As I was looking over annual reports from environmental groups this week, I noticed that both Environmental Defense (ED) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) claimed that they were largely responsible for getting California’s law on global warming passed.

Now, I really have no idea who did what or how much, and I am sure that both organizations played vital roles. The fact that I am pitting them against each other in this post would probably send them both into a tizzy, since I suspect they work closely as partners on many issues and wouldn’t want to be viewed as competitors.

But let’s get real. Annual reports are largely about wooing donors and these two organizations do compete for funding. So who did the better job in taking claim for this ground-breaking legislation?

Environmental Defense — and here’s why.

1) They tell a better story. They describe how negotiations nearly collapsed and how their attorney “met Schwarzenegger outside the tent where the governor smokes cigars and cuts deals, and told him what was needed . . .” You can see The Governator in your head, and for anyone who knows anything about legislating, you know this is exactly how things work. It’s feels authentic, and it shows how ED has the right kind of access.

For all I know, NRDC was right there too, but they don’t say that. They talk more generically about getting lots of different interest groups in the state to support the bill. This is great work too, but it’s not nearly as compelling as ED’s story.

2) They include a great testimonial. “Environmental Defense played a pivotal role in drafting the bill and securing broad support that was critical to its passage.” — Fabian Nunez, Speaker of the California Assembly. Who better to quote on your legislative effectiveness than the Speaker of the Assembly? NRDC mentions working with the speaker and other bill authors, but that’s not nearly as good as a testimonial.

In its report, NRDC says, “It was NRDC’s reputation as honest brokers of science and the law that helped push the bill past the tipping point.” That’s great, but it would have been so much better if it came out of someone else’s mouth.

3) They give credit to NRDC by name. When special interests tried to thwart the legislation, “Environmental Defense joined with the Natural Resources Defense Council to fight back. We led an unprecedented coalition . . .”

NRDC only refers generically to working with “its partners.” Again, the ED article feels more authentic, because it includes the specific details. To be fair, NRDC does cite other partners by name, like the American Lung Association and PG&E, but note that these are not other environmental groups. Unless you read these two reports side-by-side, you wouldn’t catch this distinction. But the fact the ED names another environmental group as a leader demonstrates ED’s own confidence in its work.

I’d love to hear what you think. Here are the specific pages I’m talking about: NRDC’s Global Warming Pages | ED’s Global Warming Pages. You can get the full reports on their websites: NRDC | ED Read the pages and leave a comment on this post with your take.

This specific comparison aside, I think both groups do a good job with their annual reports. I’m preparing to publish a series of annual report reviews on NonprofitAnnualReports.net to help nonprofits better understand ways to improve their own annual reports. Both reports will be included in the reviews I’ll share later in September. FYI, subscribers to my free “Annual Reports Insider” e-newsletter will be the first to hear about these reviews, so subscribe if you want to read them sooner than later.

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