Turner Foundation: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: Ted Turner, founder of television stations such as CNN, WTBS, TNT and the personal owner of millions of acres of land, has a family foundation that grants a significant amount of money, in the form of small-to-medium-sized grants, to a number of environmental organizations.    

IP TAKE: The Turner Foundation is strategic with its conservation grants. Some ecosystems take precedence over others. And some organizations have better chances of funds than others. All grant giving is by invitation-only.

PROFILE: Conservation is serious business to Ted Turner—the media mogul and landowner describes protecting the environment as nothing less than an “effort to ensure the survival of the human species.” He does his part for the cause through the Turner Foundation, which he founded in 1990 with a core mission of safeguarding threatened landscapes and wildlife across the globe.

The foundation is a family operation. Ted Turner is its present-day chairman, and his five children occupy the top director positions. Together, they channel their foundation’s wealth to restoring as much of the environment as possible to its previous state, and to raising appreciation for nature among the public.

Around $10 million in grants go out every year from Turner to organizations working on the environment’s behalf. The foundation invites candidates to apply—no unsolicited applications are accepted—if their projects match with any of its five foundational program areas:

  • Sustainable Living. This includes water resource management, clean energy, climate change, and reproductive planning.
  • Healthy Planet & Communities. Overall environmental health, including curbing air pollution, keeping communities free of toxic chemicals, and restoring damaged watersheds all fall within this category.
  • Growing the Movement. Grants under this category fund outreach efforts that mobilize the general public.
  • Community Youth Development. Initiatives that engage young people are this area’s purview.
  • Safeguarding Habitat. This one funds protection of critically important land and marine ecosystems, with a main focus on "core, intact habitats, "buffer zones," and corridors to link existing stretches of already-protected land.

Many of the grantees for any program area are U.S.-based. They’re also concentrated in several primary regions: the Southeastern Coastal Plain, with a special focus on South Carolina and Georgia; the Panhandle and Red Hills regions of Florida; the Sky Islands region of New Mexico, Arizona and northern Mexico; the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem north to the transboundary Flathead; and southeastern Alaska.

Some international conservation work gets funding, too. For example, the foundation has been making steady contributions to the Wild Salmon Center, a marine-conservation nonprofit that is trying to restore salmon populations on both sides of the northern Pacific. Turner also gives annual grants to the Winter Wildlands Alliance for conservation in Idaho; and to the Montana-based Greater Yellowstone Coalition for its advocacy of holistic, science-based management of the Yellowstone region’s public and private lands.

Turner gives out the bulk of its awards to large groups whose conservation work has a multistate, national, or international scope. Smaller initiatives aren’t completely left out, however. The takeaway from this: If your organization is a medium-sized one with a geographically limited reach but is in one of the states or regions that Turner is paying close attention to, you may be in luck.

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