Reflections on 2021: HCF's Year-End Impact Report

A Letter from our Founder & Our Year-End Impact Report 

HCF's Founder, Brett Howell, from the New York Times article, “Small Donations Aiming to Make a Big Splash.”

In the three-year organizational history of Howell Conservation Fund (HCF), this is the first year I am writing a ‘formal’ year-end impact report for the organization. The team at HCF agrees that by documenting our achievements publicly on an annual basis, we can share with you the progress we have made toward our mission: catalyzing teams to achieve breakthrough environmental conservation solutions that address the systemic sustainability issues we face on our planet. 

I emphasize systemic sustainability because that is how our world operates: as a series of interconnected systems. One of my core beliefs is that problems are best solved “upstream.” In one of my favorite books, Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen, author Dan Heath talks about how easy it is to “stay downstream, handling one problem after another, but never making our way upstream to fix the systems that caused the problems.” Upstream thinking is synonymous with seeking “root cause” solutions, and that is the essence of HCF’s organizational approach. We figure out how environmental issues work as a system and then address “upstream” conservation pain points using cooperative approaches. 

I am proud to say that in only a couple short years, what started as a concept has grown into a full-fledged organization with international credentials. Below are some of the highlights we experienced this year. I couldn’t be prouder of our team or happier to share our growth with you as we head into 2022. 

2021 Operational Highlights

  • Increased visibility and funding: In addition to our continued ‘friends and family’ funding, this year we attracted additional support from outside of our normal networks. This is a major milestone in the development of any organization. Our heightened visibility was, in part, thanks to the December 2020 New York Times story, “Small Donations Aiming to Make a Big Splash.” This feature helped to raise awareness of Howell Conservation Fund across the U.S. and beyond, in particular due to our work in Henderson Island.
  • Team expansion: In summer 2021, we hired Kirsten Midura as our Media Manager. Kirsten comes from a background in sustainability and international development, with a Master of Environmental Studies from the University of Melbourne, Australia. She has worked in the clean energy, circular economy, and marine conservation fields. She also brings extensive knowledge in journalism, media, and project management. For HCF, Kirsten is in charge of developing our website, writing blogs and copy, and managing our social media accounts. 
  • Telling our “origin story” and enhancing our website: Kirsten has helped to drive website enhancements for our new blog platform. This has allowed us to tell HCF’s “origin story,” which you can read in our earlier blog posts. This is just one of a number of our recent website enhancements, others of which include highlighting key collaborations on our homepage, and adding key financial statements (tax returns, tax exempt letter) to our website, and adding details about our gold seal of transparency through GuideStar/Candid, a major non-profit rating group.
  • Trademarked name and logo: This year, HCF achieved protection from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for our logo and name. This is an important step for us, given our “long-term” design thinking approach.
  • Board and Advisory Board developments: In 2021, we continued to leverage the expertise of our Board of Directors and Advisory Board. The engagement of these seasoned professionals has helped us continue growing as a volunteer-driven organization.

  • Solidified engagement model: Throughout this year, we have had the opportunity to evaluate numerous early-stage collaborations with various for-profit and nonprofit organizations. This process has allowed us to refine our screening criteria for how we engage on projects and invest in mission-aligned organizations.

    At a high level, HCF uses a “for-profit investor’s lens” to screen, select, and catalyze projects in the nonprofit world. HCF reviews prospective nonprofit projects and investments, and assesses their market viability, measurable impacts, and potential means of return on investment. On an annual basis, HCF evaluates a large number of potential projects and chooses a handful that present the opportunity to “dig deep.” For those we select, HCF provides not only catalytic funding in the form of impact grants to the non-profits, but also hands-on advisory work with the organizations through program management and mentoring. 

Existing Project Highlights

  • Loon Preservation Committee (LPC) ( is dedicated to restoring and maintaining a healthy population of loons throughout New Hampshire. HCF’s work with the LPC began in 2018, when we provided a vital, catalytic grant for the LPC’s Lead Tackle Buyback (LTB) Program. This program is designed to protect loons: a sentinel species and indicator of environmental quality in New Hampshire. These birds are dying in large numbers from ingesting lead fishing gear, and the LTB program has removed 25,631 pieces (205.7 lb) of lead tackle over the last three years. The story of this program and HCF’s involvement can be found in our prior blog posts.

