Pangolin Champions Team

Project Partners

Save Pangolins, Carly Thompson & Paul Thomson

Board Advisor

Nilanga Jayasinghe

This project’s goal was to develop and implement a refreshed strategy for Save Pangolins’ Pangolin Champions program to better support emerging leaders in the pangolin conservation landscape. The EWCL team designed and conducted a needs assessment as well as conducted benchmarking research for the Pangolin Champions program. Results were used to develop and implement tools, resources and recommendations for a future strategy to help this program address identified gaps in the areas of organizational needs, capacity-building, general awareness of pangolin conservation, and network building among Champions to continue to effectively empower emerging leaders in pangolin conservation.

Pangolin Champions


    In phase one of this project, the EWCL Save Pangolins team conducted a review of Save Pangolins’ Pangolin Champions program goals, structure and materials; as well as a needs assessment and verbal interviews among current Pangolin Champions and began benchmarking research to assess how Pangolin Champions program compares to similar programs. 

    Results highlighted the following key insights:

    • Pangolin Champions seek clarity around program structure, expectations, and frequency of communication with Save Pangolins staff. This is due to Champions’ lack of understanding about grant terms, expectations around project completion, and what happens at the end of the program. In general, communication with Save Pangolins staff was cited as positive and helpful, but infrequent and unplanned. 
    • Champions are under-resourced. They struggle to find funding that is unrestricted, to support their small-scale/startup projects, to support overhead costs such as publishing research, to pay staff consistently, and (though often unstated) to pay themselves. This leads to frequent staff turnover and Champions’ investing significant amounts of personal time, resources, and energy to train new staff and manage their programs. Multiple Champions reported using personal financial resources to support staff or other aspects of their programs. Lack of training in grant writing, donor management and communications, combined with cultural differences in philanthropy make it challenging for many Champions to secure sufficient, sustainable funding. 
    • Champions desire a very diverse list of requested training/courses to increase their impact. Their requests range from training in leadership and project management, grant writing, and public speaking, to capacity building opportunities for team members, to physical needs including camera traps, radio tags, and on-site learning opportunities through field visits.
    • The need for pangolin conservation and the work of Pangolin Champions is not well known. Champions seek support in communication and storytelling about their work and the importance of pangolin conservation. They also require platforms to reach their audiences, ranging from the communities in which they work, to partners, government agencies and officials, to global audiences and potential donors.
    • Champions lack interaction within the program, knowledge of each others’ projects, a sense of community, and a strong network. Champions cited that although some previously knew each other before becoming Pangolin Champions, they have never met in person as a Champion group. All Champions mentioned this lack of personal connection as a barrier to open communication and forming a sense of community and productive network among Champions.

    The EWCL team summarized challenges into four key theme areas of: 

    • Organizational Needs
    • Capacity-building for Champions
    • General Awareness of pangolin conservation
    • Network Building among Champions

    Within each theme area, the team presented Save Pangolins leadership with a series of short- and long-term recommendations to address the challenges. Based on the discussion around feasible next steps that aligned with both Save Pangolins’ priorities and the EWCL project timeline, the team agreed on priority next steps.

    In phase two of the project, the team began to implement agreed-upon priority activities to address identified Champion needs and program gaps, including:

    • Providing clarity around program structure and expectations, and more frequent communication with Save Pangolins staff to address organizational needs.
    • Providing a diverse list of requested training/courses to increase their impact to address capacity-building needs.
    • Leveraging World Pangolin Day (Feb. 18, 2023) to raise awareness of the Pangolin Champions program, its importance and its successes.
    • Developing a year-long content calendar and launch a series of recurring virtual meetings for the Champions to connect on a planned, consistent basis (covering cross-sharing, project progress reporting, networking, and potential guest speakers).

    1. Needs Assessment development, distribution and analysis.

    2. Summary report and recommendations for Pangolin Champions Program based on review of existing program goals, structure and materials; as well as a needs assessment and verbal interviews among current Pangolin Champions. Recommendations fell into four categories: (1) Organizational Needs, (2) Capacity-building for Champion, (3) General Awareness of Pangolin Conservation and (4) Network Building among Champions.

    The remaining outputs are categorized accordingly, and still deliver on original project objectives. Links to specific resources are provided; all resources have been shared via Google Drive with Save Pangolins staff and EWCL Leadership:

    3. Outputs Addressing Organizational Needs

    Staff Program Handbook (for internal use) developed in lieu of a “program strategy” document after discussion with Save Pangolins, with the goal of delivering the most immediately applicable and useful tool for Save Pangolins Staff. The handbook includes a detailed overview of the Pangolin Champions program and management tactics, as well as integrated short- and long-term strategy recommendations from the EWCL team on opportunities for program growth.

    The handbook also includes:

    1. A recommended communication plan for staff to foster a well-connected network of champions; and,
    2. An application template for use in streamlining future program application processes. 

    Applicant/Champion Handbook (for external use) for prospective/selected Champions, developed to be shared externally and address a reported need for program transparency and clarity for the benefit of those participating in it.

