Scaling Up Nature-Based Solutions

River Partners’ 1:10 Impact Model

River Partners turns every dollar contributed or loaned into $10 or more. It’s not inflation we’re talking about, but a high-impact solution to climate resilience.  

In 2022 alone, natural disasters have cost thousands of lives and could exceed $100 billion dollars worldwide. In the face of escalating floods, fires, and drought, healthy freshwater ecosystems – the arteries that sustain life on Earth – must be protected and restored as a first line of defense for communities, farms, and wildlife. The science is clear: We’ve got years, not decades, to restore their function and vitality. 

Rivers and freshwater ecosystems are the arteries that sustain life on Earth, and are our first line of defense in the face of escalating floods, fires, and drought.

This year California and federal administrations have announced historic infrastructure and climate funding for nature-based solutions like reforestation, wetland repair, and floodplain reconnection. Billions more have been pledged in philanthropic support, to restore and protect ecosystems around the world.  

Here in California, where just 5% of our river ecosystems remain, policy and public funding are catching up to what River Partners and our allies have been doing for decades, restoring rivers as bulwarks of flood protection, water and wildlife conservation that creates jobs, economic uplift and healthy open space for communities that need it most. 

The state of California is now committed to spend one billion dollars expanding River Partners’ model of reconnecting floodplains throughout the Central Valley. Unprecedented climate-resilience pledges in the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act prioritize restoration sector investment to build resilient ecosystems and communities.  

Investments in the ecological restoration sector build resilient ecosystems and communities. Pictured: A field of lupine and California poppy being grown for seed at Heritage Growers Native Seed and Plant Nursery in Yolo County.

All-hands-on-deck to restore healthy waterways means we need a scale of private-public partnership never seen before. Now is the time to act.  

In this moment of historic opportunity, unlocking transformative state and federal funding requires a powerful but modestly-sized key: scale up private support. We need two kinds of private partnership to unlock public funding and accelerate on-the-ground riverway restoration: 

1) Philanthropic Gifts – “Seeds” that Grow into Restored Riverways

Your contributions are the seeds for our success. For every dollar we receive, we win $10 in local, state and federal grants for on-the-ground restoration.

Before our field teams lift a shovel or plant a single tree, we must identify restoration opportunities with willing landowners and land managers, collaborate with science experts, align local support to secure project permits, build workforce partnerships and restoration supply chains, and engage neighboring communities to undertake long-term stewardship of their restored riverways.  

We leverage every contributed $1 spent on these activities to win $10 in local, state and federal grants for the on-the-ground implementation of thousands of acres of restoration across California.  

Grants and gifts of cash, estate bequests and appreciated stock and real estate (which maximize support and can minimize donors’ tax liabilities) catalyze the essential groundwork that gets our projects to the starting line.  

2) Impact Loans – “Recyclable” Investments for Large-Scale Restoration

Impact loans breathe new life into landscapes throughout California and help us plant thousands of acres of native plants and trees.

Every year for more than two decades, River Partners has carried the risk and responsibility of financing millions of dollars of on-the-ground restoration work in advance of reimbursement (public grants and contracts pay for project delivery at infrequent intervals as work is completed). We occasionally carry credit to maintain our pace of work, repaying loans with hard-earned revenue from fee-for-service contracts. Cautiously spending earned revenue to finance our work has always meant we have had to be judicious in undertaking new projects or those in new watersheds.

Low-cost financing is essential to underwrite a bolder pace of restoration. Impact loans – a different kind of generous gift – breathe new life into landscapes throughout California by enabling us to lean into more project work and do the heavy lifting of restoring thousands of acres of native plants and trees.  

We need low-interest loans at the $250,000 – $2 million investment range to rapidly respond to new project opportunities and expand our pace of project delivery. After loans are repaid, investors can either replenish their funds, or reinvest in other projects, recycling their support for maximum conservation outcomes.  

The Ripple Effect of Restoration Philanthropy

River Partners can’t do it alone. Private support is crucial to help us scale up and meet the growing demand for ecological repair.

River Partners leverages and maximizes every contributed dollar toward on-the-ground restoration. But the scale of restoration we are called to do means we can’t accomplish it alone. Our projects push into new limits and scales of water and wildlife conservation, as we train and empower a broad range of partners, sharing our story so others can do it too.  Central to our work is its inclusivity, a radical commitment to collaboration that makes our version of river recovery relevant all over the world.  

Private support enables us to tell this powerful story of change that is possible when we work together. In this critical window for bold action, we invite you to help us scale up riverway restoration and tell stories demonstrating how we are repairing our ecosystems, strengthening our communities and economies, and building a healthy, resilient future.  

Donate online or contact Terrel Hutton, Director of Advancement, to discuss a philanthropic gift or impact loan to River Partners. 

With less than 5% of their 1980s population present, we are urgently expanding the scale of native plants and restored habitat necessary to bring western monarchs back from the brink.

About Us: River Partners brings life back to California’s most imperiled rivers to create a thriving future for the state’s extraordinary wildlife, natural resources, and communities. We’ve led more than 300 major restoration projects covering 21 watersheds and more than 18,000 acres of critical river landscapes across California. River Partners is the only organization delivering large-scale restoration in the Central Valley. The annual benefits of our projects are measured in the millions of gallons of water conserved and millions of tons of carbon stored, and imperiled wildlife on the brink of extinction with renewed access to river corridors essential for their survival.  We have delivered over $160 million to the communities and economies where we work since 1998. 

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