Nanaimo land trust facing another financial crisis

Organization launching Project NALT, Part II

Amidst all the excitement and buildup to the recent Nanaimo River Symposium, Gail Adrienne was forced to stifle a serious and nagging concern about her organization’s financial well-being.

While the symposium itself was successful and productive, the Nanaimo and Area Land Trust, which put the event together with provincial funding and private sponsorships, is staggering under the weight of another monetary crisis.

“We’ve been in this situation for a month or more and we knew it was coming, but we just needed to get through the symposium,” Adrienne said Tuesday, adding the NALT board scheduled a special meeting after press time Wednesday to discuss strategies for getting through the hard times.

“Unfortunately, we’ve hit the wall.”

Some steps to deal with the crisis have already taken place, including indefinite layoffs for two of the four staff who run NALT’s programs, one full-time and one part-time – executive assistant Paul Chapman and Susan Fisher, manager of the Native Plant Nursery.  Both continue to do some work on a volunteer basis.

As a result, the nursery is closed indefinitely and the NALT Stewardship Centre has reduced its hours.

“It’s really bare bones right now,” Adrienne said.

NALT is also launching a second round of Project NALT, which helped boost membership from less than 200 to more than 300 in the spring of 2010 and also increased the number of members who donate monthly from 34 to 100, bringing in more than $21,000 annually.

“We’re ramping up to really push it through October and November,” Adrienne said. “It’s frustrating, how many times can you call wolf.”

The goal of Project NALT, Part II is to increase monthly donors from 100 to more than 400, averaging $10 a month “so we’re not having to cry wolf again every year, year-and-a-half.”

The group is also working with marketing specialist with Young Professionals of Nanaimo to develop a long-term fundraising plan to move toward more sustainable and stable funding.

NALT was stung when the government cut back on gaming grant funding for non-profit community organizations, Adrienne said, adding that while some funding was reinstated, environmental groups were left off the list.

The recession also hurt in other ways. While NALT has relied on small sums raised through regular bottle drives, it found itself in greater competition with other drives once the economic troubles hit.

“It’s really been death by 1,000 cuts,” she said. “It’s not really a death, it’s injury, but it’s definitely been a whole lot of things.”

Dean Gaudry, NALT co-chairman, said despite the tough economic climate, the goals are achievable.

“It’s doable,” he said. “We have to devote a huge amount of phone time to it.”

And despite the challenges, Gaudry said there’s no chance NALT will cease to exist.

“If there’s one thing you could say about NALT it is we are determined to be fiscally responsible,” he said. “We will operate within our means and at the moment, that just means a reduced capacity. The risk of NALT disappearing is virtually non-existent.”