Linden Trust for Conservation: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: Formerly the Lawrence and Dana Linden Family Foundation, the Linden Trust now provides a combination of strategic support and funding to conservation programs. The philanthropic project of former Goldman Sachs partner Larry Linden, its focus is on market-based approaches that can provide long-term financing, mostly for land protection. 

IP TAKE: Linden makes six-figure grants to a number of conservation groups, but it’s really been a rainmaker through its role in brokering huge investments from other financial institutions and foundations. It does not accept unsolicited proposals.

PROFILE: Lawrence “Larry” Linden is one of 221 executives who had a stake in Goldman Sachs when it first went public in 1999, and was a partner and managing director before he retired in 2008. He started his family foundation in 1993, which changed its name in 2005 to the Linden Trust for Conservation. He’s also been involved in a number of nonprofits, sitting on the board and chairing the World Wildlife Federation and Resources for the Future.

The Linden Trust has an interesting approach to conservation. While it does provide straight-up grants-- usually unrestricted--the organization is chiefly concerned with setting up creative financing for long-term support of large-scale conservation projects. 

First, as far as grants go, the largest recipients are Resources for the Future and the WWF. The former has received as much as $600,000 in one recent year, and the latter closer to $1 million. This is pretty significant, considering that the Linden Trust usually only grants around $2 million a year. But it does give smaller, though still significant, amounts to other environmental groups, including World Resources Institute, the EDF, the NRDC, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

But Linden and his foundation really shake things up with their financial scheming and the market-based solutions they engineer in support of a handful of major conservation efforts. They tend to hand-pick projects, partners and additional funders. Trust staff, namely Larry Linden himself, drive these plans to finance land protection.

The most stunning example of this was rolled out just recently, a fund operated by the WWF of $215 million to protect about 150 million acres of the Brazilian Amazon. Rather than steadily raising funds for the project, Linden helped orchestrate a concerted effort of governments, banks, and huge foundations, to pony up the backing all at once. The so-called “closing” strategy means funds for the huge tracts of land will be available up front, and then slowly decrease funding as the Brazilian government takes over more and more of the burden in the long term.

Another major initiative of the Trust’s market-based programs is work on Reductions in Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). This describes efforts to allow reductions in deforestation to count toward credits for carbon reduction, creating financial incentives to stop razing forest land. Stateside, they back efforts in the Chesapeake Bay to establish a cap and trade system for nutrient pollution. 

You can read more about their grantees here.

Again, while many of these programs receive funding and staff time directly from the Linden Trust, it also wrangles many other funders for the handful of causes it digs into, including governments and financial institutions.

Given their narrow but deep support, it’s probably not a surprise that Linden doesn’t accept unsolicited proposals.


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