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Tracking The Field Of Environmental Philanthropy | Stanford Social Innovation Review”
Tracking The Field Of Environmental Philanthropy | Stanford Social Innovation Review”
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Tracking The Field Of Environmental Philanthropy | Stanford Social Innovation Review”

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SSIR Tracking the Field Blog, NEW EGA Tool sharpening knowledge of environmental philanthropy

SSIR Tracking the Field Blog, NEW EGA Tool sharpening knowledge of environmental philanthropy

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  • 1. Tracking the Field of Environmental Philanthropy | Stanford Social Innovation Review 6/21/12 9:36 AMFOUNDATIONSTracking the Field of Environmental PhilanthropyHighlights from a newly released environmental philanthropy report.By Bradford K. Smith & Rachel Leon | Feb. 27, 2012H ow has environmental philanthropy changed since the 2008 financial crisis? What environmental priorities are still receiving funding and which are struggling? How can foundation staff across the field connect efficiently to collaborate?The Environmental Grantmakers Association and the Foundation Center addressed these questions andothers in Tracking the Field Volume 3: Exploring Environmental Grantmaking, a report released thisweek that includes a new interactive searchable environmental grants database.By partnering with the Foundation Center, EGA has been able to analyze data collected from both EGAmembers and nonmembers, making it possible to examine the broader field of environmentalphilanthropy. This evolving partnership offers promise of real-time updates and portals likeWashfunders.org (more below) that the Foundation Center is creating for other sectors. Here are somehighlights of the report and some new tools for using the knowledge.The great recession and environmental philanthropyWhile 2009 was a financially difficult year for philanthropy and society generally, environmentalphilanthropy was impacted less than other issue areas were. The more than 76,000 foundations based inthe US collectively gave 42.8 billion in grants across all philanthropic issues. This marked a 2.1 percenthttp://www.ssireview.org/blog/entry/tracking_the_field_of_environmental_philanthropy Page 1 of 4
  • 2. Tracking the Field of Environmental Philanthropy | Stanford Social Innovation Review 6/21/12 9:36 AMthe US collectively gave 42.8 billion in grants across all philanthropic issues. This marked a 2.1 percentdecrease in giving from 2008. US environmental grantmaking, however, remained consistent at $2.7billion. This shows a significant prioritization of environmental issues (although they are still a relativelysmall piece of the pie) despite a 17.2 percent overall loss in foundation assets in 2008.Shifts in environmental funding prioritiesThe distribution of environmental grant dollars changed in 2009. For example, reductions in giving byEGA member foundations had a larger impact on traditional ecosystems nonprofits, which focus on land,water, and species preservation. These organizations were impacted by both the decrease in EGA memberfunding and a shift in focus by environmental foundations generally. Funding for traditional ecosystemsissues by EGA members decreased by 37 percent between 2007 and 2009 while funding for organizationsand programs addressing climate issues increased by 92 percent.Climate-focused nonprofits continued to see growth in funding despite foundations’ shrinkingendowments. The share of funding for “Climate & Atmosphere” and “Energy” (EGA’s descriptions ofthese categories can be seen here) by EGA members leaped from 13.7 percent in 2007 to 31.9 percent in2009, reflecting a huge investment in climate legislation domestically and in treaties at the global level.Where is the funding not going?The issue areas of “Population” (with only 0.1 percent of funding) and “Material Consumption & WasteManagement” (1 percent) remained—as in 2007—the least funded. “Environmental Health,”“Environmental Justice,” and “Toxics” received more than $36 million from EGA members (4 percent)while receiving only 1 percent of total environmental grant dollars. This represents a 53 percent decrease infunding by EGA members between 2007 and 2009, and a 23 percent decrease overall.Environmental funding strategiesTracking the Field Volume 3 is the first report to track environmental grantmaking strategies. EGAmembers’ top strategies in 2009 focused on “Advocacy/Organizing/Movement Building,” followed by“Capacity Building/General Support.” A number of funders reported that the recession influenced them toincrease their general support grantmaking (versus funding specific programs or projects) so as to providenonprofits with more flexibility. This data is important because it allows the field to understand its history and to speculate on future trends. Will climate continue to grow or will a new issue area begin to dominate in the next few years?http://www.ssireview.org/blog/entry/tracking_the_field_of_environmental_philanthropy Page 2 of 4
  • 3. Tracking the Field of Environmental Philanthropy | Stanford Social Innovation Review 6/21/12 9:36 AM begin to dominate in the next few years? What impact will the changing priorities of grantmakers have on issues that require long-term commitment? And how can environmental funders and other sectors of philanthropy work together to ensure better communication and collaboration? A new resource The newly released Tracking the Fielddatabase allows EGA members (it is member-only, since the need for trust in providing data byfoundations is crucial for real-time information sharing) to search more than 8,000 coded grants by issue,geography, strategy, and grantor and/or grantee. It also contains information on all grants made by amember, members’ contact information, and all grants received by a grantee.The Foundation Center also recently launched a portal called Washfunders.org, with tools tailoredspecifically to water access, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) issues. At its core is a robust GIS-mappingtool that shows the global reach of WASH funders and how their investments compare to those ofgovernment development assistance agencies around the world.Technologyand socialmedia havedramatically changed all aspects of our lives and philanthropy should evolve as well. But data-drivenhttp://www.ssireview.org/blog/entry/tracking_the_field_of_environmental_philanthropy Page 3 of 4
  • 4. Tracking the Field of Environmental Philanthropy | Stanford Social Innovation Review 6/21/12 9:36 AMdramatically changed all aspects of our lives and philanthropy should evolve as well. But data-drivenresources require an ever-growing degree of transparency—something there is little consensus about inphilanthropy. While some foundations have searchable databases on their websites, 1/3 of foundationswith assets over $100 million still do not even have websites. And while some 700 foundations now reportcurrent-year grant data to the Foundation Center digitally, our reliance on IRS 990PF data delays analysisand updates to our databases.But it’s only the beginning. Philanthropy—environmental and otherwise—needs to continue to explore thetransformative potential of data, technology, and social networking in helping grantmakers work moreeffectively. Bradford K. Smith is president of the Foundation Center, a national nonprofit service organization recognized as the nation’s leading authority on organized philanthropy. The Center maintains a comprehensive database on US grantmakers and their grants around the world; issues a variety of print, electronic, and online information resources; conducts and publishes research on trends in foundation growth, giving, and practice; and offers an array of educational programs. Rachel Leon is executive director of the Environmental Grantmakers Association, a high-impact network of environmental funders working to achieve a sustainable world. EGA works with members and partners to promote effective environmental philanthropy by sharing knowledge, fostering debate, cultivating leadership, facilitating collaboration, and catalyzing action. C o pyr i g h t © 2012If you like this article enough to print it, be sure to subscribe to SSIR!http://www.ssireview.org/blog/entry/tracking_the_field_of_environmental_philanthropy Page 4 of 4

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