Skoll Foundation: Grants for Climate Change

OVERVIEW: The Skoll Foundation supports organizations engaged in social entrepreneurship in countries around the world. The foundation's seeks organizations that have the ability to “spark large-scale change for seemingly intractable social problems.”

IP TAKE: Skoll funds organizations with established finances and the resources to make substantial impacts. In order to better position themselves, grantseekers must make certain that their work closely aligns with Skoll’s mission. Then, grantseekers must also network with Skoll partners in order to attract funding attention. 

PROFILE: Founded in 1999, the Skoll Foundation was created by Jeff Skoll, a tech innovator and social agitator/movie maker. He was the first employee and president of online auction powerhouse eBay and has produced such films as An Inconvenient Truth and Food, Inc. The foundation emphasizes social entrepreneurship—the art of disrupting established, but inefficient social structures in order to improve humanity's well-being, and ultimately seeks to "live in a sustainable world of peace & prosperity." Skoll supports organizations engaged in social entrepreneurship around the world, and also makes program-related investments in the form of loans, direct investments, and private equity investments. It prioritizes sustainability, peace, and prosperity in its key grantmaking areas.

The foundation primarily conducts climate change grantmaking through its Sustainable Markets program, which aims to advance sustainability, conservation, and alternative fuel use through effective investment in established and innovative groups and programs, and through support for social entrepreneurs who demonstrate a commitment to solving the climate crisis. 

Skoll believes today’s markets focus only on the short-term, an approach which overlooks environmental damage and resource depletion. This program seeks to fund marketable innovations that change business by rendering production processes, business practices, supply chains, and the finished consumer products and services themselves more sustainable.

Skoll's grantmaking ranges between $50,000 and $350,000, and it awards only a handful of grants over $500,000. Skoll's strategic agenda is opaque, and it does not accept unsolicited proposals. Taking this proactive grantmaking approach, Skoll identifies its interests and partners, and funds them accordingly. The foundation generally awards multi-year grants. One of the more prominent grantees of the Global Threats Fund has been the Climate Reality Project, which received $15 million over three years for public education on climate change. Other past grantees include  the American Council on Renewable Energy, for its work in expanding clean energy globally, and Ceres, a coalition that uses financial leverage to get businesses to be more sustainable. 

In addition to its grantmaking, Skoll holds an annual Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship competition. The foundation awards fewer than 10 grants per year through this program. Grants are awarded to innovative social entrepreneurs that might not previously have been on Skoll's radar.

Even with its traditional grantmaking and social entrepreneurship awards, the foundation awards surprisingly few grants per year. This is likely because Skoll, as their tax filings reflect, dedicates a large portion of its grant funding to Skoll Global Threats Fund (SGTF). The SGTF supports projects that confront “global threats imperiling humanity by seeking solutions, strengthening alliances, and spurring actions needed to safeguard the future.” SGTF also does not accept unsolicited proposals.  

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