George Gund Foundation: Grants for Climate and Energy

OVERVIEW: The George Gund Foundation invests in the arts, economic development, education, human services, renal diseases, and the environment.

IP TAKE: Based in Ohio, the foundation prioritizes grantmaking to the greater Cleveland and Ohio areas; however, it does occassionally fund national or regional projects that also address climate change through an urban lens. 

PROFILE: Established in 1952, the George Gund Foundation facilitates the legacy of the notable Midwestern businessman and philanthropist of the same name. George Gund II was a prominent banker and investor who lived and worked in Cleveland in the mid-20th century. He established the foundation in 1952, and after his passing in 1966, left the majority of his $600 million fortune to the philanthropy. The funder has a trust of $454 million, and invests in the arts, economic development, education, environment and human services. 

While Gund has a dedicated environment program through which it conducts grantmaking to climate change concerns, the foundation views climate change as a concern that cuts across its programs. That being said, Gund conducts most of its climate change-related grantmaking through its environment program, which responds to climate change challenges "by making grants to organizations that address environmental issues in Northeast Ohio. In addition, [the foundation] support[s] efforts to restore and preserve the Lake Erie ecosystem. Within the broad range of environmental issues, the [f]oundation focuses on promoting alternatives to urban sprawl, decreasing energy consumption and waste, conserving ecosystems and biodiversity, reducing environmental health hazards, increasing public awareness of environmental issues and building the skills of nonprofit environmental leaders." 

The foundation prioritizes Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, where George II once lived and worked, and where much of the family calls home. The foundation emphasizes urban life, which suggests the foundation believes cities can offer solutions to many of society’s looming problems. It examines big issues through an urban lens. This funder supports both national and regional programs.

Environmental grants range from about $10,000 to upwards of $2 million. Since it was founded, Gund has awarded $41 million through its environment program. The subprograms connected to climate and energy, which address issues like renewable energy, smart growth, sustainable business and green building, make up about half of that giving since 2000. Past grantees include the Trust for Public Land’s "Connecting Cleveland Campaign," the Energy Foundation for clean energy work in Ohio, and the D.C.-based Environment and Energy Study Institute. Despite its Ohio emphasis, only about 60 percent of environmental giving since 2000 has gone to groups based in the state. 

The George Gund Foundation is open to proposals. They invite applicants to fill out an eligibility survey, and then make an online submission. There’s even a handy Grant Application Guide available online. The foundation has three deadlines a year, November 15, March 15, and July 15. A list of recent environment grants is available here.

While many family members have their own foundations, none are as developed or substantial as the George Gund Foundation. The environment program’s Senior Program Officer John Mitterholzer can be reached by email.


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