Grantham Foundation: Grants for Climate Change

IP OVERVIEW: Founded in 1997 by a hedge fund manager with a knack for predicting disaster, the Grantham Foundation gives millions toward cultivating environmentally sustainable economies and climate-adapted communities. While all types of organizations receive funding from Grantham, those that excel at communicating with the public and working collaboratively with other groups will be its biggest winners.  

IP TAKE: If encouraging more green business or more environmental news coverage is in your mission statement, this is the foundation for you. 

PROFILE: A hedge fund manager with a keen eye for long-term risk, Jeremy Grantham gained renown for accurately predicting every major market bubble of the last few decades. And the worst bubble of all, he is convinced, is yet to come: the “carbon bubble” of runaway greenhouse gas emissions and unsustainable resource use. He and his wife, Hannelore Grantham, established the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, with a stated mission of organizing global action to mitigate and manage the hazards of climate change and other environmental crises.

Since its launch in 1997, the foundation has been building substantial assets and sharing them with organizations that are active on issues like climate change. With a trust now surpassing $376 million, it doles out $15 million to $20 million yearly toward efforts to organize collaborative, grassroots-led solutions for cutting humanity’s carbon footprint down to size, while adapting to the climate turbulence that has already begun to unfold.

While Boston-based Grantham’s giving is nationwide, and even international in some cases, there is an emphasis on groups based in the Northeast, or with a national focus.

All grants are invitation-only. Like any good hedge fund manager, Grantham is highly attentive to risk and return on investment, and shows keen discretion in which operations he will and will not fund.

But don’t take that to mean that only the big-fish organizations get the awards. Many medium-sized and small nonprofits are among Grantham’s grantees. What this foundation looks for in a grantseeker isn’t so much a hefty financial base or a big staff, as a clear and results-oriented mission.

The foundation lists three overriding principles that it says guides its grantmaking. Climate Change is one of these—both mitigating it and adapting to it. Communications and Collaboration are the two others. Grantham places high value on organizations that inform the public of environmental ills, and organizations that team up effectively with partners and supporters to build critical masses that get things done.

Emphasizing communication, Grantham consistently gives grants to organizations that are trying to improve media coverage about climate change. It has contributed often to Yale University’s Forum on Climate Change and the Media, which trains student journalists in environmental reporting—countering misinformation from climate-change deniers is a big priority for Jeremy Grantham. The foundation also frequently donates to environmental journalism endeavors at National Public Radio, the news media watchdog group Media Matters, and the environmental news site Grist.org.

Many other grantees nab awards for demonstrating a focus on collaboration, often by building coalitions with the general public and with businesses. One major example is 350.org, a New York-based nonprofit that has received many large checks from Grantham for its organizing of climate-related grassroots movements across the globe. This particular grantee has an extensive resume of collaboration with government-reform organizations, such as participation in a mass petition to world leaders at the Rio+20 Summit in 2012, and co-organizing simultaneous rallies.

Not surprisingly, given Jeremy Grantham’s career background, this foundation looks favorably on nonprofits that work collaboratively with businesses to lay out the groundwork for environmentally sustainable economies and enterprises. Ceres, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit alliance of sustainability-minded business leaders and conservationists, repeatedly gets annual awards of $50,000 for its cultivation of more environmentally aware business practices and models. Grantham also gave a $25,000 grant to Environment Northeast, a nonprofit whose mission is development of sustainable economies in the northeastern United States and Canada. The Sustainable Markets Foundation, which pursues similar goals worldwide, has landed more than $500,000 from Grantham.

And since 2013, the foundation has also upped investment in technologies for sustainable farming, including genetic modification. In this area, Grantham stands out from many other environment groups that have come out against GM foods, despite the body of research that has found them safe. GM crops’ potential to better endure drought and disease compared to standard crops outweighs the controversy that they brew in the environmental community, in Grantham’s book. 

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