Ayrshire Foundation: Grants for Climate Change

OVERVIEW: The Ayrshire Foundation views philanthropy as investment in world betterment, and spreads its wealth across a wide range of opportunities to support change: youth, the elderly and disabled, science and the environment, healthcare, and community culture.

IP TAKE: Besides its geographic preferences, the Ayrshire Foundation has very few hard-and-fast rules for giving. The bottom line is that it invests a lot of money each year in opportunities for a better world. Envirohmental issues are key aspects of its investment, with climate change at the forefront of the environmental focus area.

PROFILE: The Ayrshire Foundation was founded in 1998 by James N. Gamble (the great grandson of the founder of Procter & Gamble) and his family in order to broaden the scope of their already established personal philanthropy.

The foundation sees its grants as an “investment in the possibility of change and a better world.” To that end, its giving is broad in scope, although, interestingly, its website frames its current focus as actually narrowing from its original mission to now concentrate in these five areas: Youth Opportunities, Science & Environment, Healthcare, Services for the Elderly and Disabled, and Community Culture.

Support of organizations addressing climate change and energy falls under the Ayrshire Foundation’s Science & Environment giving, which the foundation prioritizes with a mission of "Protecting and enhancing our world by supporting scientific research and education as well as sustainable or remedial environmental policy."

Though you are ultimately looking for support for your climate change and/or energy program, and therefore focusing on the foundation’s Science & Environment giving, it’s important to be aware of its other four areas of focus as well. Whenever possible, this is a foundation that likes to serve cross purposes (see granting examples below).

Before we go any further, an important declaration about the Ayrshire Foundation’s geographic priorities: The foundation gives preference to three locations. They are the Bay Area of California, the San Gabriel Valley of California, and Little Traverse, Michigan—all three are areas where James Gamble and his family have community ties. The foundation uses the word “preference,” suggestive of some flexibility beyond this geographic scope. In practice, support of anything outside of these locations is very minimal, and is best reflected in programs that might be broader in scope (regional or national) but are still headquartered or linked to one of these three geographic areas.

If you can tie your climate change or energy program to one of these locations, there is a wealth of possibility available to you with this foundation. That's because of the foundation’s literal wealth. The Ayrshire Foundation distributes approximately $1 million each year, with most individual grants falling between $10,000 to $100,000. This wide range reflects the fact that for the Ayrshire Foundation it’s about “strategic philanthropy,” and it looks to target and tailor support to any given program’s needs—again, the end-game here is investment. The foundation describes itself as “effective seeders.”

Grants from the Ayrshire Foundation may be one-shot deals or extend several years. The Ayrshire Foundation also likes the prospect of partnering with other foundations and/or serving as a matching grant incentive for other givers. Regardless of the partnerships or incentives, because this is a foundation that is looking to invest, it is not keen to allocate grants for general operating support. As the foundation states, it instead seeks to support “other than usual operations—i.e. providing seed money for new programs or agencies designed to meet unfilled needs in the communities involved.”

Examples of Ayrshire Foundation support of climate change and energy programs include:

  • $122,000 to the Rocky Mountain Institute for its capital campaign
  • $50,000 to the Commonwealth Club of California (San Francisco, CA) to support its Climate IOne web upgrade
  • $50,000 to the Union of Concerned Scientists (Cambridge, MA) for its New Center for Science & Democracy
  • $50,000 to the Pacific Institute (San Francisco, CA) for the study of the connection between water, energy and climate
  • $50,000 to Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA) in support of the Steyer-Taylor Energy Policy and Finance Project
  • $25,000 to Media Matters for America (San Francisco, CA) for its energy initative
  • $25,000 to Presidio Graduate School (San Francisco, CA) for its Cleantech Management Certification Program
  • $25,000 to the Golden Gate National Parks (San Francisco, CA) for support of Climate in the Park
  • $20,000 to Island Press (Washington, DC) for its website, where it reports environmental and climate issues
  • $15,000 to Pacific Forest Trust (San Francisco, CA) in support of sustainable, renewable forest energy.

The Ayrshire Foundation requires potential grantees to first fill out a brief online form. If you’ve piqued the foundation’s interest, it will invite you to submit a full proposal.