Robert W Woodruff Foundation: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation was established by a Coca-Cola CEO who was also an avid outdoorsman. So much so, he established a 29,000-acre quail-hunting reserve in the 1920s. Today, the foundation has several interests, including supporting large-scale conservation and natural resource stewardship efforts in the Atlanta metro area, and throughout Georgia.

IP TAKE: The Woodruff Foundation has a Georgia-specific mission. Only apply for funding if your project will somehow benefit nature areas within the state.

PROFILE: Founded in 1937 by a twentieth-century Coca-Cola CEO and environmentalist, the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation sits atop a large pile of cash that it shares exclusively with recipients in its home state of Georgia. Woodruff’s asset base, which totals $2.8 billion, makes it the state’s largest private foundation by far. It is one of the state’s top grant makers, as well, with annual giving that surpasses $115 million in most years. Its grants fund a full range of causes including health, education, cultural activities, public affairs, human services, and environmental conservation.

The foundation tends to make environmental grants to well-established organizations that have innovative projects in need of funding. Resource conservation and environmental education are both strong recurring themes among projects that receive awards. 

In addition, the foundation has partnered with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Nature Conservancy, and several other nonprofits to acquire 488 acres of prime conservation land, including a two-mile segment of the Amicalola Creek and its tributaries, as part of the Georgia Land Conservation Program. The land is considered to be a critical connection between two previously separate tracts of the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area, and it protects a portion of Amicalola Creek that supports at least 27 native fish species, including three endangered species. The three tracts protect more than 15,000 acres.

Water ecosystems clearly hold great value for Woodruff, but plenty of other types of landscapes benefit from its conservation grants, too. The foundation has given to the Trust for Public Land and also contributed toward the Conservation Fund, a nonprofit that oversees protection of habitats across the country, including an accumulated 92,000 of forest areas in Georgia.

A few—albeit very few, and generally very small—grants have gone to conservation work outside the state. Note that both grantees are working close to the Georgia border and, as such, their work stands a chance of indirectly benefiting Georgia’s environmental well-being, too. The foundation’s site states that grants do not go toward out-of-state programs “unless the program has a particular impact in Georgia.”

For a list of past grantees, click here.

So, if your organization is working in Georgia, you already meet the first qualification. In that case, you can send the foundation a letter of inquiry and, if it responds with interest, follow up with a proposal to the foundation’s president.

You can submit a proposal any time of year, however the foundation requests that you send an LOI before submitting a full proposal. But submit it by February 1 if you want the foundation to make a decision on it in April; or by September 1 if you want the foundation to decide on it in November.

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