Surdna Foundation: Climate Change Grants

OVERVIEW: The Surdna Foundation's Sustainable Environments program prioritizes more energy-efficient buildings, better water-system management, increased access to local and regional food supplies, and a greater availability of efficient mass transit.

IP TAKE: Through its Sustainable Environments program, Surdna highlights urban living.

PROFILE: Established in 1917, the Surdna Foundation seeks to "foster sustainable communities in the United States - communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures." Guided by the principles of social justice, the foundation invests in Thriving Cultures, Sustainable Environments, and Strong Local Economies

Surdna conducts its climate-change related grantmaking through its Sustainable Environments program. The initiative, the conduit for any Surdna grants related to climate change, funds programs that seek to change the way we look at infrastructure and to encourage “next generation infrastructure,” e.g., programs that enhance public transportation, make buildings more energy efficient, and improve food and water systems—all developments that stand to have mitigating effects on greenhouse-gas emissions. The program overseas four subprograms: Sustainable Transportation Networks and Equitable Development Patterns; Energy Efficiency in the Built Environment; Urban Water Management; and Regional Food Supply.

Surdna grants range from about $30,000 to over a million; it supports both small and established organizations, but prioritizes larger organizations. Past grantees include the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships among many others.  Surdna restricts its climate grant funding to the United States for the time being. Its awards address numerous aspects of U.S. urban living and are well-distributed geographically from coast to coast. 

In terms of its climate-change funding, the foundation believes in “smart growth,” a philosophy that encompasses many aspects of sustainable development. Indeed, it awarded Smart Growth America $4.3 million to work with state governments and the public on fostering smart growth plans across the United States; and gave Climate Solutions $985,000 for its work with state governments on transit system developments and pro-economic-growth solutions to climate change. The foundation prioritizes projects that are integrative. Much as it likes any one significant improvement to a city’s sustainability quotient, it likes it all the more when several sustainability improvements come to fruition at once. A database of previous grants is available here.

Surdna accepts unsolicited letters of inquiry. If an applicant is a good fit, they will be asked to submit a full proposal.

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