Natasha & Dirk Ziff Foundation: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: The Natasha & Dirk Ziff Foundation has no website or staff, and gave out less than $500,000 in 2013. But the Ziffs control a multi-billion fortune and have contributed to a number of different environmental organizations.

IP TAKE: This isn't much of a grantmaking outfit, and mainly a funder to keep an eye on for the future.

PROFILE: In 1996, billionaire Dirk Ziff started his environmental philanthropy in earnest with a gift to the National Audubon Society. This was four years before the Dirk E. Ziff Foundation was formed and many more still before the foundation changed its name when Ziff married his wife Natasha.

Ziff and his brothers, Robert and Daniel, are the sons of publishing and media giant William Ziff Jr. William's sons chose to forego taking over their father's company and instead struck out on their own. The three Ziff brothers are worth more than $14 billion collectively, and have a mutual passion for arts, local cultural institutions, health, and conservation.

One of the foundation's biggest grant recipients in recent years has been the Farm Institute, an educational non-profit located in Martha's Vineyard. Among other things, the organization runs year-long programs in land preservation and environmental stewardship. The foundation has sent a steady stream of money to the institute over the years and has also made a 5-year pledge of $125,000 to the Farm Institute in the past.

The foundation has supported several other conservation organizations in Massachusetts including the alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound and the Urban Ecology Institute at Boston College. Ziff and has wife Natasha vacation in Martha's Vineyard and  so it's one of the foundation's hotspots not just in the environmental space but when it comes to film. Natasha sits on the board of the Martha's Vineyard Film Festival. Outside of Massachusetts, Ziff has also supported Westchester Land Trust and Central Park Conservancy in New York.

While the foundation clearly has a geographic focus, that doesn't mean the foundation has only supported organizations in New York and Martha's Vineyard. Further south in Washington D.C., Securing America's Future Energy Foundation (SAFE) and the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas (ASPO) have received over $166,000 from the foundation in recent years. Both organizations describe themselves as non-partisan alternative energy advocacy groups.

The foundation's grant to ASPO, an international organziation, in particular might be a sign of the foundation deepening and expanding their environmental grantmaking. Finally, Ziff has supported Conservation International Foundation, NRDC, and For the Forest. 

Outside of environmental conservation, Ziff has supported animals and wildlife. Dating back to Ziff's indivudal donation back in 1996, the National Audubon Society has received around $500,000. Ziff has made smaller donations to the Peregrine Fund, another bird conservation organization.  

Ultimately, the foundation's efforts in this area so far have been modest.  But let's not forget that Ziff is still only 50 and is likely still focused on his business. His wife Natasha seems to have more of a passion for arts and culture at least at this moment. But the foundation does have a conservation track-record here and will have to be watched closely, especially once more time and energy is dedicated to giving that money away.


The Natasha & Dirk Ziff Foundation
350 Park Ave., 4th Fl.
New York, NY United States 10022-6022


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