The Lawrence Foundation: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: The Lawrence Foundation is a family foundation whose giving focuses on the environment, youth development and human services.

IP TAKE: The environment is the foremost grant-getter for this foundation, and the issue of conservation is front and center. Amounts are modest—typically no more than $5,000—but there are no geographic restrictions, either in the U.S. or around the world (so long as the work is generated by a U.S.-based nonprofit) and the foundation provides you with the flexibility of operating grants, as well as the more typical program grants.

PROFILE: The mission of The Lawrence Foundation is vague. The foundation merely declares that it “support(s) organizations that are working to solve pressing environmental, educational, human services and other issues.”

The throughline for this giving is also vague. A family foundation established by Jeff Lawrence and his wife, Diane Troth, with cash accrued when Lawrence sold his Trillium Digital Systems to Intel, the website says the couple feels it's "important to give something back and support organizations that are trying to make the world a better place.”

More information can be gleaned through the foundation’s actions than its words. That action includes an obvious emphasis on environmental causes, with conservation topping that list.

You will have competition. Lawrence says it receives over 1,000 grant requests per year (while bragging that most family foundations only receive “about 150”). It also states that it's only able to fund “about 5%” of those 1,000 annual requests. Quick math suggests 50 grants distributed per year. (That's backed up by tax records for 2015, the most recent year currently available, which show 48 grants.) In total, the foundation’s website currently states, it has given 525 grants for almost $4.6 million total since establishment in 2000, and currently has assets of “about $4 million.”

That said, grant amounts given out by Lawrence are modest, typically ranging from $2,000 to $10,000, with the vast majority at the $5,000 mark. The foundation’s application is fairly basic; it uses the Common Grant Application (which leadership of The Lawrence Foundation helped create). There is a standard request for goals/objectives/outcomes—a good strategy would be to communicate how a $5,000 grant would strongly support your goals. 

Note: The foundation says it “does not typically” give funding for gardening programs/equipment, physical education or recreational programs/equipment, computers/software, audio/video equipment, music or theater programs/equipment, or hospice/”old age home” programs.

While Lawrence has no geographic restrictions on its giving, both domestically or internationally (so long as the international project is operated by a U.S. nonprofit), recent conservation grantees clearly trend towards California groups. A sampling of recent conservation grantees include:

  • $5,000 to Pacific Environment (San Francisco, CA) “to promote environmental activism”
  • $5,000 to The Nature Conservancy (Arlington, VA) “to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people”
  • $5,000 to Stand.earth (formerly ForestEthics; San Francisco, CA) “to protect endangered forests and wild places, wildlife, and human well-being”
  • $5,000 to the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (Eugene, OR) “to help grassroots environmental lawyers working in their home countries protect the environment and communities”
  • $5,000 to the California Native Plant Society (Sacramento, CA) “to conserve California native plants and their natural habitats”
  • $5,000 to the Galapagos Conservancy (Fairfax, VA) to support that region’s “biodiversity and ecosystems through research, public policy, and building a sustainable society”
  • $5,000 to Seacology (Berkeley, CA) “to protect island habitats and assist local communities”
  • $5,000 to Tree People (Beverly Hills, CA) “to support people of L.A. to come together to plant and care for trees, harvest the rain, and renew depleted landscapes”
  • $5,000 to the Organic Farming Research Foundation (Santa Cruz, CA) “to foster the widespread adoption and improvement of organic farming systems”
  • $5,000 to Corporate Accountability International (Boston, MA) “to protect human rights, public health, and environment”
  • $1,500 to the Wildlife Conservation Network (San Francisco, CA) “to protect endangered species and preserve their natural habitats by supporting entrepreneurial conservationists.”

The Lawrence Foundation’s grant application is open to all, and has two grant cycles each year, with deadlines in April and November.

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