Babson Professor Heidi Neck, Case Director

Leo Cuesta M’09, Case Writer

Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship

© Babson College, 2009.


With a tagline of “Save the World. Yourself” and a mission grounded in scientific advancement, education, and volunteerism, Earthwatch was one of the world’s largest private funders of scientific research and the largest environmental volunteer non-profit organization. Over the years, it supported over 3,000 research projects all over the world with over $80M and over 100,000 volunteers[1]. These volunteers provided not only much-needed manpower, but also the funding itself, since all of them paid to join a research expedition either out of their own pockets or through sponsorships provided by corporations, private donors, and Earthwatch’s own foundation. By involving the general public in research projects, Earthwatch not only supported scientific discovery but also engaged society in its quest for knowledge. Earthwatch’s retail revenue had been declining since 1993. The organization managed to survive by growing the revenue it generated from corporate sponsorships. At the end of 2008 however, the United States was on the brink of a recession and common intuition predicted that donations and charitable partnerships would be among the first items to be cut in corporate budgets. Ed Wilson, CEO, had one primary question on his mind prior to a staff meeting and an all-day meeting with his board of directors: How can Earthwatch survive long enough to see better days? [1] Volunteer figure does not represent distinct persons (i.e. a repeat volunteer is counted twice)

Teaching Objective: Topresent a framework for opportunity assessment and shaping in a nonprofit environment. It is suggested that the Timmons Model of entrepreneurship can be applied to evaluate various opportunity options for Earthwatch.

Keywords: Social entrepreneurship, Voluntourism, Adventure travel and tourism, Nonprofit entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurial marketing, Corporate renewal

Teaching Note

There is no teaching note available for this case.


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