Wells Fargo: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: Wells Fargo Foundation invests in education, housing, community development, the environment, and arts and culture. Specific focuses and agendas vary by state and region. Its climate change and energy prioritizes clean technology and innovation, and its own cleantech incubator. 

IP TAKE: Wells Fargo Foundation’s giving is subdivided by state, and sometimes also by regions within those states. Of the 44 states where the foundation gives, the vast majority of them emphasize arts and culture. 

PROFILE:  Wells Fargo Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the big banking and financial services institution, seeks to create "solutions for stronger, more resilient communities." Its corporate sister remains the fourth largest bank in the United States; it made $22 billion in profit in 2013. Wells Fargo continues to undergo investigation by the SEC and federal government for its lending practices, before and after the financial crash. Its grantmaking invests in the environment, veterans, disaster relief, sustainable housing and ownership, financial education, and education.

The foundation conducts its climate change grantmaking through its Environmental Grant program, which seeks to "accelerate a transition to a “greener” economy, break down barriers, and positively impact our environment." In 2012, the company unveiled its new environmental goals, which include a commitment to give $100 million in grants by 2020. The company’s environmental giving has two main avenues to which to apply: Resilient Communities site, which is a partnership through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and its Innovation Incubator (IN2) program. Its IN2 program funds a mix of renewable energy, energy efficiency, green buildings, alternative transportation, water, and sustainable agriculture. IN2 ultimately seeks to create scalable solutions for a low carbon economy, and one-time grants range between $50,000 and $200,000. In addition, Wells Fargo also finances green businesses. In addition to the $100 million in grants, the company intends to provide $30 billion in financing to “environmentally beneficial” business opportunities.

Grant amounts are between $25,000 to $100,000 per project, and applications are accepted on an annual cycle. The grants tend to emphasize community, the underprivileged, and citizen participation as part of conservation. Past grants include Seattle Youth Agriculture and Wetlands Restoration Project, and The Nature Conservancy, among several others.

Proposals are due in the winter and awards are announced in early summer. Annual grants have totaled around $3 million. Some projects end up receiving matching from the government or other NFWF partners, a specialty of the government-affiliated nonprofit.

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