The Whitley Awards were established by Edward Whitley OBE in 1993, with the first award of £15,000 given in 1994. New donors soon joined him, and thanks to the support of these amazing donors, The Whitley Fund for Nature has grown to become an established charity, offering funding and support to the most effective grassroots conservationists around the world.

“I set up the Whitley Awards in 1993, with a determination to send funds directly to the local leaders who are best placed to bring about long lasting and effective nature conservation.  We seek to cut out the high overheads of conservation charities in the West, and to sidestep the process of parachuting well-meaning outsiders into other countries to ‘solve’ their problems for them.


“In 2018 we celebrate our 25th Anniversary.  Over that period we have funded almost 200 conservationists, 132 of them full Whitley Award winners, working across some 80 countries where the need for conservation is most urgent.  We have found and funded extraordinary leaders, many of whom have become internationally recognised. Excitingly, we have been able to continue to fund our Award winners by offering Continuation Funding which spreads over many years.”

Edward Whitley, Founder

Some highlights in the history of WFN:


The first Whitley Award, worth £15,000, is awarded to marine conservationist, Amanda Vincent.


The Rufford Foundation joins the Whitley Awards programme, sponsoring two major awards.


The Rufford Foundation and Whitley Awards Scheme together establish the Rufford Small Grants to provide upcoming conservationists with the opportunity to pursue smaller scale nature conservation projects. In April, HRH The Princess Royal becomes patron of the Whitley Awards Scheme.


The Whitley Laing Foundation is created as a stand-alone charity and sets about the task of raising further funds for distribution.


The Whitley Award for People and Environment is introduced following support from WWF-UK.


The Whitley Laing Foundation has grown in size and is able to offer significantly increased levels of Continuation Funding. The first ever Friends Award is awarded following generous support from individuals.


The Whitley Laing Foundation gives away an annual total of more than £1 million in Awards and Grants for the first time.


The charity becomes the Whitley Fund for Nature. Sir David Attenborough becomes a Trustee.


The total funding awarded by WFN since 1994 passes £6 million, supporting the work of over 120 conservationists in 70 countries.


WFN celebrates 10 years of partnership with WWF-UK.


The amount raised by WFN since 1994 passes £10 million.


The Whitley Fund for Nature raised a record annual total of £1.9m.


WFN celebrates its 25th anniversary.