Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

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Recognized as a top National Climate Change nonprofit in the following years:
Medal-big-2009
Medal-big-2012
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Natural-resources-defense-council-nrdc
Headquarters Location: New York, NY 
Founded: 1970


Mission: The Natural Resources Defense Council's purpose is to safeguard the Earth: its people, its plants and animals and the natural systems on which all life depends.
We work to restore the integrity of the elements that sustain life -- air, land and water -- and to defend endangered natural places.
We seek to establish sustainability and good stewardship of the Earth as central ethical imperatives of human society. NRDC affirms the integral place of human beings in the environment.
We strive to protect nature in ways that advance the long-term welfare of present and future generations.
We work to foster the fundamental right of all people to have a voice in decisions that affect their environment. We seek to break down the pattern of disproportionate environmental burdens borne by people of color and others who face social or economic inequities. Ultimately, NRDC strives to help create a new way of life for humankind, one that can be sustained indefinitely without fouling or depleting the resources that support all life on Earth.

Watch Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)'s video at the Giving Library

Tags: 2012, national, climate change, policy, litigation, direct action, aternative energy, conservation


Natural-resources-defense-council-nrdc
Story: NRDC was central to the national response to the Gulf catastrophe. NRDC was the first organization to urge President Obama to appoint a national commission to study the Gulf disaster; Obama created the panel and appointed NRDC President Frances Beinecke… Read the full story.

Expert Reviews: Evidence of Impact
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an influential player in the climate change sector. Their excellent track record and ability to bring stakeholders together have helped them build a strong, trusted voice with policymakers and the general public. The organization has advocated for climate adaptation changes at all levels of government and across sectors. They have been successful at forcing the Environmental Protection Agency to set new greenhouse gas emission standards, helping to pass precedent setting legislation in California, tackling climate risks associated with utilities, and much more. They do this work through research, public outreach and education, litigation, and advocacy. Experts consider them to be one of the top-most influential nonprofits in the climate change arena.
See the complete expert review.

Leadership
Natural-resources-defense-council-nrdc Frances  Beinecke. Frances Beinecke is the president of NRDC. Under Frances's leadership, the organization has launched a new strategic campaign that sharply focuses NRDC’s efforts on establishing a clean energy future that curbs climate change, reviving the world's oceans, defending endangered wildlife and wild places, protecting our health by preventing pollution, fostering sustainable communities, and ensuring safe and sufficient water.

Frances has… See full bio.


Transparency Information
Silver-big
This organization has earned the GuideStar Participation Level Silver, demonstrating its commitment to transparency (learn more)


Financial Data
Charity Navigator Rating: 4stars (profile)
Total Revenue:
$97,057,964


From the Nonprofit
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Contact Info
E-Mail:
nrdcinfo AT nrdc.org
Phone:
(212) 727-2700
Facebook:
Follow_fb
Address:
40 West 20th Street
 
New York, NY  10011 , USA
Twitter:
Follow_twitter


Natural-resources-defense-council-nrdc Story: NRDC was central to the national response to the Gulf catastrophe. NRDC was the first organization to urge President Obama to appoint a national commission to study the Gulf disaster; Obama created the panel and appointed NRDC President Frances Beinecke to serve as one of seven commissioners. NRDC Executive Director Peter Lehner wrote the first book on the Gulf oil spill to diagnose why the blowout occurred and what we can learn from it. Our top experts brought decades of collective experience to ensure a well-coordinated and effective response. Whether it was filing suit over the misuse of sonic exploration in the Gulf or working closely with government agencies to strengthen seafood risk assessments and provide real-time information to local communities on potential health effects of the spill or making sure that local voices were heard in nation press by establishing a flagship Gulf Resource center, NRDC led the response from the Mississippi Delta to Capitol Hill.

Expert Reviews of Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

Evidence of Impact Summary:

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an influential player in the climate change sector. Their excellent track record and ability to bring stakeholders together have helped them build a strong, trusted voice with policymakers and the general public. The organization has advocated for climate adaptation changes at all levels of government and across sectors. They have been successful at forcing the Environmental Protection Agency to set new greenhouse gas emission standards, helping to pass precedent setting legislation in California, tackling climate risks associated with utilities, and much more. They do this work through research, public outreach and education, litigation, and advocacy. Experts consider them to be one of the top-most influential nonprofits in the climate change arena.
See expert comments.

