Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) is a fundraising and grant-giving nature conservation charity. Established in 1993, it has channeled £23 million to 200 conservation leaders in 80 countries across the Global South, benefitting wildlife, landscapes, and people.

We offer long term, laddered support to courageous changemakers leading local solutions to the global biodiversity and climate crises; they are acting on the latest science and igniting projects with passion. Through these award winners we support work rooted in communities that creates lasting benefits for wildlife, landscapes and people.

Vision, mission and values


A future where communities and wildlife thrive together on a healthy planet.


To halt and reverse the loss of Earth’s biodiversity and wild places, working alongside local people to create a future where communities and wildlife thrive together on a healthy planet.

We will achieve our mission by:

  • Providing funding, recognition, and training to proven grassroots conservation leaders working across the Global South.
  • Supporting the long-term growth and scale up of impactful conservation solutions backed by science.
  • Raising the profile of conservationists’ work and their ability to effect positive environmental change.

WFN’s Values are to:

  1. Act with integrity
  2. Be science-driven
  3. Work collaboratively
  4. Be ambitious

We act with integrity in all we do, fostering a culture that is responsible, uplifting, transparent, inclusive and unified in achieving our mission while holding ourselves to the highest standards. We are accountable to the conservation leaders we champion and to the partners who support us.

We support evidence-based conservation work across the Global South that is informed by the latest science and founded on community involvement. We monitor and evaluate the impact of our activities, publish our results, and use them to drive our future actions.

We work collaboratively, actively seeking to partner and exchange learnings with others who share our vision. We foster collaboration among our international network of Whitley Award winning conservationists to enable the growth of proven conservation solutions and nurture their ability to effect positive change.

We are ambitious; a pioneer in the field of funding grassroots conservationists, we seek to continually move the dial for environmental protection. We actively listen and respond to the needs of our award winners and think outside the box to catalyze impact on the ground. We aim high, celebrate conservation success, and remain optimistic about our future and the difference we can all make.


WFN has channelled £23 million to over 200 conservation leaders across 80 countries. Read our 30 year impact report.



“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. We have found and funded extraordinary leaders, many of whom have become internationally recognised.”

Edward Whitley OBE, Founder

Highlights from the charity’s history include:


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 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 raises a record annual total of £1.9m.


WFN celebrates its 25th anniversary.


In response to increasingly urgent, interlinked environmental crises, WFN begins funding nature based solutions to climate change.


For the first time the charity awards over £1 million in Continuation Funding, supporting Whitley Award winners to scale up successful conservation solutions.


A match funding campaign, to mark the 2022 Whitley Awards, helps WFN reach a grant-giving milestone: over its 29 year history the charity has now awarded £20 million of support, to 200 conservationists across 80 countries.