Schmidt Family Foundation: Grants for the Environment

OVERVIEW: Established in 2006 by Wendy and Eric Schmidt, the Schmidt Family Foundation has a large environmental program. Many of its grantees are in California and New York, but money has gone to outfits across the country. 

IP TAKE: The foundation runs a number of different environmental programs and gives away millions of dollars to a long list of grantees each year. A moderate staff even oversees some of its programs. Currently, the foundation is not accepting unsolicited applications.

PROFILE: Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and his wife Wendy run the Schmidt Family Foundation in Palo Alto. Schmidt got his bachelor's from Princeton in electrical engineering as well as a master's and Ph.D in computer science from UC Berkeley. Prior to joining Google in 2001, he was the chairman and CEO of Novell and chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems. Wendy graduated from Smith College and then UC Berkeley where the two met. Wendy also worked at Sun Microsystems before working in interior design.

Schmidt and Wendy are very active in civic life. Schmidt founded and currently chairs the New America Foundation. The nonprofit think tank's board includes James Fallows and Fareed Zakaria. Wendy, meanwhile, serves as a trustee at NRDC, and is an international board member at Human Rights Watch, among others.

Wendy's involvement with NRDC and other environmental organizations seems to guide the couple's passion in this area. In fact, the Schmidt Family Foundation almost exclusively concerns itself with the environment. Wendy serves as president of the foundation.

The foundation channels most of its grantmaking through a program called the 11th Hour Project, describing its mission as "connecting organizations with good information on how to develop a more responsible relationship with the world's water, energy, and food resources." The 11th Hour Project has three programs under it: 

  1. The Renewable Energy & Climate Program focuses on reducing reliance on fossil fuels and and accelerating the production and adoption of renewable energy.
  2. The Ecological Agriculture program focuses on "reforming animal agriculture, building regional food systems and long-term movement building."
  3. The Human Rights Program recognizes the link between human beings and the environment and works to create "global equity."

The foundation gave away more than $17.5 million at the end of 2012 and held more than $312 million in assets. Its list of annual grantees is quite long, and grants often exceed the $100,000 mark.

In recent years, grantees have included Catskill Mountainkeeper ($85,000 in 2012), an organization which works to protect the Catskill Mountain region in upstate New York, Earth Justice, which received $100,000 recently, NRDC ($500,000 in 2012) and the Nantucket Land Council. 

It's worth mentioning that Wendy also founded and manages ReMain Nantucket, which works on various ventures in Nantucket to preserve the community, history and environment of the island. 

Wendy has a master's in journalism, and a lot of the couple's work in this area appears to involve supporting media and education outfits. Schmidt gave $225,000 to Mother Jones in 2012 to support environmental reporting. They've also funded Grist in Seattle, an environmental news publication where Wendy sits on the board. Schmidt has also funded the Center for Investigative Reporting and Yale received $100,000 in 2012 to study, among other things, the impact of fracking. The couple has also funded the American Lung Association for a climate campaign and the Solar One Green Design Lab in New York, a unique sustainability education program for k-12 youth. 

The couple recently helped to establish the 11th Hour Food & Farming Journalism Fellowship at the UC Berkley Graduate School of Journalism which awards $10,000 to students writing about environmental issues.

Schmidt has also funded the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, Californians for Pesticide Reform and Physicians for Social Responsibility. What's more, there is also a component of Schmidt's environmental philanthropy that involves food and agriculture. In this area, outfits such as Slow Food USA and Food and Water Watch have received funding. 

Schmidt is clearly active in a lot of different environmental areas. The 11th Hour Project has a 12-member staff, according to its website, so you shouldn't just be picturing a family operation. In addition, Wendy established the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The couple also runs a separate entity called the Schmidt Ocean Institute

Again, remember: No unsolicited proposals. 


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The Schmidt Family Foundation

555 Bryant Street, #370

Palo Alto, CA 94301