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Go Back: Home > Earth Island Journal > Issues > Spring 2006 > Everyone Has a Story

Everyone Has a Story

Everyone’s got a story

Kevin Connelly

Guerrilla marketing is all the rage these days, and rapidly becoming a part of every non-profit fundraisers arsenal of techniques.

But though it may be the flavor of the week, Earth Island Institutes Associate Director Kevin Connelly has an advantage over all his guerrilla-marketing colleagues at other organizations: hes got years of experience in gorilla marketing. Before coming to Earth Island Institute, Connelly spent over six years working as Development Director with the Gorilla Foundation, the Woodside, California-based non-profit that promotes the protection and preservation of gorillas. (The Foundation is best known for being home to Koko the gorilla, who has been featured by media outlets around the world for her ability to communicate with people using a modified sign language.)

I decided that I needed to
listen to my heart, and set
off&to protect the
environment.

Connelly has worked for environmental and animal-rights organizations for the last 16 years, and he says he doesnt really remember a time before he developed an ecological awareness.

Being raised in Pittsburgh provided direct experience with industrial impacts on the environment, says Connelly. I had older siblings who took me hiking and camping, and Ive always seemed to have an affinity for nature and animals.

My environmental consciousness was inspired by generations of conservation advocates, like Dave Brower, who preceded me, says Connelly. As I advanced in my studies and learned even more about the growing environmental crisis, I became increasingly unsettled about the future of our planet. This motivated me to work for a vision of environmental and human health as opposed to a future of diminished biodiversity and increased human suffering.

well dressed Mr. Connelly and Ms. GoodallCourtesy Kevin ConnellyKevin Connelly with Jane Goodall

This desire heightened early in Connellys career, when he took his degrees in Industrial Management and Economics from Carnegie Mellon, and went to work as a manangement consultant for the steel and heavy manufacturing industries in his hometown. The environmental impacts of these industries werent congruent with my values, says Connelly. I decided that I needed to listen to my heart, and set off to California with the notion of working to protect the environment rather than polluting it.

Connelly has put that into practice. His career, in addition to his stint at the Gorilla Foundation, has included time at the Sierra Club and, most recently, the Marin County, California-based In Defense of Animals. Animal rights and environmentalism share, on occasion, a contentious boundary on which the agendas of activists conflict. Connelly sees more promise than problem in that frontier. Both the environmental and animal advocacy movements have a lot to learn from each others successes, failures, and tactics. If these two realms work together with a more unified agenda, a more integrative approach that considers human, environmental, and animal factors in our advocacy, well be more effective, expand our base of support and develop sustainable solutions to a range of pressing and interrelated problems.

Connelly thinks Earth Island Institute is suited to exploring that relationship. Earth Island is well-regarded in the animal rights community, unlike many other environmental groups. I believe Earth Islands broad agenda of working on environmental, animal, and cultural preservation issues in a holistic way is vital to achieving long-term, sustainable solutions to our environmental and societal problems.

What sets Earth Island apart from other organizations, in my view, is our unique project sponsorship model and the identification and nurturing of emerging leaders in the environmental movement.

Fundraising for an environmental non-profit in this economic climate is no easy task, but Connelly is meeting the challenge with enthusiasm, and looks forward to ramping up our Web-based fundraising and planned giving support, as well as cultivating our membership. I hope I can generate a greater awareness of and support for Earth Island, he says. I would like to increase the number of members, to diversify our sources of funding, and to grow our revenues so we have the resources to accomplish even more.

   

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