Organization Strengths Summary:

A major asset for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is the staff. NRDC boasts a very large staff that is filled with expert-level talent. Collectively, their expertise runs across many areas from legal to scientific, allowing them to develop strategies that consider multiple perspectives. NRDC is known to have excellent legal abilities in terms of staff and strategy. Their advocacy strategy as a whole, legal work included, is thoughtful and strong. They also have developed strong communications and marketing to aid in their public education work. These assets have combined to help NRDC grow into a strong and trusted organization. The level of influence that comes with that reputation is an additional asset.
See expert comments.

Areas for Improvement Summary:

Experts have varied suggestions on how the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) could improve its strategy. Recommendations include increasing their focus on international climate change work, shifting to a strategy that allows for more incremental progress, and increasing their state-level efforts. The organization‘s current approach to grassroots organizing is not at its best, but experts differ in opinion on whether the organization should go deeper on this path or abandon the strategy. Increasing their collaboration with other organizations will help achieve many goals, and may be one way to improve on their organizing work. NRDC could improve on internal and external communications to help the organization run more effectively. NRDC currently lacks in their attention to diversity and equity; it shows in composition of the staff and in their politics. This organization has shown some resistance to new approaches, which could hinder their progress.
See expert comments.

Expert Comments: Evidence of Impact

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Foundation Professionals (F)
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Researchers and Faculty (R)
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Nonprofit Senior Staff (N)
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Other (consultants, journalists, policy makers) (O)

Influential Voice

N
NRDC is widely respected as a key and trusted source of good information on the issue of climate change. This information is influential with members of Congress, the press, and others. NRDC, by virtue of its size and expertise, is a large presence within the environmental advocacy community. They often dominate conversations and processes. NRDC has done a very good job using its connections to Hollywood and entertainment sectors, as well as the green tech community, to leverage their participation in the political process.
N
NRDC is one of the top 5 or 6 NGOs making a difference on national climate policy. They have earned respect in many circles in Washington, and their analytical work is very detailed and well researched.
N
The organization had broad coverage of environmental issues, a powerful lobbying arm, and excellent ideas.
N
They are the most influential national group working on climate and clean energy.

Advocacy at All Levels

R
NRDC is one of the very most knowledgeable on environmental legislation, especially on climate change and biodiversity. They are also among the best qualified to go to court seeking fulfillment of enacted legislation, etc. With so many attempts to sneak past the commitments that the nation has enacted into law, it is vital to have an organization out there fighting to make sure the laws are strong and enforced.
N
NRDC played an important role in passing and shaping California's groundbreaking AB32 law.
N
They have been working on specific campaigns, such as energy efficiency, that are starting to make a difference in reducing U.S. electrical consumption. For example, their research and education on the "vampire loads" of TV sets and other "instant on" appliances has led to new national standards being set for energy efficiency in home appliances.
N
They have helped to ensure solid progress in multiple forums on a range of climate policies and other measures that will reduce emissions which cause global warming. These include state energy efficiency policies (particularly utility programs), state and regional limits on greenhouse gases, plus international work.
F
NRDC has been especially effective in their efforts to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings. They have worked to create demand for efficiency through energy-aligned leases and other strategies. They've also worked to promote appropriate financing mechanisms; and to ensure that appliances, equipment, and electronics are as efficient as possible through their Center for Energy Efficiency Standards .
N
Their impact can be seen in progress on climate and energy policy. For example, they helped to ensure the passage of a Senate climate bill and new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards.
N
They helped craft key legislation that made progress in Congress. They have a highly respected staff.
N
Their impact is in their work on federal greenhouse gas regulations. They offer a decent fact-based position on issues.
N
They are strong advocates on clean air, efficient transportation, and climate.
N
NRDC is fundamental in shaping and reforming the climate policy within the U.S., particularly in the energy sector, and has been pivotal in informing decisions by the EPA.
N
Their impact can be seen in the legislative language and concepts raised and passed, legal proceedings won or settled, and their access to policy makers at the highest level.
R
NRDC has done great work at the national level of securing regulatory changes that will lead to long-term emissions reductions. Its focus on the Clean Air Act's regulations has resulted in securing meaningful regulatory changes that will lead to the closure of several grandfathered plants that should have shut down decades ago. Moreover, by focusing on more than just greenhouse gases, it has done a great job of advocating about issues that do not face the same scrutiny by climate deniers. Finally, some of the regional offices, especially the office in LA, have done excellent transportation work.
F
NRDC is a key player in the climate change arena. They have strong policy, research and litigation skills, and they work at the national and state level.
N
Their impact can be seen in their broad engagement with policy and industry.
O
They are active and effective at all levels of advocacy for policies and legislation.
F
They were key contributors to the EPA air quality rules responsible for shutting down dirty coal plants.
N
They are a good lobbying organization. They do their research and then influence congress.

