New Name, New Focus: Ayrshire’s Split and Caldera’s Big Agenda

A little over a year ago, the Ayrshire Foundation made an announcement that surprised California grantseekers. Before that big shift, Ayrshire had three geographic regions of focus (one of them was the Bay Area) and five areas of giving: youth, the elderly and disabled, science and the environment, health care, and community culture.

The Ayrshire directors in Southern California kept the foundation’s name and narrowed their focus to the Los Angeles area and Northern Michigan. Still using the name, the Ayrshire Foundation, this group has only committed to grantmaking through 2018, and its future plans are unknown.

Meanwhile in Northern California, another group of Ayrshire directors have gone off on their own and started a new venture called the Caldera Foundation. This group has its own website and is largely interested in spreading good ideas, building connections, and pursuing practical solutions in a broader sense. It provides seed funding at early pivotal stages and attracts funding from large social investors. Areas of interest now include the environment, water and air quality, climate change, and renewable energy. Current topics of interest involve the electrical grid, bipartisan support for environmental legislation, clean and sustainable energy, and unbiased scientific research.

Thus far, Caldera's approach is much more global than it was while part of the Ayrshire Foundation and giving to local Bay Area causes. It’s still a small family foundation, but now it’s squarely focused on preventing climate disruption and supporting green practices that promote good economics.

It’s interesting to browse through the list of grants on Caldera’s website and see many that date back as far as 1999, especially considering that the foundation was just established in 2015. But then again, the original Ayrshire Foundation was concerned with the environment, just not exclusively like the newly formed Caldera Foundation is. The Caldera directors in Northern California took that one portion of Ayrshire’s grantmaking and ran with it, aiming to distance itself from the other Ayrshire priorities and establish itself as the next big global environmental funder.

The Caldera directors, who remain unnamed on the funder’s website and elsewhere, pose the question, “What is the true cost of failing to solve large scale, life-threatening, potentially irreversible occurrences such as climate change or a nuclear event?” And it’s actually been critical of other donors, foundations, and political leadership that won’t take on these types of big issues that are daunting and have less measurable success.

Why then, think most donors, don’t I just slap my name on a museum gallery and call it a day?  At least I’ll know that my dollars were deployed successfully, that some amount of people are enjoying the experience, and we’ll be done in a year or two.

Bay Area nonprofits and environmental groups outside of the region should know that Caldera does not accept unsolicited grant proposals. However, it’s a new startup foundation getting more involved in a new funding scene, so it welcomes the opportunity to learn about causes that align with its mission. Get in touch with the directors via email or online form. Otherwise, you can keep up with what this funder is doing and cares about by following Caldera on Twitter at @calderafound.