Threshold Foundation: Grants for Climate Change

OVERVIEW: Threshold is actually a large collaborative of wealthy progressive donors, but generates grantmaking funds through member dues. Its climate change efforts seek to invest in a variety of priorities, among them biodiversity and conservation.

IP TAKE: Though anonymous, this circle of donors is surprisingly transparent, at least regarding its modest grantmaking program. Grants are made on an annual cycle, not always open to uninvited LOIs. 

PROFILE: Since 1981, the Threshold Foundation has seen itself as "a community of individuals united by our commitment to create a just, joyful, and generative world [...] Threshold has been a catalyst for social and environmental change by seeding hundreds of nascent organizations, and by supporting the inception of multiple donor networks and socially responsible businesses throughout the world." Founded by wealthy heir Joshua Mailman and originally called the Doughnuts, this group evolved into a network of donors and a grantmaking program, administered by the Tides Foundation. It currently has around 300 members and they all meet twice a year in exotic locales to “work simultaneously on our inner lives and our social responsibility.” As a multi-generational membership organization, Threshold has devoted itself to aligning its resources with its values "while fostering a fertile training ground for the full and authentic expression of [its] passions and purpose."

While it invest in eight programs, it also conducts climate change funding through its Climate Strategies program. The program aims to "eliminate the causes, and reverse the effects, of climate change." The foundation also views the "intersectionality of environmental work with issues of race, class, and equity." As a result, applicants must demonstrate how their work respects the intersection between race, class, and gender. With a variety of shifting priorities and deadlines, applicants are strongly advised to continuously check the foundation's website for any changes. The two main strategies supported by this circle are combating 'dirty' energy sources and emissions, and protecting forests and other land to 'sequester carbon.'

Aside from Climate Strategies, Threshold also offers climate change grants through its Thriving Resilient Communities and Food and Farming funding circles. The Thriving Resilient Communities funding circle also has a grassroots or community-based strategy, but part of its goal is sustainability. Past grantees include Bay Localize and Transition US, a California-based group that community deals in resilience to economic, climate, and energy shocks.

Grants typically range from $30,000 to $50,000. Funds derive from membership dues of Threshold community members, while volunteer committees decide on grantmaking. Past climate change grantees include the Partnership for Policy Integrity, the Energy Justice Network, and the California Climate and Agriculture Network, among many others. Grantmaking prioritizes grassroots and local communities, as well as those with a progressive political bent. 

As far as applying for grants, the funding circles appear to be always invite-only. Grantmaking staff can always be contacted by email or phone (415) 561-6401. 


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