UPS Foundation: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: The shipping giant’s philanthropic arm currently has four main programs, one of which is the environment. It's particularly interested in reforestation and conservation, carbon reduction efforts, and environmental research and education, with an emphasis on its tree-planting initiative.

IP TAKE: The foundation doesn't accept unsolicited proposals, but you still have a way in if you can get UPS employees to volunteer with your organization and recommend it for a grant.

PROFILE: The United Parcel Service, universally called UPS, is the largest shipment and logistics company in the world, delivering something like 17 million packages a day in more than 220 countries. The company has had a foundation since the 1950s, and its philanthropy is divided between “corporate grants” to the four core giving priorities (diversity & inclusion, volunteerism, community safety, and environmental sustainability), and “local grants,” which go through the various offices worldwide.

While environmental giving goes to a variety of causes, including climate change, renewable energy, conservation, and environmental research and education, there are some signature programs UPS is particularly fixed on, involving preserving forests and planting trees.

The Global Forestry Initiative started in 2011 and seeks to reduce carbon by preserving the world’s forests and reforestation. One such ongoing grantee is the World Wildlife Fund, which last year received funding for tropical rainforest reforestation in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

But the forestry program in 2013 spun off a huge tree-planting initiative, which is now the UPS Foundation’s signature philanthropic endeavor when it comes to the environment. Once called the One Million Trees Campaign, and then Two Million Trees, it will probably need another name soon, since it just announced the foundation and company volunteers have planted more than 3 million trees in 47 countries since 2013.

The program does involve UPS volunteers (using philanthropic endeavors to coordinate employees' volunteer work is a common tactic in corporate philanthropy) but that’s in combination with some big partnerships with groups like The Nature Conservancy, Arbor Day Foundation, Keep America Beautiful, and the National Park Foundation. 

The Nature Conservancy is, in fact, the largest grantee of UPS Foundation, receiving between half a million and a million in annual support in recent years. 

The other big recipient on their list is the World Resources Institute, which UPS has been supporting since 2000. WRI is a sizable research organization first endowed by the MacArthur Foundation in 1982, and working in six areas of the environment. Lately, climate and greenhouse gas emissions are a focus for the institute, and UPS has been funding its research in measuring greenhouse gas emissions, helping companies like them quantify how well their GHG reduction plans are working.

But the list of grantees receiving the core, corporate foundation grants is pretty small, with just 10 recipients in 2014. Other organizations include the Student Conservation Association,, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. 

Getting on that list is no small task, as the central giving is carefully manicured and not open to new applicants. The foundation doesn’t accept or respond to unsolicited proposals. Perhaps a side door for UPS funding is through local volunteer efforts. Again, the foundation gave more than $9 million in this type of local grant, and it's all directed with a nomination process from each branch’s Community Involvement Committee. 

The volunteer component is extremely important to UPS as well, with its employees' efforts a central part of its corporate responsibility messaging. To even qualify for a local grant, an organization must first receive 50 hours of community service from UPS employees. 

You can email the UPS Foundation at and find local offices at


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