Sall Family Foundation: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: Sall Family Foundation is bankrolled by John Sall, a titan in statistical analysis software, and his wife Ginger Sall. The couple are very involved in the environment--in particular with a couple of global nonprofits to which they’ve given millions in support.  

IP TAKE: The Salls give a ton in terms of dollar amount to the environment, but for the most part, funding has been limited to a few grantees. But the couple plan to give away the majority of their wealth, and there have been some new grantees popping up in recent years.

PROFILE: John Sall is an American computer software developer who is legendary for his work in statistics as cofounder and executive vice president of SAS. Sall is a Midwesterner originally, having grown up in Rockford, Illinois; he attended Beloit College and Northern Illinois University. 

But it was his graduate-level studies at North Carolina State University that led him to computer science and his fellow co-creators of the SAS programming language and company. SAS is a suite of business analytics software that helps manage data and perform digital analysis and visualizations. John Sall also started a side project of SAS called JMP, which is a more accessible version.  

Virginia “Ginger” Sall is John’s wife and cofounder of the Sall Family Foundation. By trade, she’s also in software, having worked as a programmer, developer, and consultant. She’s also very active with a number of nonprofits, including Le Leche League, which helps mothers with breastfeeding. She’s also studied biostatistics and is on the advisory council of the Gillings School of Global Public Health, UNC Chapel Hill.

The foundation gives in the ballpark of $10 million annually, and the Salls signed the Giving Pledge in 2012, promising to give the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

They fund just a few causes, favoring a handful of grantees, and supporting them big-time. Their biggest cause is actually global development. The foundation has given increasingly large grants to the nonprofit CARE over at least 13 years.

But they're also staunch environmentalists. The foundation’s conservation giving has gone to just two global environmental groups. (They are nothing if not consistent.)

First, there’s the Nature Conservancy. In just the last 10 years, the foundation has granted this conservation goliath close to $15 million. That translates to annual grants ranging from $1 million to $2 million. Funding is always listed as general support. John Sall also served as a board member for TNC from 2002 to 2011. 

The foundation's other big group is the World Wildlife Fund, for which grantmaking has actually been quite similar. The couple is also personally involved in the organization, with John serving on the Board of Directors and Virginia formerly on the board and now on the National Council.

The foundation has also supported Duke University, where Virginia Sall serves on the board of advisors for the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

The couple’s personal giving is not quite as easy to track, but they are known to have supported NatureServe and the World Resources Institute. 

Sall Family Foundation isn’t all that accessible, lacking a website or program staff, and supporting only a handful of organizations per year. But they do accept letters of inquiry by mail, asking for literature about the organization, a description of the project and amount requested, and history and mission of the organization. 

And there is a hint that they might be stepping up the number of grants they give. In 2013, the funder gave out nine grants, many more than usual, with six of them for smaller amounts (around $50K), many toward new recipients. 


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10 S. Dearborn IL1-0117
Chicago, IL United States 60603-2300