ATCF Board Member Conflict of Interest Policy Update

By Josie Norris

Our first guest blogger is ATCF board member Josie Norris. Josie is the communications and grant program manager at The Conservation Alliance a non-profit organization founded in 1989 based in Bend, Oregon that works to protect wild places throughout North America. Since its inception, the Alliance has contributed more than $20 million to grassroots conservation groups with a membership base of more than 235 member organizations.

Hello ATCF Community,

During our first two years as an organization, the Adventure Travel Conservation Fund awarded a total of $235,000 in grant funding to ten projects around the world. Our third grant cycle is underway, and we are on track to award $80,000 in 2019. Every organization seeking a grant from the ATCF must go through a rigorous application process. I’m writing today to provide background about our grant program, and clarify our policies around board member involvement. 

The ATCF is based on the same model that The Conservation Alliance has been using for 30 years. The Conservation Alliance engages businesses to protect wild places in North America. The ATCF adapted The Conservation Alliance’s unique grant-making process to fit the adventure travel industry’s needs and ATCF’s mission to fund projects all over the world.   

Through this process we learned about one big difference between The Conservation Alliance and ATCF. All Conservation Alliance member companies benefit from the creation of new protected areas where outdoor industry customers recreate, and no single business benefits more than another when a wild place is protected.  “All boats rise with the tide.” To that end, Conservation Alliance board member conflicts of interest are essentially non-existent. 

In contrast, ATCF projects are often in remote locations and some adventure travel companies will benefit more than others when a project is funded. To prevent ATCF board member conflicts of interest and the perception of conflicts, we have expanded our Conflict of Interest policy. These changes are specific to ATCF board member involvement in our grant program in three specific areas:  project nominations; the selection of projects that will be placed on the 2019 ballot; and voting. 

Nominating Projects

All member companies are encouraged to nominate two outstanding projects to apply for funding in each grant cycle. This benefit of membership applies to all member companies, including companies represented on our Board. ATCF attracts board members who are passionate about ATCF’s mission, engaged in global conservation initiatives, and knowledgeable about potential candidates for ATCF’s grants. Without board member participation in the nomination process, qualified and worthy projects may be overlooked. Along with regular members, board members  may nominate projects during the grant nominations period, provided that they fully disclose on the nomination form a) any interest that they or an affiliated party has in the project, and 2) any actual or potential conflict.

Ballot Discussion

During Board discussions regarding nominated projects, the nominating Board member may not participate in any Board discussions or votes regarding any project the Board member nominated. The nominating Board member shall recuse himself or herself from any discussion or vote. The Board may ask a nominating Board member for additional information about a project, just as it may reach out to a non-Board member with additional questions.

Ballot  

All projects on the ballot will clearly state connections to board member companies. This includes financial benefit, benefit to the local communities in which they operate, benefit to the cultural assets and historic site they rely on, etc. This information will be clearly stated on the ballot to ensure all ATCF members understand the connection to our Board member companies when voting for the projects they would like to fund.

Voting 

ATCF board members are prohibited from voting for a project that benefits their own companies if such projects are placed on the ballot. The decision to fund board member projects is based entirely on voting by ATCF’s membership.

For further information, please read through ATCF’s BOD Conflict of Interest statement and feel free to send any questions our way.  We look forward to another great grant cycle! If you are a member, don’t forget to vote!