Rockefeller Family Fund: Grants for Climate Change

OVERVIEW: John D. Rockefeller's grandsons created the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF) in 1967. Recently, RFF's environmental program has focused almost exclusively on climate change. That said, other environmental projects have received support as well.

IP TAKE: This funder is often drawn to smaller groups doing policy and advocacy work that has national implications. 

PROFILE: RFF is one of several Rockefeller family philanthropic outfits. It's particularly interested in three areas: economic justice for women, institutional accountability and individual liberty and the environment. The David Rockefeller Fund is also interested in the environment, though RFF gives out environmental grants on a much larger scale. RFF gave out nearly 150 grants in 2012 and has held just under $100 million in assets over the last couple of years.

Since 2006, RFF has focused on climate change as its top environmental issue and has two key initiatives. The goal of its Climate Policy initiative is to "advance state and federal policies capable of addressing the magnitude of the nation’s contribution to the climate crisis." The goal of its National Coal Campaign is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions caused by coal. The latter initiative, according to RFF, has already defeated coal plants in the south, the midwest and the Pacific Northwest, three key regions of environmental grantmaking for this funder. 

In recent years, RFF has given to Chesapeake Climate Action Network, to promote offshore wind power in Virginia, and funded Dakota Resource Council to curtail construction of a coal plant in the region. The support of these two outfits illustrates the kinds of areas where RFF prefers to operate. 

RFF environmental grants tend to be at least $30,000, though sometimes an outfit receives multiple annual grants that can total much higher. In 2012, for instance, 350.org received nearly $400,000 total from RFF. The aforementioned Chesapeake Climate Action Network received a total of $165,000 in 2012. NRDC received a large single grant of $210,000 in 2012. Other outfits such as National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club Foundation and Ecology Center have received modest sums in recent years.

RFF is very much interested in policy and advocacy. It's funded El Puente de Williamsburg, a Brooklyn-based outfit, to help support its Latino Climate Action Network. It's also supported the Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest and Living Justice Press in Minnesota.

RFF tends to give priority to organizations working as partners on initiatives with RFF. What's more, it tends to stay away from outfits that already enjoy popular support in favor of smaller and edgier groups. At the same time, it wants to support projects that will have a national impact. Those looking for more information about RFF's grantmaking policies should go to their website

Finally, it's worth noting that key RFF staff have strong environmental backgrounds. Director Lee Wasserman has been a past president of the Environmental Federation of New York and served in leadership roles with the Environmental Grantmakers Association. 

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