McKnight Foundation: Grants for Climate Change

OVERVIEW: The McKnight Foundation climate change grantmaking invests in global efforts to reduce carbon pollution and develop renewable energy technologies.      

IP TAKE: McKnight's climate change investments think globally, but are generally awarded locally. Much of its grantmaking prioritizes Minnesota; however, several organizations across the United States secure McKnight funds each year.

PROFILE: The McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based family foundation, was established in 1953. It seeks to "improve the quality of life for present and future generations" by changing policy and partnerships in priority areas. It funds ArtsEducation & LearningInternationalMidwest Climate & EnergyMN Initiative FoundationsMississippi RiverNeuroscience, and Region & Communities.

In 2013, the McKnight Foundation broke up its larger environment program to create the Midwest Climate & Energy and Mississippi River. The foundation conducts climate change related grantmaking through both programs. The Midwest Climate & Energy programs "foster[s] and support[s] Midwest climate and energy leadership, making the region a national and international leader in addressing climate change by achieving energy-related greenhouse emission reductions." In contrast, the Mississippi River program seeks to restore the water quality and resilience of the Mississippi River.  McKnight ultimately envisions the Midwest region as a global model for climate change action by simultaneously reducing emissions throughout all economic sectors and improving sustainability. Its climate work has three objectives: climate and energy policy, community engagement, and resilient clean energy economy. 

Grants range widely from a few thousand to millions of dollars. Past grantees include $25 million  to two of its longtime program partners, RE-AMP and the San Francisco-based Energy Foundation. The foundation offers few grants each year, so grantmaking is competitive. 

McKnight does not accept unsolicited LOIs or grant proposals for the Midwest Climate and Energy program, and it is difficult for newcomers to secure grants in this area; however, for those seeking support from McKnight's Mississippi River program, McKnight accepts unsolicited LOIs and an online application. 

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