Bruce Trail Conservancy:
People-powered approach eliminates reliance on government and foundation funding

Named the top environmental charity in Canada by Maclean’s in 2020, the Bruce Trail Conservancy (BTC) protects and stewards land along southern Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment. The 900-kilometre trail system it has created provides public access to the unique biosphere, building an appreciation for nature.

Initiated in 1960, the organization has always leaned on volunteers to achieve its mission. Today, more than 1,500 supporters do everything from painting trail markers to organizing hikes to maintaining landowner relations. To maximize its capacity, BTC leverages a “snowflake” organizing model, giving plenty of autonomy to the nine Bruce Trail Clubs along the route of the trail.

Strong relationships with its members are key to BTC’s success. A well-designed orientation package effectively orients and mobilizes new volunteers. Touchpoints like badges, a quarterly magazine, special events and an online community help build connections. Meanwhile, BTC’s donor recognition program recognizes 15 levels of cumulative contributions, from under $200 all the way to $10 million+.

BTC now boasts more than 10,000 supporters and $3 million+ donations each year. As a result, the organization doesn’t rely on funding from foundations or government to achieve its vision of preserving this spectacular ribbon of wilderness.