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Cultivating Change: The Inspiring Journey of Joel Copeland in Monthly Conservation Philanthropy

With a clear dedication to environmental preservation, Joel Copeland’s strategic monthly contributions have made a significant impact on Coral Restoration Foundation’s efforts to restore our reefs. 

Ever since he was a child, Copeland has been fascinated with coral reefs and diving. He was always reading National Geographic and watching documentaries with Jacques Cousteau, but it wasn’t until he was in the U.S. Virgin Islands on vacation, where he was first mesmerized by coral reefs. During a snorkeling trip in St. Thomas, he was captivated by the breathtaking beauty of elkhorn corals, marking it as the most astonishing natural spectacle he had ever witnessed. 

However, Copeland has since seen the deterioration of ecosystems and biodiversity up close, which ignited his drive to effect meaningful change. “There are so many tragic aspects of this world that are happening because of human activity, particularly climate change. The idea that these magical places could just be lost is a horrible thing to contemplate. If we lose these reefs, they are never going to be replaced. The idea of being able to do anything, no matter how small, to stave that off is important,” he said. 

Copeland comes from a software engineering background, yet he has always demonstrated a passion for giving back wherever his skills can make a difference. He first became a monthly donor to CRF™ in February 2021, and three years later, he has become an official volunteer and has steadily increased his monthly gift over time. 

The opportunities provided by CRF™ for the public to be hands-on through both public dive programs and volunteering enticed Copeland to join the volunteer team. Whether it involves tracing photomosaics, maintaining and building nursery structures, or cleaning Coral Trees™, CRF™ has a diverse range of essential activities that require completion. “There's a lot of work that has to be done, and they really need volunteers to do it, even with the tree cleaning on the public dives. You’re actually going out and actually doing something that the organization needs. There's no lack of tasks to do,” he says. 


Copeland deepened his involvement through regular contributions, ensuring the sustainability of the projects he's passionate about, embodying the synergy between volunteerism and ongoing philanthropy. Copeland’s experience on the boards of several nonprofit organizations has taught him the instrumental value of continuous support versus one-time donations. Copeland says, “sustained ongoing giving to an organization allows them to be able to forecast their resources more reliably and not to be dependent on one-time gifts.” 

Monthly donations are the lifeblood that fuels CRF™'s ability to plan long-term projects, spearhead innovative restoration strategies, and respond promptly to the reefs' immediate needs. This model of giving transforms every dollar donated into a building block for the future, enabling CRF™ to not just react to environmental changes but to proactively nurture the reefs back to health.

Written by: 

Theo Bufferd, CRF™ Intern

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