Mertz Gilmore Foundation: Grants for Climate Change

OVERVIEW: The Mertz Gilmore Foundation has a strong Climate Change Solutions program, which makes grants available to individuals and groups who promote greater use of clean energy, develop renewable sources of energy, and those who are engaged in research and education on climate change. 

IP TAKE: They don't have the deepest pockets, but they want to be a major player on climate change.

PROFILE: The Mertz Gilmore Foundation is a family foundation established in 1959. It's committed to improving the quality of life in foundation home New York City, where it's provided numerous grants to arts and dance groups, as well as groups interested in protecting the city's environment. Over time, Mertz Gilmore's environmental commitment has expanded far beyond the city to include state, national and global issues as well. In recent years, the foundation has demonstrated a strong commitment to groups interested in climate change.

In fact, Mertz Gilmore has been on the leading edge of the climate change issue since at least 1984, when research they had funded demonstrated climate change to be one of the most critical long-term issues humans would ever face. Hence, their active membership in the U.S. Climate and Energy Funders Group, as well as their creation of the Climate Change Solutions program, which has become one of the Mertz Gilmore Foundation's largest individual commitments over the years. To that end, the Foundation became a funding partner of the Energy Foundation in 1997, a  collaborative effort has led to nearly $24 million in grants.

The Foundation's board approved a new grants program, Climate Change Solutions, in 2007. The program is designed to provide investments in sustainable policies and practices, in order to trigger significant reductions in global warming pollution. One way to do this is to switch away from fossil fuels to alternatives, and they are looking for ways to do this, especially with regard to coal. Through Climate Change Solutions, the Foundation makes grants in three major areas.

Alternatives to coal-fired plants. Coal-fired power plants account for over 37% of the carbon dioxide produced in the United States. As alternatives to coal are available, the foundation supports campaigns designed to ensure that coal plants comply with the law as well as campaigns that promote clean energy alternatives to replace coal plants.

New York City. Because the Foundation is based in New York City, it provides support to local programs designed to address climate change. The goal is to develop model programs for the world's cities, since large cities account for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. They also support new approaches for a national climate movement, because they want more input on policy development centered around climate change.

New constituencies and approaches for a national climate movement. Mertz Gilmore supports programs and initiatives that develop new constituencies to demand new policies, and to expand the environmental movement beyond a few activist groups and bring climate change mitigation into the mainstream.

Grants awarded include $150,000 to the Southern Environmental Law Center in support of its work in promoting clean energy alternatives in coal plants located in the Southeast, as well as a $200,000 grant to the Alliance for a Greater New York in support of its climate change solutions program. The majority of grants from Mertz Gilmore are in the $25,000 to $50,000 range.

For initiatives and programs that claim they want to meet those aims, the Foundation won't just evaluate the program itself, but also the applicants' ability to work in partnership with other groups, as well as their ability to raise additional funds for proposed work. To apply, send a letter of inquiry of fewer than three pages via email. Mertz Gilmore has multiple deadline submissions annually, so grantseekers need to keep a close watch on the Foundation's website for those deadline announcements.

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