Why Is 8 Billion Trees Not a Charity?

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

March 22, 2024

First and foremost, 8 Billion Trees is a social enterprise–not a charity.

There are many different reasons for this, but they all revolve around impact. We deliberated for months before forming 8 Billion Trees, going back and forth on whether or not to register as a non-profit.

Ultimately, we knew that being a charity would restrict us in a key way: It would limit our growth and impact.

While charities, non-profits, and NGOs are incredible organizations (and we partner with many), they are limited in their ability to spend funds on marketing, awareness campaigns, and other important things. This is because a majority of their funds (legally) must go directly to the cause at hand, which in our case is planting trees.

8 Billion Trees brand image (typography digital graphic) about social enterprises listing 4 categories (types) of organizations using images of green carbon footprints, from left to right: non-profits, NGOs and charities use profits to further social and environmental impact; social enterprises (social entrepreneurship) are organizations that use business strategies to increase funding and sustainability to further social and environmental impact through reinvesting of profits to generate social capital; social businesses are commercial organizations also concerned with making a social impact but are not bound to traditional nonprofit organizational structure; traditional businesses are concerned only with maximizing profits and are not concerned with furthering social or environmental impact towards climate change

This is great news for making sure that money is being spent on the cause (although not very efficiently, usually). It’s also bad news for growth. As a charity, we would be severely limited in our ability to market and spread the word.

To use a metaphor, it’s like chopping up firewood. How long do you spend sharpening your tool vs hacking away? A charity that spends 100 percent of its funds on “chopping” will not be more efficient than an organization that can spend time on sharpening the tools first.

While we could form a non-profit and work to spread awareness over the course of several decades, we simply don’t have that much time. Climate change and habitat destruction is happening now, and it will continue to accelerate unless someone takes action.

That’s why 8 Billion Trees was founded with personal investments that immediately funded tree planting and forest conservation. The entire social enterprise is built around the model of reinvesting funds back into the cause, whether that involves planting trees, upholding sustainable e-commerce, spreading awareness about environmental crises, or hiring experts.

Because at the end of the day, it’s going to take thousands of members to achieve our mission… and we want to achieve our goal rapidly, not by the 22nd century. That means we spend money to spread awareness that charities just don’t have (and aren’t allowed to).

But that’s where our strategy comes in: we spread awareness for the cause, and then financially support the amazing charities and non-profits that help to do the work on the ground. And of course, we do our own planting with the 8 Billion Trees planting team.

Bonus: For Every Dollar, We Are Able To Raise for Charities And NGOs, We Estimate We Raise at Least Another Two Dollars in Direct Donations to Charities.

How does this work?

When people learn about us and our carbon offset programs, they also learn about amazing charities they’ve never heard of before! And then they are able to donate directly! They are also reminded to donate to a favorite charity they may have donated to in the past.

It’s truly a win-win-win:

  • Charities are supported by us financially and receive even more in direct donations.
  • Tons of people find out about the massive deforestation issue because of our awareness campaigns (that reach literally millions more people than charities could ever hope to)
  • Trees are planted as we restore habitats and save the environment!

Scenic view from the top of a mountain overlooking the Great Appalachian Valley with American Holly Trees as far as the eye can see, scouted for potential tree planting sites as this region displays vast biodiversity and diverse ecosystems.

Furthermore, we always encourage all of our members to donate to these conservation charities instead of us!

At the end of the day, our mission will never change: planting 8 billion trees around the globe to thwart the destruction of our beautiful planet, whether that is accomplished with our own team working on the ground in the Amazon or through other amazing non-profits who share our passion for the environment and animals.

P.S. Our review article includes a list of verified third-party resources covering 8 Billion Trees efforts thus far.