Bauman Foundation: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: The Bauman Foundation is a progressive funder that gives grants to groups that train and support environmental activists, improve human health by combating pollution or pressing for stricter oversight of the chemicals in our foods and consumer products, and build coalitions between environmental activists and other cadres of activists, such as labor unions.

IP TAKE: This foundation is focused on funding efforts towards systemic changes, and works with already-established (mostly policy) partners in the fight for a democratic society. If your mission is nonpartisan research and field work, or advancing conservation on the ground, you’ll have better luck elsewhere.

PROFILE: Helping people and protecting the environment go hand in hand at the Bauman Foundation. When New York businessman/philanthropist Lionel Bauman launched this institution in the 1980s with a mission of spearheading “systemic progressive social change,” he called special attention to the “the intersection of health and environment”—i.e., improving people’s health by reducing air and water pollution and by keeping hazardous chemicals out of our food and household products. Bauman himself passed on in 1987, but his daughter Patricia leads the foundation, and environmental conservation remains an inseparable part of its vision for a better society.

From its headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Bauman Foundation makes several millions of dollars in grants a year. Bauman grants range from small to medium-sized; most take the form of general support, with a few covering specific projects.

Educational workshops and seminars are also part of the equation. Note that Bauman’s founding mission is “systemic” change. It takes committed activists to change a social system, and Bauman thus channels some of its wealth toward training new generations of change-making activists. Organizations that raise the general public’s awareness of environmental issues get Bauman funding, as well. Additionally, many of its environmental grantees are focused on combating urban pollution and/or reducing the public's exposure to toxic chemicals. Also, organizations that bring ecological activists and activists from other sectors, such as labor, together also usually get extra consideration. Here's a great list of all of their past grantees.

There’s another, overarching theme that runs throughout most Bauman grantees, and that theme is policy change. The foundation’s website expressly states that “brick-and-mortar” conservation projects will only “rarely” get funding. Most of the money goes to groups that are looking to influence communities and lawmakers and get new programs, laws, and protections up and running.  

Now for some bad news. Bauman does not accept unsolicited proposals, nor unsolicited letters of inquiry. So you will need to strike up a connection with one or more of the grant makers. But considering the list of past grantees—they’re divers, and many are not big-name groups—achieving this might not be as hard as it appears. Together, Patricia Bauman and executive director Gary Bass have wide connections in the progressive world, so if you know somebody in this world, you may be able to arrange an introduction.