Thoughtful Approach

N
NRDC does well-grounded research, advocates well-reasoned positions in numerous relevant forums, and generally speaks with a loud and credible voice on climate issues.
O
NRDC follows and participates in U.S. and International policy making. Their positions and suggestions are well-grounded in science, thoughtful, and presented persuasively.

Broad Outreach & Collaboration

R
NRDC has been very effective in bringing key environmental issues to the public consciousness through social media and education campaigns. Additionally, the organization is relatively influential on Capitol Hill. It has played a role in drafting legislation and in educating various Senate and House staff, in addition to administrators, on relevant matters of concern.
F
Their impact has been their media profile and the dissemination of campaign materials.
N
NRDC has been really good at building coalitions. For example, they are with clean tech companies. They also have good access to utilities.

Powerful Litigation

N
NRDC sued the EPA to force the agency to set greenhouse gas New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for power plants and petroleum refineries. NRDC has also been active in highlighting Congressional actions to strip greenhouse gas authority from EPA.
R
At the national level, they use smart legal strategies to influence how policy evolves.


Expert Comments: Organization Strengths

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Foundation Professionals (F)
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Researchers and Faculty (R)
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Nonprofit Senior Staff (N)
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Other (consultants, journalists, policy makers) (O)

Excellent Staff

N
The quality and longevity of their staff makes them an asset to the entire community. Their senior staff plays important leadership roles within the community.
N
NRDC has a deep bench of talented, knowledgeable experts with a well-organized and managed approach to issues.
N
NRDC has excellent staff members, who are good to work with and cover a wide range of climate related topics.
N
They have strong leadership, great staff, and original ideas.
N
NRDC has fabulous staff. David Hawkins is a visionary. John Walke is very smart and resourceful. His blog postings are great. In addition to these individuals, NRDC's entire breadth of staff is an asset. They also have a good web site. NRDC has provided help to states trying to take action. They were instrumental in setting up the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and have helped California with implementing AB 32, an emissions reduction bill.
N
Their strength is the depth and breadth of staff.
O
They have the best staff in the sector.
F
They have great staff who are covering many dimensions of the problem.
N
Their strength is their huge staff.

Keen Strategy

R
The legal staff are especially strong, but also well-connected to the scientific community. This has the effect of making their efforts very strongly based, legally and scientifically. Their coverage of the environmental scene is also especially effective because they link across issues and are not stove-piped.
N
They provide strong credible leadership within the national environmental community. There is also good connection between their legal strategies and policy campaigns.
R
It is my impression that NRDC has very strong leadership that allows them to stay focused on the more important and relevant areas in which they can have an impact. They are also good at reaching out to other organizations and forming coalitions in order to create momentum. NRDC has a very strong staff, the individuals are generally experts in their fields, and the organization has potential avenues through which to affect change.
N
The combination of compelling research, high-level connections, and deep policy insight enables NRDC to identify, create, and pursue policy opportunities. Their breadth of expertise across sectors and sophisticated communication efforts are a powerful combination.
N
This, for my money, is the premium shop in the country - bar none. The organization chooses its priorities well, targets important issues and strategic ones (not just what is fundable), and they are also wonderful to work with. They are advocates with very high levels of expertise. I would say, NRDC is about the best.
F
The Keystone pipeline staff played an extremely important role in that fight. This particular unit of women at NRDC impressed me greatly with their professionalism, ability to empower others to lobby effectively, and their leadership in quiet but important ways. In general, NRDC is loaded with talent and with individuals who have given their lives to this fight. I know Frances Beinecke cares immensely about getting results. I think NRDC is in a positive trajectory. Thanks to Jacob Scher, the entire C4 operation, and to the Keystone team. You rock.

