One Regional Player’s Latest Grants to Keep the Pacific Northwest Green

Since the early publishing platform PageMaker made him a rather wealthy resident of the Pacific Northwest, Paul Brainerd has devoted his philanthropy to protecting the environment in the region. His Brainerd Foundation is in the process of spending down, and just made around half a million in grants. Let’s see who’s on the list. 

Brainerd started his career as a journalist, but is best known as the cofounder of the software company Aldus, which developed the first desktop publishing program. Since 1995, the Brainerd Foundation, at the direction of its two trustees Paul and his sister Sherry Brainerd, has made grants solely to environmental work in the Pacific Northwest. The foundation is also in its sunset period, so it will give away its $25 million in assets by 2020. That's translated into giving roughly between $2.5 million and $3 million in recent years.

One refreshing thing about the Brainerd Foundation is that, rather than dumping its funds into huge national outfits, it tends to focus on local groups, with an emphasis on grassroots and building the area's environmental community. There are some big groups on its list, such as Pew and Trout Unlimited, but the funder has given to more than 300 groups over the years. Funds go to Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Alaska, and parts of Canada. 

Brainerd’s latest round of giving—the board meets in March, June and November—covered more than $500,000 to six grantees. Here are the winners: 

  • Oregon League of Conservation Voters received $140,000 for its work to organize the public in the state behind the environment. OLCV is a prominent leader in the green community in Oregon, and has regularly received grants from Brainerd. This appears to be the largest such grant, at least in recent history. 
  • Salmon Valley Stewardship received $100,000 for its work to protect the environment in the region of British Columbia, with an emphasis on community involvement and collaboration. 
  • Alaska Center for the Environment received a grant for $75,000 to focus on citizen engagement in protecting the state’s air, land and water. This is another repeat grantee, but also one of its largest sums received.
  • Central Oregon LandWatch is a nonprofit, land-use watchdog located in Bend, OR, that received $50,000 to increase capacity. The group also received a $10,000 grant from a different fund within the foundation this year. It’s not the first funding the group has received from Brainerd but it’s been a few years since their last grant.

Other grantees from this round were Climate Solutions and Social Venture Partners, the latter for a fellowship to advance effective philanthropy in the region. 

Brainerd accepts inquiries on an ongoing basis, but proposals only by invitation. 

Read more about the foundation at our IP profile here, and about its detailed sunset strategy here.