We only have 24 hours in a day, but we can still accomplish a lot. James Hattam shares with us some of the strategies he uses to run TLC.
James is the CEO of Tasmanian Land Conservancy, a non-profit, apolitical, science, and community-based organization that raises funds from the public to protect irreplaceable sites and rare ecosystems by buying and managing private land in Tasmania.
Now, on to my talk with James.
How do you like to practice sustainability in your daily life?
To me, sustainability is being connected to the place where you live, work, and play. I’m really lucky and blessed to live in beautiful Tasmania in Hobart, where I’m surrounded by nature.
So I spend some time each day going for a walk out along the creek up into the mountain and connecting to the place where I live.
I also think about the decisions I make every day, such as about the food that I consume and where it comes from, especially because we have a great connection to produce and farming systems in Tasmania.
So I’m really lucky that most of the food I buy comes from round places where I live, and I got to practice ethical decision-making, like when choosing whether to drive a car, get on a bike or go for a walk. All of these decisions shape the world where we live in.
How did you end up as CEO of Tasmanian Land Conservancy?
I grew up in mainland Australia and started as an ecologist. I then worked for the government doing many different conservation programs and as a park ranger in national parks. However, I felt something was still missing between humans and conservation.
So when a job at Tasmanian Land Conservancy (TLC) came up, I became really interested. The job was about connecting people to nature and encouraging and empowering landholders to protect nature on their own land.
The main reason I was interested in the job was that a lot of the work I was doing previously was regulatory or based on government policy and the like. So I moved to TLC ten years ago and worked as an ecologist working with landholders and farmers all over the state.
From there, I witnessed the amazing connection that these people had to these places and their genuine desire to look after nature and learn more about it. Over time, I’ve just built that more human-centered aspect of conservation. I also worked in our philanthropy before becoming a CEO four years ago.
How can we ensure that the money we donate to organizations is put to good use?
If you’re a donor, you can look for their information and ask questions. Meanwhile, organizations and companies must communicate regularly with their donors.
At TLC, we send out newsletters and invitations to events to connect with our supporters and let them ask questions about our work. So I encourage people to ask questions and build that trust between donors and the organization.
In the non-profit space, it is really important that organizations hold that trust really strongly and value it. Because when it comes down to philanthropy, if you lose the trust, you lose people, and you lose your ability to serve your purpose.
So we must ask questions, connect, engage, and volunteer. Keep in mind that when encouraging the community to support our cause, we don’t necessarily ask people to donate; rather, we invite them to contribute to the work that we’re doing. So it’s up to them at the end of the day.
In our organization, we always say that we operate more on the art of philanthropy, which originates from the love for humankind and society. So we want people to feel that connection and to see that they’re settling themselves in the work we’re doing with their hard-earned money.
What is conservancy?
The Nature Conservancy is where people and communities come together to reserve land areas, collectively or individually, for conservation, landscape aesthetics, etc. In Tasmania, private land conservation is dependent on which jurisdictions you operate.
So in Australia, we operate in the legal framework that exists in our jurisdiction. Fortunately, Tasmania is a very connected community, so our organization was able to operate a whole different number of mechanisms.
What we do is purchase and protect land, so we can manage it like a national park or conservation area. In fact, we have those reserves all over Tasmania, protecting and managing really important habitats that only occur on private lands.
So we’re trying to complement the national parks, in the public reserves, with the reserves that we’re protecting and managing. We also work with other landholders, farmers, and community people to see where are the gaps in the landscape — the important areas for wildlife to move between existing reserves and create new reserves.
In the new United States, they’re called conservation easements, while in Australia, they’re called conservation covenants. These are legal mechanisms that sit on the title of a property.
When the property has changed hands, those protections continue for the next generation as landowners, so we work with people to encourage them to protect areas on their land and manage those areas into the future.
What is one of the biggest challenges you faced while co-running TLC? How did you overcome that?
The biggest challenge we’ve had the last few years is when COVID-19 hit and the economic uncertainty it brought us.
It was really challenging for us to raise revenue, connect to people and show them the value of what we’re doing, and basically plan on a forward-looking agenda in terms of our programs and our resourcing.
At that time, we had lots of online meetings and webinars to try and connect with our supporters and our community to the places we’re working in trying to protect.
But surprisingly, the pandemic caused a real uptick in people’s connection to our work. In Australia, people took the time to connect to their local parks and environment since the lockdowns were implemented and people were slowing down.
During those times, we were running a campaign to protect a property outside of Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania. And there were these really beautiful reserves located on the edge of town, which everyone would definitely appreciate.
True enough, people are getting subdivided around it, and we saw the real enthusiasm from supporters all over the globe to protect that place. None of them had ever been there, but it resonated with them because it connected them to nature.
How do you manage your time as an entrepreneur?
For me, it all starts with ensuring that I make time for myself first, specifically by letting myself go for a walk regularly and disconnecting from my phone. This boosts my productivity in all areas of my life.
Since our time is precious, we should be intentional about how we spend it. Part of it is dedicating some time to disconnect from the digital world and instead spending our breaks getting away, reflecting, and connecting with nature. This gives me so much strength in the work I do daily.
I hope you enjoyed my talk with James and that you took away some value. If you want to listen to the entire interview, click play below or head over to your favorite platform (Apple, Spotify, or Google.)
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