Packard Foundation: Grants for Climate Change

OVERVIEW: Packard channels most of its climate funding through ClimateWorks and doesn't accept unsolicited proposals for climate projects. Or at least, that's the official line. As a matter of practice, though, the substantial resources and breadth of giving through the foundation's huge Conservation and Science Program means there are a variety of ways to get Packard support for climate-related work.

IP TAKE: The David and Lucile Packard Foundation is coming at the climate issue from several different angles, which increases the possible points of entry for creative organizations who can figure out where their own work connects with Packard's funding agenda. 

PROFILE: This is the family foundation of the other guy from the Hewlett-Packard fortune. In keeping with the ideals of its founders, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation likes to give to programs that use science to improve the human condition and restore the planet. So it makes sense that of its five main programs, about two-thirds of overall giving goes to the Conservation and Science Program.

Led by respected scientist and conservationist Walt Reid, the program gives a certain amount for basic research funding and the rest for environment programs, but there’s definitely overlap. Packard will often fund projects that take scientific research on environmental issues and connect it to nonprofit outreach and policymakers. Reid often supports efforts to get science out of the lab and into decision-makers’ hands.

Mitigating climate change by cutting greenhouse-gas emissions down to size is one of this program’s principal objectives. The foundation’s board committed $350 million to grants for climate-change mitigation for the years 2015 to 2022, with about $50 million going out each year over this seven-year time frame. This follows the $500 million in climate-related grants that the foundation awarded from 2007 to 2014.

One of Packard’s main grantees for climate change is the ClimateWorks Foundation, as Packard was one of the three foundations that originally helped formulate and launch the funding initiative. From 2010 to 2013, Packard awarded ClimateWorks over $245 million in grants. Earlier ClimateWorks grants were awarded for general operating support. In 2012 and 2013 Packard’s grantmaking to the foundation became more focused, as both of Packard’s $66.1 million grants in those years went toward the support of ClimateWorks’ greenhouse gas emissions reduction and climate change programs. 

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation's other big partnership is the Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA), which coordinates funding among four foundations to approach the problem of resource use through areas such as forest protection and agriculture. Through the CLUA collaboration, Packard’s has been in support of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. agriculture, to which it’s devoted $9 million in recent years. Other CLUA members include big climate change funders such as ClimateWorks, Ford Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. 

The Conservation and Science program awards around 80% of its climate grants to projects that mitigate greenhouse-gas emissions in the power, transportation, industry, and construction sectors. Reforming agriculture and curbing deforestation are also high priorities. The foundation’s climate-change efforts additionally support projects to improve biofuels’ performance and increase use of them over fossil fuels.

    Most grants tend to range from $50,000 to $150,000, with typically fewer than 10 grants hitting the $1 million or higher mark. ClimateWorks tends to receive 40 percent to 60 percent of Packard's overall Conservation and Science funding and also seems to be quite popular among the big climate change grantmakers; so organizations should expect to work pretty hard to get out from underneath their massive shadow when it comes to competing for grant dollars. 

    It is possible, though, for groups outside of ClimateWorks to get funding. Small grants have gone to the the Alliance for Climate Education ($35,000) and Climate Advisors, Inc. ($75,000) for education and communication campaigns. Meanwhile, larger grants went to groups such as the Rainforest Action Network ($1.3 million) to reduce the climate impact of the palm oil trade. Perusing Packard's grants database may give new grantees an idea on how to get their own foot in the door. A list of previous grants is available here.

    The nice thing about Packard is that its door is always open, as least in principle. While the foundation does not accept unsolicited applications, any grant seeker who’s got an idea or project that fits in with the Conservation and Science program’s climate-change strategy is more than welcome to send a note to the program officer. If the foundation is interested, you’ll get an invitation to submit a complete proposal. Just bear in mind that, due to limited funds, the competition for new funding is going to be high.

    “The Foundation is always open to new ideas and approaches,” Reid told us. 

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