Walton Family Foundation: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: Walton mainly funds marine and river conservation, but it gives a smaller number of grants to a range of environmental concerns, including land conservation and ecology education. These grants are awarded out of the foundation's environment program. 

IP TAKE: Since 2005, Walton's giving for conservation has skyrocketed, focusing on large environment groups, but not exclusively. The foundation’s grantmaking is evolving and expanding quickly.

PROFILE: The Waltons became one of the wealthiest families in the world by dominating big-box retail worldwide with their Wal-Mart chain. Now, the Walton Family Foundation has become a force in conservation funding. The foundation gave over $100 million to environmental work in 2014. Most of it funded two environmental subprograms, both involving the protection of water habitats. Walton's Freshwater Conservation focus funds work in the Colorado and Mississippi river basins. The Marine Conservation focus supports work that creates economic incentives for sustainable resource management in ocean ecosystems.

One thing that unites Walton's extensive conservation funding is its approach toward the the environment and the economy. The foundation cites what it calls "conservationomics," or the principle that the best ways to help the environment also help people and local economies:

The Walton Family Foundation believes that conservation solutions that make economic sense are the ones that stand the test of time. The foundation works to achieve lasting change by creating new and unexpected partnerships among conservation, business and community interests to build durable solutions to big problems.

 That means market-based solutions are definitely on the table. 

Walton Family Foundation's environmental giving prioritizes water. While the foundation’s grantmaking is broad, aimed only at general environmental conservation efforts, it funds a wide scope of conservation work. Grantees include a $12 million grant for Conservation International. However, substantial gifts have also supported different state branches of the Nature Conservancy, suggesting opportunities for other Nature Conservancy offices. The foundation gives money to some mainstream environmental groups, such as the Environmental Defense Fund, and invests heavily in ecology education. To review all recent grantees, click here.

The foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals, but does accept brief letters of inquiry. Details here.

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