Legal Prowess

N
NRDC has a very professional and proficient staff. Having a lot of legal talent in the organization gives them clout, and multiple avenues to pursue objectives. The organization also plays a leadership role in organizing other groups and initiatives.
N
They have strong legal prowess, good communications, and a national reach.
R
I am most familiar with its legal work, and NRDC's lawyers are excellent. Although I know less about their operations, the organization seems to be a very well-organized and highly functional group.
R
Their strength is their long history of seeing policy levers from a legal viewpoint. They play well in the legal arena.

Great Networking & Collaboration

N
They have a good crew of scientific experts. They have an excellent publication that educates their members and the public at large. They work well with businesses and legislators to push for energy efficiency and other important regulations.
N
They are strong in collaboration across nonprofits in coalitions, and great at influencing Obama administration policies.
O
NRDC's history of litigation and depth of legal talent mean that they take well thought-out positions. They are increasing their efforts to partner with organizations in order to accomplish better science research to back up their advocacy.

Great Communication

N
They have strong communications. NRDC produces climate policy fact sheets that are exemplars of good communications and makes these widely available to activists around the country. They also have a strong board; the leadership includes celebrities who command attention.
F
They are strong at marketing and fundraising.
O
They have very strong strategic communications, marketing, political strategy, financials, and membership.

Influential

F
NRDC has a long track record of success, and is well-known and trusted to operate in a smart and fair manner.
N
They are a demonstrated and well-trusted leader on environmental policy. Their positions are ones we know we can rely on.
N
Their strengths are their political and legal influence, and the level of expertise of their staff.

Advocacy Strategy or legal

N
They are good on legal strategy and policy substance.

Organizational Capacity

F
NRDC has the capacity, in terms of finance, staff, and leadership, to deeply engage on the issue.


Expert Comments: Areas for Improvement

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X
Foundation Professionals (F)
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Researchers and Faculty (R)
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X
Other (consultants, journalists, policy makers) (O)

Embrace Innovation

N
They can be too arrogant at times. They should be open to other approaches. NRDC pretty regularly demonstrates the "non-invented here" reaction to new ideas and approaches. Also, their political and grassroots efforts need a lot of improvement. It is possible that they should not try to be in the grassroots space.
R
While they have a wonderful newsletter and web presence, it seems to me there is an opportunity to reach out more broadly, better explaining their efforts to the wider community, especially to those in rural areas where many of the issues arise. I'd like to see them consider broadening the set of approaches that they are pursuing to deal with climate change to recognize that there needs to be a range of approaches to dealing with an issue as complicated as climate change. This way there are incentives for both industries and the public to adopt new technologies.
N
They could be more innovative in their policy choices and in working with partners differently. Climate change is such a huge issue that it requires new partnerships and approaches.
O
They are not as nimble as they used to be.

Improve Outreach & Communication

N
They should more widely publish the results of their research and to publicize that research as it is happening.
N
They send out too many fundraising appeals via email. They also used to send out too many via snail mail, but I think those have gone down.

Increase Collaboration Efforts

N
As with many environmental nonprofits, working to increase collaboration among the NGOs working on similar issues would advance the ball further for all.
N
NRDC could work harder to ensure that they are getting input from advocates based outside the Beltway. Secondly, NRDC, as all national NGOs, could do a better job of working with state advocates as they develop national reports, so that those reports have more influence at local and state levels.
N
I would like to see better engagement with the environmental base and better coordination between programs.
R
NRDC does not generally do a very good job of coordinating their efforts with grassroots or popular movements. Additionally, the staff are frequently stretched very thin, which can result in missed opportunities.

