Quimby Family Foundation: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: Maine's pristine forests and trails have held a longtime personal importance to Roxanne Quimby, and she looks out for them on a full-time basis through the Quimby Family Foundation. The foundation advances nature conservation and pro-nature values among Maine's public. One rule grant applicants should bear in mind, though: their work must take place in Maine.

IP TAKE: If you're pursuing conservation work in Maine, then applying to the Quimby Family Foundation for a grant may be worth your while.

PROFILE: Roxanne Quimby was a divorced mother living in a cabin without electricity in the woods of Maine in the 1980s when she co-launched Burt's Bees, an earth-friendly personal-care product line that quickly became a nationwide sensation, with hundreds of millions of dollars in accrued revenue. In 2003, she sold 80 percent of the company for $141 million, and just four years later, in 2007, the remaining stake of Burt's was sold to Clorox for $925 million. How much exactly Quimby pocketed out of that sale remains unknown — estimates range up to $350 million — but with hundreds of millions of dollars in her pocket, Quimby went on to launch new endeavors in conservation from the ground up. The latest of those personal initiatives is the Quimby Foundation, a family-run institution that was incorporated in 2004 and has been bankrolling land restoration and preservation statewide since 2005.

Saving tracts of land is front-and-center in the foundation's operations. Also important to its mission is encouraging healthy outdoor recreation, sustainable resource use, and "wilderness values" among the people of Maine — goals it pursues by supporting nature trails, summer camps, and other activities that connect people with the natural world.

The individual awards aren't big by the giving standards of larger foundations. Their range runs from $5,000 to $50,000 tops. Bear in mind that the foundation's asset base, at just over $16.5 million, is relatively modest as foundation wealth goes.

But if the foundation is less financially endowed than many other charitable institutions, it's also more approachable. Unlike quite a few of the larger philanthropic organizations whose grant giving is exclusively invitation only, the Quimbys welcome unsolicited funding requests. An interested applicant gets the ball rolling by submitting a one-page "concept letter" describing the project. The foundation's website has a portal specifically for accepting these letters. Submission dates run from February 1 to February 28.  Quimby's staff reviews them and invites the applicants whose proposals sound the most promising to submit a full application.

The foundation shows strong partiality toward trails, nature parks, and outdoors activity associations — the kinds of programs that engage average citizens in nature and foster their appreciation of it, thereby cultivating the wilderness values that the foundation is trying to advance.

One of its biggest beneficiaries thus far is the Natural Resources Council of Maine, an environmental advocacy group that presses for pro-environment legislation and organizes ecosystem restoration projects. And in keeping with Quimby's recreational-outdoors-activity theme, the Maine Island Trail Association has received support from Quimby in recent years, while the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust gained funding and Portland Trails also received a series of grants. The foundation also gives generously to land and river conservation and restoration programs. To see a full list of grantees, click here.

The foundation commits itself to conservation work exclusively within Maine. A few out-of-state organizations number among Quimby's grant recipients, though each one received its grant because it was undertaking some conservation work in Maine at the time. Organizations whose work takes place entirely outside Maine will not get Quimby grants.

Youth-centered programs in general hold great interest for Quimby. The foundation funds numerous other recreational and educational activities for young people throughout the year. And not all of these are conservation-specific. School theatre and music programs and youth art clubs also frequently win grant awards from this foundation. Other educational programs that affirm overall environmental sustainability get funding, as well. The Bay School of Bangor, Maine, is a an example. It received a grant from Quimby to fund class instruction on environmentally conscious farming methods.


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