PLATINUM2023

The Clifton Institute Inc

For Ecology, Education, and the Environment

aka The Clifton Institute   |   Warrenton, VA   |  www.cliftoninstitute.org

Mission

The mission of the Clifton Institute is to inspire a deeper understanding and appreciation of nature, to study the ecology of our region, to restore habitat, and to conserve native biodiversity.

Ruling year info

1985

Executive Director

Dr Bert Harris

Managing Director

Dr. Eleanor Harris

Main address

6712 Blantyre Rd

Warrenton, VA 20187 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

52-1413042

NTEE code info

Youth Development Programs (O50)

Natural Resource Conservation and Protection (C30)

Biological & Life Sciences (U50)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Habitat loss is causing declines in many species of plants and animals. Invasive species are degrading the quality of what habitat remains. And climate change will affect every ecosystem on the planet in ways that we are just starting to understand. We believe that plants and animals have intrinsic value and that every ecosystem is worth protecting for its own sake. For that reason, we work to maintain native habitats on our property and to help landowners and land managers across Virginia to manage their properties to benefit native species. We also conduct scientific research to better understand how to conserve declining species. Finally, we educate people young and old about native biodiversity and about how to do science so that they can help come up with solutions to these pressing problems.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Environmental education

We provide environmental education to people of all ages, from pre-K students to septuagenarians. Our programs, which include field trips, natural history lectures, and guided walks, foster scientific proficiency and critical thinking. They also encourage a sense of curiosity and wonder in nature. Participants in our programs are encouraged to be physically active, intellectually engaged, and mindfully observant, improving both their physical and mental health. After experiencing the beauty of the northern Piedmont ecosystem, our visitors are inspired to take better care of the natural world, both locally and globally.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Adults

Our mission is to conserve all species of native plants and animals that are found on the field station, especially those whose populations are in decline. In 2019 we started a major project to restore 110 acres of what has been used as a cattle pasture to a native grassland. Many of our habitats are threatened by invasion by exotic species of plants. Some of the biggest culprits are Autumn Olive, Oriental Bittersweet, Japanese Honeysuckle, and Tree-of-Heaven. To counteract this problem, we are removing exotic plants from our fields and forests in an effort to create higher quality native habitat.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Clifton Institute staff, interns, and collaborators do ecological research to better understand the causes of decline in native plants and animals and to identify land management practices to support declining species. All of our research projects produce actionable recommendations that inform land managers and conservation practitioners. We have four focal research areas:

Conservation and restoration of native grasslands and savannas
Conservation of declining species on working lands
Mitigating the effects of suburban and exurban development
Measuring the effects of climate change on biodiversity

Population(s) Served
Adults
Children and youth

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of pre-K-12 students attending environtal education programs

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth

Related Program

Environmental education

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Number of adults attending public programs about nature and conservation

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adults

Related Program

Environmental education

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Number of species documented

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Ecological restoration

Type of Metric

Context - describing the issue we work on

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

We use iNaturalist to document all the native plants and animals that live on our property.

Number of volunteers

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Other - describing something else

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Our first goal is to inspire a deeper understanding and appreciation of nature. Our second goal is to restore and maintain high quality habitats for native plants and animals on our property and to communicate best land management practices to other landowners so that the quality of the habitats in our whole area can improve. Our third goal is to study the ecology of the northern Virginia Piedmont so that we can better appreciate the amazing native plants and animals that live here and we can better understand the threats that face them.

We provide several types of environmental education programs: We offer half-day field trips for classes from local schools, homeschooling groups, and other local organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of Fauquier and the Windy Hill Foundation. We offer in-house recurring program series pre-K-12 students at no charge to the students. We hold four week-long summer camps each year. And we offer education programs for the general public about topics in natural history, ecology, and conservation.

Our field trips and monthly series have different structures and target audiences, but they have one thing in common: during every program, we take the students on a hike around the field station. It may not sound like much, but a guided nature hike is a powerful tool for effective environmental education. First, a hike is the best way to promote curiosity and scientific thinking. Second, a hike is the best way to encourage our students to become environmental stewards. All of our programs are designed to teach our students about the natural history, ecology, and evolution of native plants and animals; to inspire curiosity, wonder, and compassion for nature; to promote healthy minds through mindful observations in nature; to promote healthy bodies through physical activity; and to foster scientific and critical thinking skills.

Our focus in our habitat restoration projects is to conserve declining species of native plants and animals. Across North America, grassland birds are declining faster than birds that live in any other habitat. And 26% of the birds listed as Tier 1 (Species of Greatest Conservation Need) by the VA State Wildlife Plan are early successional species. We are therefore focusing on restoring and maintaining grasslands and shrublands on our property, as well as helping other landowners do the same. In 2019, 2019 we started a major project to restore 110 acres of what has been used as a cattle pasture to a native grassland. The first step in establishing a native grassland is getting rid of the nonnative plant species; we will do this by using herbicides and repeated discing (an organic alternative similar to plowing). Once native plants are established, we will maintain the grassland by mowing or prescribed burning. We will test seven combinations of establishment and management methods in order to figure out how best to help declining native species. Our findings will be used to guide our future restoration projects and educate local landowners.

In 2018 our board made a significant investment in our staff: we increased from one full-time and two part-time staff to four full-time staff. Thanks to this investment, we have significantly expanded our work in the last three years. We have a proven record of providing high-quality environmental education programs, carrying out major restoration projects, and conducting meaningful scientific research projects. We are excited to continue to grow in the coming years.

Our organization has grown significantly in the last few years. In 2022, we taught 3,250 people, more than 3 times as many as in 2018. In the 2022-2023 school year, we completely redesigned our field trip programs so that visiting students learn how to conduct field science and help us collect data on one of five ongoing research projects.

In 2019, we started a major grassland restoration experiment. We are working to restore 110 acres of a former cattle pasture that is dominated by fescue to a native grassland to benefit native species. In 2021 we finished the establishment phase of the project and since then we have been burning and mowing different parts of the field to maintain it as a grassland. In the last few years, we have also cleared 30 acres of Autumn Olive saplings in our shrublands, burned 10 acres of shrublands to promote native species, and planted 850 native grass and wildflower seedlings in degraded fields.

Since 2018 we have been collecting seeds from local ecotype native plant species, which we have been using in our own restoration projects and selling in our biannnual plant sales. In 2022 we started a project with collaborators at the Department of Conservation and Recreation and Virginia State University to launch the native seed industry in Virginia.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, Staff find it hard to prioritize feedback collection and review due to lack of time, It is hard to come up with good questions to ask people, It is difficult to identify actionable feedback

Financials

The Clifton Institute Inc
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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lock

Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

The Clifton Institute Inc

Board of directors
as of 06/27/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Douglas Larson

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? No
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 4/13/2023

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male
Sexual orientation
Decline to state
Disability status
Person without a disability

The organization's co-leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female
Sexual orientation
Decline to state
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

Equity strategies

Last updated: 04/13/2023

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
Policies and processes
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.