Nearly 30 years ago, when I was scrabbling around to find a few people to provide start-up funding for what became Forum for the Future, Edward Whitley stepped up and took a punt on our “crazy idea”. What made this all the more remarkable was that Edward had just launched his very own “crazy idea”, the Whitley Fund for Nature, and probably needed every last pound he could lay his hands on to make it fly.

That was much in my mind on November 6th, when I attended the Funds, “People for Planet Summit” to celebrate its 30th Anniversary. Such an inspiring day, with 11 of the Funds Gold Award winners taking part.

Over the last 30 years, the Fund has raised £30 million to provide Awards for “proven grassroots conservation leaders across the Global South”. With an amazing annual Awards ceremony (presided over by the indefectible Princess Anne as the charity’s Patron), winners get £40,000. They can then apply for up to £100,000 to expand their work over two years, and every year the Fund announces a Gold Award winner with a prize worth £100,000.

I really can’t do justice to everything that’s been achieved over these 30 years, with 2014 conservation leaders in 80 countries benefiting from the scheme, with huge knock-on benefits in terms of publicity and awareness, training and capacity building, influence with policymakers and other grant-giving organisations. But I can direct you to the Fund’s 30-year Impact Assessment Report – succinct, very powerful graphics, no bullshit, statistics and compelling narratives mixed together in equal measure. With an emphasis on data that is relevant both to “threats to nature reduced/eliminated” and “improved wellbeing/livelihoods of local people”.

It’s an extraordinary record over 30 years, made possible by an extremely talented team working alongside devoted donors, Trustees and supporters – amongst whom David Attenborough is happy to count himself as the most enthusiastic!

Forum for the Future will be celebrating its 30th Anniversary next year (the point at which we incorporated as a charity). We’ll certainly acknowledge Edward Whitley’s own personal contribution to what was then another “leap of faith”.