Turner Foundation: Grants for Animals and Wildlife

OVERVIEW: Ted Turner supports the protection of endangered wildlife and biodiversity in different ways, working through several entities. Most notable is the Turner Foundation, which spreads its money relatively widely to create opportunities for many grantseekers looking for funds for land and sea-based conservation projects.

IP TAKE: This foundation is not the biggest funder or the one giving the largest grants, and it doesn't accept unsolicited proposals, but if your work is in this field, it could be worth it to get to know it.

PROFILE: While some have questioned his motives, particularly in relation to his massive land holdings, Turner nonetheless takes his conservation work extremely seriously and is considered by many to be a hero in the field.

Turner's wildlife conservation philanthropy mainly exists in three endeavors: the Turner Endangered Species Fund, Turner Biodiversity Divisions, and the Turner Foundation.

The Turner Foundation is the grantmaking foundation. It is the Turner Endangered Species Fund’s and Turner Biodiversity Divisions primary source of funding and is a steady funding source for hundreds of other organizations’ environmental initiatives throughout the United States and, to a lesser extent, worldwide. Its grants go out under five individual programs that each address separate types of environmental challenges. Wildlife-conservation projects will get most of their funding through the Safeguarding Habitat program.  

Protecting vulnerable ecosystems and the wildlife that inhabit them is the Safeguarding Habitat program’s mission. The program prioritizes far-ranging carnivores, fish, migratory birds, and pollinators—it calls these species groups “keystone indicators” of their ecosystems’ state of health.

And while the program funds projects nationwide, some regions get more of a spotlight than others. Turner expressly looks for “core habitats”—multipurpose areas that encompass grounds where species spawn and rear their young, grounds where they forage, and shelter areas for species that migrate or hibernate during the winter. The following six locales have habitat areas like these and so get the majority share of the program’s grants:  

  • the southeastern coastal plain, especially Georgia and South Carolina
  • the Florida panhandle
  • the Red Hills region of northern Florida and southwestern Georgia
  • the Sky Islands region of southwestern New Mexico, southeastern Arizona, and northern Mexico
  • the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
  • south-central and southeastern Alaska  

Turner doesn’t accept unsolicited applications, but you can try your luck contacting one of the program managers and offering to submit a letter of inquiry. Note that while this foundation is not the largest environmental funder in the United States in terms of monetary wealth, it does give a very large number of grants to an impressive number of organizations, surpassing 132 or more in some years. So despite the big name and reputation of this funder, if your work is a good fit for Turner's programs, don't be intimidated.