OVERVIEW: The Kendeda Fund is the Atlanta-based philanthropy of Diana Blank, former wife of Home Depot cofounder Arthur Blank. Over the years, Kendeda has become a force in sustainability, the environment, and local grants in Atlanta and Montana. It looks to support community-based solutions, and aims to fill the gaps that are left by other funders.
IP TAKE: Kendeda's environmental program is known as "People, Place, and Planet," and its big green priority is sustainability, but it's always made a certain number of grants for conservation efforts, nationally and regionally, with emphases in Atlanta and Montana. The foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals or inquiries. Also of note is the foundation is in spend-down mode through 2024, so if you want to try for funds, it's best that you start getting to know and working with them now.
PROFILE: Kendeda has become one of the most active and influential mid-level environmental funders, but for more than 20 years, operated with almost no public profile. But in 2015, concurrent with the announcement of the foundation's largest grant to date, its founder, Diana Blank, went public, and Kendeda launched a website with its approach, principles, staff, and program details.
It has a stated dedication to sustainability, trust in its partners, and prefers community-based organizations, and now has three official programs: People, Place, and Planet; Girls’ Rights, and Local Priorities in Atlanta and Montana. It is also supports returning veterans and efforts to prevent gun violence.
"The Kendeda Fund is dedicated to exploring how human beings can build a more just and equitable world, one in which we use resources wisely and relate to one another more mindfully," its site states. It seeks to support community leaders and underrepresented voices, emphasizing the connection between equity and the environment. Kendeda is currently giving between $40 million and $50 million annually, having given more than $500 million in total and seeking to mostly spend down by 2024.
Here are some highlights from Kendeda's environmental giving:
Conservation: While the fund is mostly about sustainability and related work toward economic justice, some of its grants do go toward conservation. That includes some local and regional funding, but the bulk has been for larger national and international efforts.
Regionally, Kendeda has a few focus areas. With a home base in Atlanta, there's a good amount of support going to Georgia-based and southern U.S. conservation, including the Chattachoochee Riverkeeper Fund, the South Fork Conservancy, the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and the Piedmont Park Conservancy. But Western states also get a lot of love, as Diana Blank lives part-time in Montana. Funding has gone to the Gallatin Valley Land Trust, Montana Conservation Corps, and the Northern Plains Resource Council.
Media: A smaller portion of recent funding has gone to media projects to boost coverage of climate and sustainability issues. Part of Kendeda’s philosophy is about building popular support for its ideas. That’s included an annual million-dollar grant to Minnesota Public Radio in support of a sustainability initiative at American Public Media’s Marketplace radio show.
Broad Constituencies: The fund values broad-based support, with emphases on the faith community and youth. Kendeda has given millions to faith-based environmental programs like Blessed Earth, Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, the Garrison Institute and the Regeneration Project. Some religious leaders have emerged as strong backers of the fight against climate change, and Kendeda is pushing that strategy.
For a more detailed look at past and current grantees, click here.
The Kendeda Fund has made some terrific strides in transparency, but is still pretty tough to access. It doesn't accept inquiries of any kind, and only makes grants invited by its small program staff. Connections in Atlanta and a community-based approach are key.
- Dena Kimball, Executive Director
- Diane Ives, Fund Advisor for People, Place, and Planet