A growing number of foundations and wealthy individuals are concerned about environmental threats to oceans and rivers. Funders take many approaches: some are narrowly focused on specific geographic areas, whiles others giving more broadly. Competition for funding is intense, so it is critical that grantseekers' organizations are doing something innovative and valuable in a crowded field.
We are closely tracking what marine and river funders are doing and our knowledge and insights are captured in this guide. All the profiles of funders and program officers here are updated regularly.
The 3M Foundation invests in marine conservation projects in communities where the company has a business presence.
This funder is interested in species protection, as well as projects designed to improve the health of ocean habitats and their resilience to climate change.
Besides its geographic preferences, the Ayrshire Foundation has very few hard-and-fast rules for giving. Environmental issues are key aspects of its investment, which includes a commitment to the conservation and mindful public use of marines and rivers.
Support for marine and river programs is a key part of Bay & Paul's commitment to the environment and its importance to future generations. Funding leans toward research.
Boeing primarily supports education, workforce development, the environment, financial stability, and health. Boeing divides its giving by state, and gives in 20 states total (plus Washington, D.C.). Areas of focus vary by state, but a focus on marine conservation is clear.
The Bullitt Foundation gives entirely to urban environmental issues in the Pacific Northwest. It funds efforts to create sustainable cities and maintain healthy relationships between cities and their ecosystems, including bodies of water.
Campbell is interested in policy and community mobilization in the Chesapeake Bay area and the Pacific Ocean's U.S. Coastal region. Funds projects that get folks involved in waterway conservation.
Cargill's grants span the globe. Currently, it's especially interested in the Alaska and British Columbia coasts, Micronesia, and the Sunda-Banda Seascape in Indonesia—but its funding isn't limited to those areas. The foundation seeks grantees that can work through adversity on the local level to create lasting change.
This is the largest private foundation in Hawaii, with assets of $165 million and annual giving around $6 million to a mix of community, education, and marine conservation causes. The funder gives upwards of $2 million a year to oceans, focusing on nearshore conservation.
Coca-Cola's marine conservation efforts support organizations that protect watersheds and promote water conservation awareness.
Dominion's marine conservation grantmaking covers highly specific and regional environmental concerns.
Ecolab Foundation’s gives toward conservation of oceans, rivers, and other bodies of water through its Community Grants program, and more specifically within the foundation's focus on Environment & Conservation.
Its funding isn't tied to any particular species or region, but it has a soft spot for animals endangered by irresponsible fishing practices and poaching. Past interests include marine conservation in the Pacific, efforts to protect sharks, and establishing marine preserves in Antarctica.
Open to any marine, river or water environmental program that can make a compelling case that Dreyfus funding will make a big difference.
Philanthropic arm of the paper manufacturer supports river and marine areas through its Environment program, with a stated interest in clean water; unique in that all giving funds general operating support.
Helmsley gives to large, global organizations and smaller, local groups based in the communities. The program protects biodiversity, especially related to managing fisheries and marine protected areas.
The Joyce Foundation gives generously to groups managing stormwater, preventing pollution, rehabilitating damaged shorelines and waterways, and defending the lake ecosystem against invasive pests such as the Asian carp.
The foundation is interested in preserving and advancing freshwater resources in Africa. It values research-based efforts that feature partnerships and multi-tiered approaches.
The J.M. Kaplan Fund supports organizations that protect deep-sea beds and conserve near-shore marine ecosystems.
The Lenfest Ocean Program gives to research on the impacts of fishing, with a goal of impacting policy. The program is currently in spend-down mode through 2020.
This foundation awards grants to organizations working toward the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems. Has a slight focus on the West and often gives to projects protecting rivers and river basins, especially related to pollution from extraction industries.
Marisla’s Environmental Program places a heavy emphasis on marine resource conservation in western North America, Chile, and the western Pacific.
Martin funds marine conservation organizations that are concerned with sustainably preserving marine habitats and ecosystems.
Not to be confused with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, this foundation focuses on "fighting the degradation of water systems through advocacy, research and education."
A huge grantmaker in marine conservation, the Moore Foundation has two major initiatives: marine conservation in North America and a Wild Salmon Ecosystems Initiative, dealing with the North Pacific.
Much of this foundation's grantmaking centers on the Great Lakes through its Freshwater Ecosystems program. This funder supports protection of specific places, policy, and strengthening the greater movement.
The Munson Foundation focuses on marine conservation efforts (especially around fisheries) in eastern North America and the Caribbean basin, with geographic focuses in Alabama, Florida, and D.C.
Laird Norton seeks watershed conservation groups working in Washington and Oregon
While well-known as a media company, National Geographic is also an active grantmaker, with some of its programs focusing on ocean conservation and research. Grants are competitive, but generally open to applications.
This large, international foundation gives to three main issues related to marine conservation—industrial fisheries, small-scale fisheries, and reducing plastic waste.
Packard is one of the largest foundations in the country, and much of its environment funding involves marine habitats. Grantmaking is science-heavy and surrounding a handful of regions.
Park is interested in water protection and policy to ensure that drinking water in the United States is clean, affordable and accessible, and is protected.
Patagonia sets aside 1 percent of its sales to support environmental efforts in 20 countries around the world, and has a special interest in protecting native freshwater fish, among conservation efforts.
Penn supports work to protect and restore the Delaware watershed through scientific research, policy development, restoration projects, and advocacy efforts.
Pew is no longer a foundation, and has no marine grantmaking program, but still ends up giving large amounts to partners in marine causes. It also runs a couple of competitive programs worth noting.
This fund's priorities are climate change, environmental education, and water resources. It's particularly interested in innovative approaches to protecting U.S. water supplies and resources.
This fund brings an investment-like approach to fighting climate change on a policy and public education level. It looks for large, well-established grantees with the resources and capacity to achieve the greatest possible results.
This fund supports organizations working in climate change, key marine species, innovative technology and public education. LOIs are by invitation only, but introductory emails are welcome.
Awards marine conservation grants related to research, education, and conservation of threatened aquatic species and marine habitats—especially sharks, rays, and skates. All grantees are required to participate in public awareness activities as a condition to receiving funding.
This institute accepts applications to use its state-of-the-art ocean vessel and equipment to advance ocean research and exploration through innovation, technology, and open sharing of information.
Primarily funds smaller grassroots organizations, both nationally and internationally. Its focus is protecting and conserving biodiversity and habitats, with some extra attention going to Maryland’s eastern shore, the foundation’s neighborhood.
The foundation launched a huge program in 2014 to study the microbial ecosystems of the ocean and gain better understanding of carbon and energy processes in the ocean. Early and mid-career researchers working in marine biology should watch Simons like a hawk.
The foundation's Conserving the Mesoamerican Reef program focuses on both land-based and coastal/marine issues that threaten the Mesoamerican Reef in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and the northern coast of Honduras.
Vetlesen funds marine protection, conservation, and research projects.
While Waitt gives to a lot of big marine players like Oceans 5, Oceana, and Pew, it funds smaller projects, too. Promoting Marine Protected Areas is a signature issue.
Walton has two main subprograms for the environment: Freshwater Conservation and Marine Conservation. Geography in the U.S. includes the Colorado and Mississippi river basins, the Gulf of California and the Gulf of Mexico.
Wilburforce works to protect marine life and their habitats by investing in science-based interventions, advocating for effective policymaking, and supporting capacity building efforts to achieve sustainable outcomes.
The Xerox Foundation supports science education, environmental affairs, and arts and cultural programming
The fund supports organizations that protect deep-sea beds and conserve near-shore marine ecosystems.