In its first decade, WWF raised over US$5.6 million – an enormous sum in the 1960s.
Based on the best available science, this money was distributed as grants to support 356 conservation-related projects around the world – from wildlife surveys to anti-poaching efforts to education. Many of the animals and habitats supported by these early grants went on to become iconic conservation symbols, and continue to be a focus of WWF’s work. The popular fundraising appeals also, for the first time, brought conservation into the public arena.
While WWF remained focused on species and habitat preservation throughout the 1970s, its approach began to change.
Instead of providing more-or-less ad hoc support to individual projects, it began encouraging more comprehensive conservation efforts for entire biomes as well as species across their range.
As part of this, WWF stepped up its engagement with governments and international environmental treaties and started to tackle some of the drivers behind environmental threats.
By its 20th anniversary, WWF had supported protected areas on five continents covering 1% of the Earth’s surface and contributed to the continued existence of a number of species.
As impressive as this was, the organization realized that parks and crisis-led conservation efforts – while important – were not enough. Now with an expanded global presence and starting to run its own projects, WWF began more heavily promoting the ideas of its founders: that conservation was in the interest of people and needed to be integrated into, rather than viewed as in conflict with, development. These concepts laid the foundation for sustainable development, a philosophy that now permeates conservation, development, and even corporate strategies.
These issues were explicitly incorporated in WWF’s 1990 Mission Statement, and have framed the organization’s on-the-ground and policy work ever since. Continuing the move from country-based projects to a targeted and more unified approach, WWF developed a global conservation strategy that focused efforts on the world’s most critical ecoregions and in six key areas – species, forest, marine and freshwater conservation, climate change and toxic chemicals. In addition to its long-standing relationships with traditional conservation partners, WWF also began to more actively engage with business and other new partners to promote sustainable resource management.
The turn of the century saw WWF vastly upscale its ambition, aiming for transformational changes that lead to lasting conservation, sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles.
With twin goals of conserving biodiversity and reducing humanity's Ecological Footprint, the organization is drawing on the combined strength and expertise of its global network to create innovative partnerships that integrate on-the-ground conservation, high-level policy and advocacy, and strategic private sector engagement. These efforts are particularly focused on globally important areas and species, including vast areas like the Arctic and animals and plants important both for their habitats and for people, and tackling global challenges like climate change and bringing sustainability into global markets.