit strategy;
  10. include the institutions track record;
  11. include the projects officer’s curriculum vitae's, a brief background, appendices;
  12. include a transparent budget.

Well prepared Project Officers:

  1. submit proposals that are based on discussions about what the donor and recipient are interested in;
  2. follow guidelines and do their research and consult information available e.g. the worldwide web;
  3. meet reporting requirements;
  4. try to arrange meetings before preparing the submission;
  5. talk to others who have received support for guidance;
  6. are flexible and creative;
  7. are professional in approach - on time, deadlines, dress, conduct, make friends;
  8. keep donors informed but do not bombard them;
  9. consider the position of the donors;
  10. prepare a convincing project;
  11. consider whether they would support the project if someone was coming to them for support.


Wyse Jackson, P.S. (1998) Funding in Leadlay, E. and Greene, J. (eds) The Darwin Technical Manual for Botanic Gardens. Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Richmond Surrey U.K. pp128-135.


Olin, P. (1995) Funding Botanic Gardens and Arboreta in the 21st century. BGCNews Volume 2 (5) Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Richmond Surrey U.K. pp46-49.