What's the Park Foundation All About?

If you've ever wondered why foundations pay to be sponsors of NPR, and have their names dropped on "All Things Considered" or "Morning Edition," here's one reason: Because people like me notice. Which is to say, people who are in a position to spread the word about that funder or otherwise expand its footprint in elite consciousness. 

Earlier this week, for instance, I heard the Park Foundation mentioned on NPR, and I realized that we hadn't really dug into Park lately at Inside Philanthropy. In fact, while we'd written a few pieces a while back on its media funding, we hadn't touched its environmental work. Well, we've now changed that. This week one of our writers, Tate Williams, took a dive into Park, exploring its environmental funding in depth. Another writer is now looking again at its media funding, so hopefully we'll have updated coverage of Park in this area next week.

Park's environmental funding is interesting because Park is super out front on the fracking fight at a time when a lot of funders are more equivocal on this issue, and we're always intrigued by funders who take strong stands, along with how they translate those stands into grantmaking. 

But another reason we wanted to dive into the Park Foundation is because this is a place that definitely keeps its door open to new grantees. And it's also a place where small activist organizations can really get a hearing. Alas, the same can't be said for a great many funders we write about.

Tate writes:

One of the best things about the Park Foundation is that, for such a substantial funder, they are relatively proposal- and grantee-friendly. For one, while they gave more than $27 million last year, it was spread over 339 grants, which is quite a lot. The average grant in 2013 was around $80,000, and this is actually much higher than previous years. So grants typically hover around $50,000, but range quite a bit, as low as four figures, most large grants not much over $100,000, and the rare grant in the millions for its scholarship programs.

They are wide open to proposals with quarterly deadlines, and accept letters of inquiry or just preliminary phone calls and emails. They do recommend potential new grantees send LOIs first, and of course, stay within program interests to save everyone time. 

One reason that Park is pretty accessible is that they have a decent level of staffing and an executive director, Jon Jensen, who is a veteran grantmaker -- something that's often not the case for family foundations that are slow to professionalize. And get this: Park puts all its staff emails on its website, whereas we know lots of funders their size -- or bigger -- that don't even have websites and where it's difficult to even learn who works there. 

Tate writes further:

One final note on the Park Foundation, it's heavily involved in the movement toward mission related investing, which means moving a foundation’s trust away from companies that conflict with program goals. Park is one of 17 original foundations of Divest-Invest Philanthropy, an initiative to have funders publicly pull their assets from the fossil fuel industry. 

Again, good stuff, and another reason to like this outfit. Here's what we have on the Park Foundation so far: 

The Family Foundation That’s Become a Hero for Fracking Opponents

Progressive Funder With a Soft Spot for Primate Rescue

Profile of Jon Jensen, Executive Director

Park Foundation: Grants for Animals & Wildlife

Park Foundation: Grants for Climate Change

Park Foundation: Grants for Marine & River Conservation

The Park Foundation's Long-Standing Efforts in Public Interest Media

What You Don't Know About the Park Foundation

Park Foundation: Grants for Journalism