Packard Foundation: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: Most of Packard's conservation funding is focused on the United States, with a big emphasis on the American West and the agricultural sector. This deep-pocketed funder spreads its grants quite widely, backing lots of different types of approaches and organizations, including smaller groups.




IP TAKE: Even though it doesn't accept unsolicited proposals, the amount of available funding makes your time spent getting to know and work with this foundation to build a relationship worthwhile.




PROFILE: The David and Lucile Packard Foundation has been around since 1964, endowed by the wealth of tech giant David Packard, cofounder of the Hewlett-Packard Company, aka HP. Packard gives about half its grants to environmental issues, and there's some overlap with its science work. In fact, the two issues are combined in one Conservation and Science program, led by respected environmental scientist Walt Reid. Not surprisingly, Packard often supports initiatives that use research to improve best practices and policies.

Generally speaking, Conservation and Science supports work with four specific priorities in mind, according to Program Director Walt Reid. Those priorities are:




Again, like most big green funders, Packard has become a major backer of climate change work in recent years (see IP's guide to Packard's climate funding here). However, the foundation still funds a huge amount of conservation work, mostly surrounding the western United States, the West Coast, and marine protections. Packard invests in policy work, improvements to private-sector practices, and scientific activities to advance its priorities.


Packard's conservation-related subprograms include Marine Fisheries, the California Coast, the Gulf of California, the Western Pacific, Marine Birds, Agriculture, and Western Conservation. (For more on Packard's marine funding see IP's Packard marine guide, here).




While the Conservation and Science program does not accept unsolicited applications for conservation work, this is a foundation with deep pockets that spreads its environmental money quite widely. So if you're doing conservation work generally within Packard's funding areas, it's well worth your while to become a keen student of what the foundation is doing and try to find a point of entry.


    One of the striking things about Packard is just how many different organizations are receiving money, with grants that vary widely in size. This approach contrasts sharply with that of certain other funders, such as the Moore Foundation, which target their environmental funding far more narrowly and make fewer, bigger grants. Packard's grantmaking style is supported by a large staff (including seven program officers and five program associates within Conservation and Science). This allows the foundation to have a diverse portfolio. This can also make it tough for new grantees to get in the door, however, since there is often a push under way to streamline the portfolio.







    So, what does Packard look for in potential grant recipients? Innovative ideas, for one. Reid and his colleagues have many candidates for funding, so if you're one of those candidates, you had best showcase what you can do that the others aren't doing. The program also carefully evaluates a grant seeker's organizational: Knowledgeable staff that are well-connected in their niche areas and have a keen understanding of how the world works and how to intervene in a problem so as to achieve the best possible progress toward a better outcome are what Reid and company look for. They also seek strong organizational leaders who operate efficiently, don't overpromise, and communicate clearly what is working, what isn't, and what they have learned.


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