July 13, 2017; Marketplace

Explore.org, a project of Annenberg Foundation, livestreams one of the top wildlife webcams in the world: the Bear Cam. Since 2011, the wildlife webcam has caught the engaging fishing exploits and lovable follies of brown bears in Katmai National Park in Alaska for anyone in the world with internet access to see. With 22 million viewers, it’s no wonder the U.S. Department of the Interior calls it one of the “Four Wildlife Cams You’re Guaranteed to Love.”

Founder Charles Annenberg Weingarten recently sat down with Lizzy O’Leary from NPR for an interview about the webcam and Explore.org. During the interview, Annenberg Weingarten noted he “had always wanted to connect people to nature because I believe that the best form of philanthropy is when you fall in love with something and developing an emotional connection.”

In this case, the philanthropy from Annenberg Foundation and Explore.org is provided to millions of people who can connect with bears and other wildlife through the webcams and not have to pay a penny save for the cost of an internet connection and a viewing device.

Annenberg Weingarten appears to be right on target. A commenter on the explore.org website wrote:

I never dreamed in my 61 years I would ever care about birds. All spring I was glued to the Owl Cams, Ospreys, Peregrine Falcons. Not only that I had to study and learn all about each one through documentaries, I am amazed that I never cared before. It is true, we learn to love only what we come to know. I can’t thank Explore enough.

The additional act of philanthropy from this project is the potential for individuals and businesses to donate to the national parks or nonprofits who help the places or animals in these webcams. But donors won’t be giving to Explore.org—that’s simply a project of the multi-million-dollar family-run Annenberg Foundation. In fact, Explore.org encourages would-be donors to contribute directly to the nonprofits associated with the webcams and other films on their website. The way Annenberg Weingarten explains it,

Explore is completely philanthropic, and really one of our driving values is purity and educating the public in the purest form possible. So, we don’t try to manipulate nature, we don’t try to sensationalize it. And the Parks Service shares that vision of trying to educate and enhance and enlighten the world about the work they do.

This indirect avenue of philanthropy that Explore.org participates in supports the battered National Parks Service through awareness and education, and likely some financial contributions. As most nonprofits and many government agencies know, building these symbiotic partnerships are becoming more and more important to providing sustainability to important projects. In this case, the “project” is wildlife and its habitat.—Angie Wierzbicki