Midwestern environmental nonprofits are likely familiar with the name Gund, thanks to the substantial grantmaking of the late George Gund’s family foundation. But the notable philanthropist’s son Gordon Gund has also given away millions, including to environmental groups, albeit in a much quieter fashion.
George Gund II was a banker and real estate investor prominent in the Midwest—Ohio in particular—up until he passed in 1966. During his life, he was an active philanthropist, and left around a half billion to his foundation when he died. Gund had six children, all active in business, the arts, or philanthropy at varying levels. In fact, there are about a dozen foundations bearing the Gund name. While none have the trust of the George Gund Foundation, son Gordon Gund and his wife Llura have two foundations that have given annually in recent years, both in the same ballpark. Gordon is an investor, businessman and occasional sports team owner.
The George and Llura Gund foundations combined made about $13 million to $15 million in annual grants in recent years, to a mix of medical research, arts, community and environmental causes. The biggest cause they share is research on blindness, since Gordon Gund lost his sight at age 30. They also recently made headlines with a $3 million commitment to genomic autism research. But their green giving is significant as well.
The foundation’s largest environmental grantee in recent years has been Earthjustice. The environmental law organization represents green nonprofits pro bono, essentially acting as a big law firm for the environmental community. They also have one of the best tag lines ever—“Because the earth needs a good lawyer.” The Gunds' foundations have given between half a million and $800,000 a year to the organization. There does appear to be a family connection, as younger relative Louise Gund is a former trustee.
Another big beneficiary has been the Resource Innovation Group, an Oregon-based nonprofit that pursues novel solutions to large ecological problems like climate change. Gordon and Llura Gund have given as much as $260,000 in a year to the cause.
The foundations have also supported various local and regional causes, although not necessarily Ohio-based. For example, the Nantucket Conservation Foundation regularly receives six-figure grants, and, to a lesser extent, the Nantucket-based Save Our Sound makes the list.
One thing to note about the Gunds’ giving is that, while they have a few favorite causes, there’s a long list of small- and medium-sized grants for environmental causes, including the NRDC and the Atlantic Salmon Federation.
Of course, the other thing to note is, as the headline suggests, the Gunds are very quiet about their giving. While George Gund Foundation is a staffed, largely transparent philanthropy, Gordon and Llura’s foundations seem to be solely a vehicle for their own personal giving, with no staff or public presence. So while they are active philanthropists, accessing the foundations will require significant networking of contacts and groups the couple supports.