The Gimbel Foundation is the philanthropy of the large clan behind an extinct department store chain that once owned Saks and rivaled Macy’s. One of its five priorities is the environment, and I can tell you with remarkable certaintly what it supports.
That’s because, while the program is quite general in its guidelines, it’s also been highly consistent in the past five years. The environment is one of the smaller priorities of this family foundation, which also gives to economic development, civil legal services, criminal justice, and reproductive rights. But it still gives out between half a million and a million a year in this area, including a handful of six-figure grants.
Here are a few key places the Gimbel money goes, and who has a shot at getting on board.
1. Big Groups. The bulk of the program goes to a bundle of your usual suspects. The NRDC, the Environmental Defense Fund, and Earthjustice, to be exact, all of which receive around $100,000 in annual funding from the foundation. President and CEO Leslie Gimbel also sits on the Earthjustice Council, and granddaughter and board member Lynn Stern sits on the National Council of the EDF. Another big grantee is the Union of Concerned Scientists, which deals largely with environmental issues. All fine and successful groups in their own right (but come on, shake it up guys!).
2. Oceans and Coasts. This is one of the slight emphases of the environment program, with a stated interest in oceans and marine ecosystems. Almost all of the funder’s grants go toward general support, but you can see a tendency for marine work in the funder’s longtime support of Oceana and its earmarking of NRDC funding for oceans work. The foundation also gave a $50,000 grant this year to the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, a coalition of 700 groups working on water issues in New York and New Jersey.
3. Greening New York City. Gimbel has a heavy focus on its home city, except when it comes to the environment program, which gives mostly to national and international groups, as we see above. However, there’s a handful of exceptions in which the foundation has backed local green projects. Aside from the Waterfront Alliance mentioned above, it's given a handful of small, under $5,000 donations to Friends of High Line, and to one other New York parks group. And one of its regular grantees is the Urban Green Council, which works to make the city more sustainable through green buildings.
The other nice thing about this foundation is that, while not hugely adventurous in environmental grants, it is very open to new possibilities. The foundation's number is (212) 684-9110, and the family is wide open for online inquiries.