Bernard F. and Alva B. Gimbel Foundation: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: The Gimbel Foundation has funded a variety of programs in New York and nationally since 1943. Today, one of its five grantmaking interests is the environment--both for direct services and advocacy. Some specific focus areas include reducing carbon emissions and increasing energy efficiency, ensuring access to clean air and water, and restoring the health of the oceans.

IP TAKE: Gimbel gives mostly to national programs and pretty consistently to a short list of big environmental groups for general support. But there is a small emphasis on ocean work and the occasional small grant for New York City programs. It also limits its funding for direct services to that which is done in New York.

PROFILE: The family’s foundation was started in 1943 by Bernard F. Gimbel and his wife Alva. He's the grandson of the store's 19th century founder. It was Bernard who expanded the chain into New York and led the company to its great financial success.

Today, the Gimbel Foundation is overseen by a board of nine directors, all descendants of Bernard, with granddaughter Leslie Gimbel as President and CEO. The funder’s original grants were for basically any charitable, scientific or educational purposes, but today there are five programs — economic development, civil legal services, criminal justice, reproductive rights, and the environment.  

Related: Bernard F. and Alva B. Gimbel Foundation: New York City Grants 

The foundation makes close to 100 grants a year, giving about $3.5 million to $4 million annually in recent years. Most grants are between $50,000 and $100,000.

While much of its funding is based in New York City, the environment program is mostly national and international. And beyond that, there are not a whole lot of of constraints to its funding. The program description cites climate and energy, clean air and water, oceans and marine ecosystems, and strategies that include policy, litigation, grassroots work, and market-based solutions. I think President Obama would call this the “all of the above” plan. 

Its giving in practice is similarly loose in terms of subject matter, with most of the grants going to large environment groups working in a variety of issues, and almost always for general support. They are, however, extremely consistent. In the past five years, the foundation has given to the same 5 to 10 organizations, with the occasional, smaller wildcard. 

For a recent list of grantees, click here.

One nice thing about Gimbel is that it’s fairly accessible. You can always give them a call at (212) 684-9110, but grant decisions are made in December and June. Inquiries are accepted through the funder’s online system.


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