Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is one of the leading funders of environmental conservation in the world. But getting in the door is not easy, as Moore has a very specific focus for its grantmaking and does not accept unsolicited proposals; however, it does allow individuals to submit 100 word (or less) inquiries by email.




IP TAKE: If you're trying to save the Amazon Basin or preserve land in the Bay Area, this is a good fit for you (for info specifically on Moore's substantial marine and freshwater conservation, see here. For the Bay Area program, head over here.) However, Moore does give special project funds outside of its core areas.




PROFILE: Like many of the top green foundations in the United States, the Moore Foundation came out of Silicon Valley. Moore was founded in 2000 by Gordon Moore, the semiconductor industry pioneer and Intel cofounder, and his wife, Betty. Over the years, it has become one of the top funders in the country. In addition to environmental conservation, the foundation's main giving areas include health care, science, and the San Francisco Bay Area.




The core of Moore's environment program focuses on protecting the Amazon Basin, maintaining healthy wild salmon ecosystems and conserving marine ecosystems, along with several other efforts. If you are specifically focused on marine or freshwater conservation, see our separate guide to Moore's funding in that area here Moore also does some work on climate change, in particular by backing CalTech's research on clean energy. If you hope to raise money from Moore for climate change work, see our separate guide to Moore's climate funding here. The rest of Moore's conservation work falls under the category of "Special Projects", which tends to go toward innovative approaches, new partnerships, and research tools.

Conservationists obviously have a big friend in Gordon and Betty Moore, and until recently were even fortunate enough to have one of their own leaders atop the Moore Foundation. For six years, former head of The Nature Conservancy Steve McCormick was director of the foundation. McCormick abruptly stepped down in February 2014 (read details about his departure here), and has been replaced by Interim Director Paul Gray. Despite McCormick's resignation, he set a strong direction for Moore's conservation funding that will likely be in place for some time. 




Along with other conservation heavy hitters such as the Packard and Ford foundations, Moore is a member of the Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA), a collaborative giving initiative that works to stop deforestation and promote more sustainable agriculture. Within the land use crowd of funders, Moore is one of the leaders in fighting deforestation in developing countries, with the Amazon Basin an overriding focus. Moore is keenly focused on the Amazon not just because of that region's role in the earth's climate, but also because of its enormous biodiversity.

Moore has taken a number of approaches in its Amazon work. One area it has funded lately is work aimed at changing how beef is produced in the Amazon, since so much deforestation — and other bad stuff — can be traced back to the cattle industry. Mainly, though, Moore's big thing is improving and professionalizing forest management through the Amazon Basin.




Much of Moore's funding for its Andes-Amazon Initiative takes the form of big grants to major NGOs that the foundation has been working with for years. These include the Wildlife Conservation Society, the World Wildlife Fund, and several top NGOs in Brazil and Peru. On the other hand, a variety of of institutions, including universities, have received Moore funding for Amazon-related work in recent years. If an institution has a key role to play in some aspect of preserving the Amazon, it should definitely get itself on Moore's radar, but since Moore doesn't accept new pitches and works very closely with its small number of main grantees, getting in the door is not an easy task. 

To enter this mix, Moore insiders recommend building a relationship with relevant staff. In fact, program officers usually work very closely with recipients long before and after any funds are awarded. Rather than an application or a pitch, it's more of an iterative process to design project goals aligned with both parties, and the strategy to get there. Once awarded, program officers stay in contact with grantees to monitor how the project is going and adapt their strategy if the original one is not working. It's very much a collaborative team effort.

Beyond the Amazon, Moore has a longstanding interest in land conservation in the San Francisco Bay Area and makes a handful of grants to advance this goal every year. But again take note, the Bay Area program is housed with a different team than the rest of the foundation's conservation work.




If your conservation work has nothing to do with either the Amazon or the Bay Area, you may find hope in Moore's special program grants for environmental conservation, which range rather widely. Several U.S. universities, including Duke, Stanford, Yale, and the University of Colorado at Boulder, have previously scored Moore funds for various projects. Same thing goes here as with the larger subprograms, you'll need to cultivate a relationship there first.

To access the foundation's database of grantees, click here.







    Finally, it must be noted that for all his giving so far through the foundation, Gordon Moore is a living donor, now in his 80s, with an estimated net worth of just over $4 billion. So there are huge resources waiting in the wings here, and the foundation's spending — how much, on what, and where — may easily change, with big new initiatives added. So this is a funder to keep a very close eye on if you're in the conservation field.


    • Search for staff contact info and bios in PeopleFinder (paid subscribers only.)