    A formal evaluation tool for Save Pangolins Staff to distribute regularly among Champions to evaluate participant satisfaction and project impact/success.

    4. Outputs Addressing Capacity-Building

    Two capacity-building training sessions focused on fundraising and grant writing, delivered for Champions in response to interest areas identified by needs assessment. Developed learning plan and coordinated pro-bono facilitation by fundraising experts from International Rhino Foundation. Session 1 (Passcode: @p@D6EMX) | Session 2.

    1. Evaluation of training session success and recommendations for future capacity-building to be led by Save Pangolins, in response to survey feedback from Pangolin Champions.
    2. Working catalog of opportunities and resources for Champions - built from benchmarking research and to be shared with and maintained by Pangolin Champions as they seek other potential sources of support, funding, and learning.

    5. Outputs Addressing General Awareness 

    World Pangolin Day 2023 Campaign- Development and implementation of this campaign included:

    1. World Pangolin Day Communications Plan to identify objectives, strategies, tactics and timeline to guide Save Pangolins’ leadership of the campaign to raise awareness of pangolin conservation and highlight Pangolin Champions’ work leading up to World Pangolin Day 2023. 
    2. Social Media Communications Toolkit created and shared with 12 Pangolin Champions (primary audience) to remove one barrier to their storytelling by providing ready-to-share content and resources to tell their own stories on social media platforms in celebration of World Pangolin Day. Also provided to members of the EWCL Class 9 cohort as a secondary audience, for amplification where possible.
    3. Social media content calendar developed to collaboratively draft content, manage review processes, and confirm specific platforms and timing of every piece of campaign content.
    4. Social media copy + assets for 20 posts uniquely designed for specific social platforms; organized by date aligned with content calendar, and made available to collaborators via a shared Google folder. Focus was on highlighting the work of the individual Pangolin Champions and actionable ways fans could support pangolin conservation. (See report below for sample posts) (Public folder)

    Forces for Nature podcast developed and aired

    ○ Two blog posts developed highlighting Pangolin Champions; (Part 1 | Part 2)

    Report and Recommendations for future World Pangolin Day campaigns

    6. Outputs Addressing Network Building

    1. Year-long content calendar to guide a series of recurring virtual meetings for the Champions to connect on a planned, consistent basis (cover cross-sharing, project progress reporting, networking, potential guest speakers).
    2. Communication plan for staff to improve consistent, regular communication between Save Pangolins staff and Champions.

    Next Steps

    EWCL team to deliver final report and recommendations to Save Pangolins; key recommendations include: 

    • Strengthen organizational foundations: review strategic plan and Theory of Change before the next phase of growth
    • Deepen mentorship: Consider a more formalized approach to Pangolin Champion mentorship as organization and staff capacity increases (including more one-on-one communication between SP staff and Champions)
    • Facilitate ongoing communication: Task a Save Pangolins staff member with encouraging more frequent use of WhatsApp group by prompting PCs to respond to 5 questions, share successes/failures/etc.; coordinate ongoing Champion meetings; launch a knowledge-sharing newsletter/email series.
    • Continue to facilitate capacity-building: provide grant writing coaching as a follow up to the trainings already provided; offer continued virtual trainings on requested topics indicated by needs assessment (storytelling/science communication, etc); coordinate an in-person opportunity when possible.
    • To support Champions' longer-term success and address lack of resources, and pending support capacity by Save Pangolins staff: Develop a second-tier grant opportunity for the Pangolin Champions program to support continued growth and development.
    • Facilitate network-building with PCs and other stakeholders: coordinate in-person training opportunities and/or meet-ups at international conferences when applicable.
    • Develop a strategy for continuing to publicly recognize the work of PCs: maximize communications opportunities around World Pangolin Day and take advantage of other opportunities for raising public awareness of pangolin conservation.

    Randy Mazzuca & Kaitlin Tillet – Save Pangolins & Wildlife Conservation Network - provided social media support/resources for World Pangolin Day

    • Crystal DiMiceli - Forces for Nature - collaborated to develop a podcast featuring three Pangolin Champions for World Pangolin Day 2023
    • Martha Fischer & Maggie Moore - International Rhino Foundation - facilitated two training sessions for Pangolin Champions
    • Amielle DeWan - Impact By Design - reviewed and provided feedback on Theory of Change draft
    • Lauren Watkins - Impact By Design - reviewed and provided feedback on needs assessment, survey, and evaluation tools
    • With thanks to Edwin Tambara for support during project conceptualization

    The team would also like to acknowledge Jeff Flocken, Nina Fascione, Nilanga Jayasinghe, Laura Gruber and Erik Ndayishimiye from the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders program, and Paul Thompson from Save Pangolins, for their support, insights and guidance throughout this project.

    • Save Pangolins raises awareness and supports conservation of the world’s most trafficked mammals. For more information about Save Pangolins visit:
    • Save Pangolins has supported 12 dedicated conservationists known as Pangolin Champions who are committed to this mission. They work on a variety of projects in Africa and Asia. For more information about the 12 Pangolin Champions and their conservation projects visit: