Tomkat Charitable Trust: Grants for Climate Change

OVERVIEW: The Tomkat Charitable Trust invests in finance, agriculture, and energy.

IP TAKE: Steyer and Taylor offer the occasional large gift for clean energy, but even discounting those, the couple’s foundation gives more modest-sized grants to clean energy issues.

PROFILE: Founded in 2008 by Tom Steyer, a San Francisco-based hedge fund billionaire who supports clean energy development and sustainable living, and his wife Taylor, the TomKat Charitable Trust predominately invests in energy and climate. Steyer is very politically active and strongly opposes the Keystone Pipeline and climate deniers, announcing his intention to devote $100 million to making both upcoming campaign issues. 

Despite a stated climate program, Good Energy, the trust maintains a limited web presence which only broadly outlines its grantmaking interests and activities. The program broadly states that it "embraces organizations that are working to prevent climate disaster and preserve American prosperity." This suggests that the foundation invests in projects and organizations on a case-by-case rather than imposing strict grantmaking guidelines. 


The Tomkat Trust donated $25 million that year to Yale University to establish the Energy Science Institute. While not channeled through the foundation, it’s important to note that the couple also gave $40 million to Stanford to create the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy, plus another $7 million to create the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy. 

Tomkat's grants vastly range, but some fortunate grantees may receive up to several million over the course of several years. Past organizations focused on making clean, sustainable sources of power work, both financially and technologically. Past grantees include the Sacramento Area Electrical Workers, the Energy Foundation, the Clean Economy Network Education Fund, the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank that has received nearly $2 million, at least in part for energy work.

The funder also makes grants to encourage public engagement and broaden constituencies. The Center for Ecoliteracy has received regular grants for its work in support of education on sustainable living. Tomkat has supported two religious groups for their work in environmental engagement. While not strictly energy-related, they’ve also supported a local museum and science center for environmental education.

While it's hard to imagine the couple is not highly involved in the foundation's grantmaking, they have a few staff, including Erin Wirpsa Eisenberg, director of research and investment. The sole trustee is Kathryn Hall, a close friend and former colleague of Steyer's who founded Hall Capital Partners. Tomkat does not accept proposals, but they can be reached by email.


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