Internal Coordination

N
I would like to see better coordination between the national NRDC office and state offices; for example, the California office.
F
The organization is so large that it sometimes struggles to stay fully up-to-date on what other departments or state offices are working on and how work in one area could most fully leverage work in other areas of the organization.
N
They could use more integration throughout the organization. Specifically, the climate and energy leadership undervalue their internal smart growth prowess.
F
I worry that the odd structure of NRDC, with its segmented projects and teams, leads to less impact than might be possible. Furthermore, the climate team was part of the cap and trade group that scoffed at those working for more ambitious goals, and this was very unfortunate. I hope that NRDC might exercise more humility, might recognize the importance of an inside/outside game on Capitol Hill, and that they might let go of their apparent belief that in the end, good facts win. It will take more than that. We need their litigation, their analysis, and their smarts. But we need this paired with things that NRDC doesn't seem well-suited to offer - visionary stories of hope, outreach that invites others to have power and authority and leadership opportunities, and a belief that caring for the Earth must be paired with a deep commitment to justice and fairness for the human family.

Prioritize Diversity

N
They are poor on diversity and attention to equity. This weakens their messaging and impact, and gives fodder to opposition arguments of elitism.

Refine Strategy

N
They have limited field capabilities. Their focus on the inside game often clouds their judgment of the outside game. It also undercuts the rest of the movement.
N
NRDC could do more in targeting "opportunity" states for climate action.
F
They could do more work on debunking climate change myths and achieving policy change.
N
Some staff seem a bit naive in recommending policy approaches; their interest in adaptation seems more a means to an end than sincere as a separate and important goal.
O
NRDC needs some engineers on staff. The legal approach, which has win or lose results, does not fit with many complex operational and business issues, so they are not sensitive to some positions that could benefit their goals in a more incremental, sequential way. They also need more community organizing skills to expand their funding and advocacy base.
N
The international focus and capacity of the organization could be strengthened.
N
They should work on refining the clarity of strategic goals and a vision for achieving them. They could also improve the accessibility of their web site.
R
I wish NRDC had more of a presence around the country. It has not done a lot of work in many different regions, and I think it could expand some of its regional scope to help groups around the country with their own transportation advocacy.
R
They should be even more aggressive.
F
NRDC lacks a strong grassroots base to tap and organize in a service of climate change.
N
I disagree with some of their strategies. Therefore, I think that in some instances their work can be affirmatively harmful. For example, I think their strategy in negotiating proposed national climate change legislation that traded away much of the Clean Air Act for greenhouse gases in exchange for a cap-and-trade program, was ill-advised because it undercut support for the Clean Air Act at a time when we need to defend this proven-successful law from ever more aggressive attacks. While new climate legislation would of course be welcome, I think the environmental community should promote legislative efforts in a way that does not undercut our highly successful, existing environmental laws.


Leadership

Natural-resources-defense-council-nrdc
Frances  Beinecke
President
Frances Beinecke is the president of NRDC. Under Frances's leadership, the organization has launched a new strategic campaign that sharply focuses NRDC’s efforts on establishing a clean energy future that curbs climate change, reviving the world's oceans, defending endangered wildlife and wild places, protecting our health by preventing pollution, fostering sustainable communities, and ensuring safe and sufficient water.

Frances has worked with NRDC for more than 30 years. Prior to becoming the president in 2006, she served as the organization’s executive director for eight years. Under her years of leadership, NRDC’s membership has doubled and the staff has grown to more than 400.

In addition to her work at NRDC, Frances was appointed by President Obama to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. Frances currently serves on the Boards of the World Resources Institute, the Energy Future Coalition and Conservation International’s Center for Environmental Leadership in Business and is on the steering committee of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership.

Frances received a bachelor's degree from Yale College and a master's degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She now co-chairs the Leadership Council of the Yale School of Forestry, is a member of the School of Management's Advisory Board and a former member of the Yale Corporation. Frances has received the Rachel Carson Award from the National Audubon Society, the Distinguished Alumni Award from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, the Annual Conservation Award from the Adirondack Council and the Robert Marshall Award from the Wilderness Society.

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