    In 2021, HCF doubled its funding support for this program. This funding helped LPC to plan for Year 4 of the program (2021-2022 season). Furthermore, by showing continued outside investment into the program, our support helped to solidify additional funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Specifically, this year the LPC successfully applied for funds from USFWS for a range of loon conservation initiatives, from an oil spill settlement. This resulted in an additional $845K over five years, part of which is dedicated to help grow the LTB program. This was made possible because LPC has shown proven success of their market-based approach, demonstrating that by creating a financial value around conservation efforts, both anglers and the local industry were encouraged to protect their surrounding natural ecosystems.
  • Center for Regenerative Design & Collaboration (CRDC) ( is an organization dedicated to creating appreciating value from the world’s plastic waste by converting it into RESIN8™, an Eco-Aggregate that improves concrete. Since 2019, HCF and CRDC have worked together on a product called RESIN8, which up-cycles plastic waste and turns it into blocks that can be used for construction. We recently extended our MOU, adding an extra 5 years of time based on our shared values and goals with CRDC.

    Taking our collaboration to the next level, CRDC has brought their philanthropic efforts under HCF as of November 2021. We have signed a “fiscal sponsorship” agreement with CRDC, allowing CRDC to “borrow” our non-profit status (a standard practice in the industry) for a new sub-project they are setting up with the United Nations called The Bag That Builds (TBTB). Our initial efforts will focus on supporting TBTB in Samoa and bringing a TBTB collection effort online at the same time as CRDC’s new up-cycling processing plant opens in Pennsylvania.

New Project Highlights 

  • Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation ( engages and empowers “citizen scientists'' to understand how plastic pollution flows to beaches in the Northeastern United States. The organization works with regional “citizen scientists'' from Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, and has been working with them to collect field data over the last five years. By analyzing this data, Blue Ocean Society is determining trends and statistical validity, and engaging with the local community about identifying potential sources of waste. The long-term goal is to engage consumers in their communities by having conversations with top regional plastic polluters, thereby collaboratively driving behavior change around plastics and protecting sensitive beach habitats. HCF is investing in the Blue Ocean Society’s pilot program, which will help determine the program’s scalability.  

  • Root Solutions ( is a nonprofit focused on making behavior change strategy more accessible to environmentally-focused organizations. Through their research in marine debris, plastic pollution, fishing, and other areas, Root Solutions has developed a simple set of tools that allow nonprofits to effect behavior change in a cost-effective manner. The organization recently published the book, Making Shift Happen: Designing for Successful Environmental Behavior Change, which seeks to level the playing field for both large and small organizations looking to implement behavior change strategies. HCF has signed on as an initial funder for an upcoming project that will expound on Root Solutions’ existing work. The outcomes have the potential to impact our approach to all current and future projects when looking at the behavior behind pollution.

Other Collaborations

  • Ocean Plastic Leadership Network (OPLN) ( is a group of leaders and organizations that work together with one common goal: to end the flow of plastics into our oceans. In 2021, HCF participated in multiple OPLN convenings leading up to the U.N. COP 26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland. The focus of these meetings was to host collaborative solutions to end ocean plastic pollution. We are also at the early stages of working with OPLN leadership to investigate ways to more effectively identify innovative, “front of pipe” solutions to end plastic pollution, such as alternative materials that could completely replace plastic. 

Thank YOU for Your Ongoing Support

As we move into 2022, we look forward to continuing our work with existing collaborators and projects, as well as finding new partners and like-minded organizations. Thank you to all of our supporters, project partners, and collaborators, without whom we could not have accomplished all of our work over the last couple of years. 

Please get in touch if you would like to learn more about Howell Conservation Fund or make a philanthropic contribution to support our efforts in 2021 and beyond! 

Happy Holidays,

Brett Howell
Founder & Executive Director

More Articles