Nathan Cummings Foundation: Grants for Climate Change

OVERVIEW: The Nathan Cummings Foundation’s climate-related grantmaking supports transitioning to clean energy with an emphasis on communities.  

IP TAKE: NCF has evolved from focusing on a technology-based approach to focusing on local action and equitable and sustainable growth of clean energy. The foundation also funds work that addresses communities which experience the impacts of climate change. It also seeks to develop resilient communities. Potential grantees must have a strong justice aspect to their work.

PROFILE: Endowed by the fortunes of the Sara Lee Corporation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation (NCF) is a progressive, funder steeped in the "Jewish tradition of social justice" through a two-pronged focus—climate change and inequality. Its latest iteration has increased focus on racial and economic justice and a “just transition” frame to clean energy. Priorities include advancing clean energy technology and large-scale investments in clean energy. 

The foundation conducts its climate change funding through its Inclusive Clean Economy program; however, grantmaking to climate change overlaps with all of the foundation's giving interests. The program was inspired to address the climate crisis "from an equity perspective and to hold accountable the deeply entrenched political and corporate interests that have left our nation’s infrastructure and communities vulnerable and have stalled the energy and economic transformation we need." 

The program believes it can fulfill its climate change platform by:

  • making underserved communities safer and more resilient;

  • spurring more democratic and localized clean energy;

  • supporting religious, cultural and community leaders to revitalize community spirit in the face of climate change;

  • holding policymakers and corporations accountable to the public;

  • and investing in local economies and solutions that can scale up nationally or globally.

The NCF's climate change grantmaking emphasizes getting the progressive movement to think beyond its usual approaches. NCF has also signaled a past friendliness to fracking that has rankled allies.  

Grants range from $50,000 to $250,000, with a choice few reaching the $400,000 to $600,000 mark. Past grantees include the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy and Earth Day Network, Inc. Explore the grants given out by the foundation to see who they've been funding lately.

As the foundation continues to implement its revamped climate program, spending is subject to change. NCF currently accepts unsolicited letters of inquiry.