Compton Foundation: Grants for Climate Change

OVERVIEW: The Compton Foundation makes grants based on two categories of work—leadership and storytelling; however, grants are used for progressive social change, and toward a “peaceful, just, and sustainable world.” 

IP TAKE: Compton, even more than most progressive funders, emphasizes movement building. This means strengthening leadership and inspiring others to address the cause through powerful stories. This funder prizes collaboration, capacity-building, and media projects.

PROFILE: Established in 1946, Compton was founded by Dorothy and Randolph Compton, the latter an investment banker. The couple first devoted themselves to the pursuit of world peace and preventing another world war, driven in part by the death of their youngest son John during World War II. The Comptons believed this could be accomplished by addressing the causes of war, which they perceived to be human rights violations and the depletion of natural resources. Based in San Francisco, the foundation has evolved significantly over the years. It supports work in climate change, peace and national security, and reproductive rights and justice. 

Compton conducts its climate change related giving through Transformative Leadership and Courageous Storytelling initiatives. A double-pronged approach to grantmaking, the foundation uniquely considers grantmaking in terms of narrative frameworks rather than dedicated traditional programs. This means that grantseekers can secure climate-change grants through either avenue. However, it prioritizes work through its leadership category than otherwise. As the Executive Director Ellen Friedman suggests, "[The foundation] arrived at this belief that the business of social change and environmental change is changing. That movement building is an essential element to advancing a transformative action in society.” Indeed, the foundation commits about one third of its grants to climate change. 

Grants generally go up to about $40,000. In mentioning leadership, the foundation believes in supporting people with intellectual and political savvy, but also those with emotional authenticity and passion, and who can form strong personal relationships. Past environmental grantees include the Center for Whole Communities, the Climate Justice Alliance and Climate Desk, which is a journalism collaborative of Mother Jones, The Atlantic, Huffington Post, The Guardian, Grist, Slate, Wired and the Center for Investigative Reporting, that seeks to fill the gap left in media on coverage of the severity of climate change. While it does not award many grants each year, it tries to offer multi-year support; however, it seeks new grantees alongside its supported grantees.  

In order to be invited to submit a full proposal, first submit an inquiry


  • Vanessa Compton, President

  • Rebecca DiDomenico, Vice President

  • Ellen Friedman, Executive Director

  • Deborah K. Daughtry, Director of Operations

  • Jennifer Turnage, Director of Finance and Accounting

  • Johanna “Hanni” Hanson, Program Officer