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.

FUNDERS

3M FOUNDATION

The 3M Foundation invests in marine conservation projects in communities where the company has a business presence.

PAUL M. ANGELL FAMILY FOUNDATION

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.

ATLANTIC WHALE FOUNDATION

The Atlantic Whale Foundation seeks individuals and organizations that protect whales and dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean

AYRSHIRE FOUNDATION

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.

BAY & PAUL FOUNDATIONS

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.

BEN & JERRY’S FOUNDATION

The philanthropic arm of the Vermont-based ice cream company dedicates its grantmaking to conservation, including that of marine environments, rivers, and other bodies of water.

BOEING COMPANY

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.

BULLITT FOUNDATION

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 FOUNDATION

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.

MARGARET A. CARGILL FOUNDATION

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.

CATERPILLAR FOUNDATION

The Caterpillar Foundation supports organizations that alleviate the root causes of poverty, focusing on education, the environment, and basic needs.

HAROLD K.L. CASTLE FOUNDATION

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 FOUNDATION

Coca-Cola's marine conservation efforts support organizations that protect watersheds and promote water conservation awareness.

SARAH K. DECOIZART FOUNDATION

The Sarah K. deCoizart Charitable Trust invests in marine conservation organizations that address watersheds, wetlands, and ocean habitats.

LEONARDO DICAPRIO FOUNDATION

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.

DOMINION FOUNDATION

Dominion's marine conservation grantmaking covers highly specific and regional environmental concerns.  

MAX AND VICTORIA DREYFUS FOUNDATION

Open to any marine, river or water environmental program that can make a compelling case that Dreyfus funding will make a big difference.

ECOLAB FOUNDATION

Ecolab Foundation 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.

FLORA FAMILY FOUNDATION

The Flora Family Foundation focuses its marine conservation grantmaking on improving coastal resiliency in California and Fiji.  

GEORGIA-PACIFIC FOUNDATION

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. 

GLOBAL GREENGRANTS FUND

The Global Greengrants Fund funds organizations that protect oceans and marine life.

HEINZ ENDOWMENTS

This funder’s environmental giving focuses on the health and sustainability of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania. This includes giving toward clean water, watershed protection and restoring the state’s rivers.

HELMSLEY CHARITABLE TRUST

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. 

JOYCE FOUNDATION

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.

JRS BIODIVERSITY FOUNDATION

The foundation is interested in preserving and advancing freshwater resources in Africa. It values research-based efforts that feature partnerships and multi-tiered approaches.

J.M. KAPLAN FUND

The J.M. Kaplan Fund supports organizations that protect deep-sea beds and conserve near-shore marine ecosystems. 

LENFEST OCEAN PROGRAM

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.

MAX AND ANNA LEVINSON FOUNDATION

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 FOUNDATION

Marisla’s Environmental Program places a heavy emphasis on marine resource conservation in western North America, Chile, and the western Pacific.

CHARLOTTE MARTIN FOUNDATION

Martin funds marine conservation organizations that are concerned with sustainably preserving marine habitats and ecosystems.

MOORE CHARITABLE FOUNDATION

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."

GORDON AND BETTY MOORE FOUNDATION

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.

CHARLES STEWART MOTT FOUNDATION

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.

CURTIS AND EDITH MUNSON FOUNDATION

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 FAMILY FOUNDATION

Laird Norton seeks watershed conservation groups working in Washington and Oregon

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY

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.

NEW WORLD FOUNDATION

The New World Foundation invests in marine conservation organizations that build “community resilience in the face of climate disruption.”

OAK FOUNDATION

This large, international foundation gives to three main issues related to marine conservation—industrial fisheries, small-scale fisheries, and reducing plastic waste.

DAVID AND LUCILE PACKARD FOUNDATION

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 FOUNDATION

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

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. 

PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DIVE INSTRUCTORS FOUNDATION

The PADI Foundation funds research and education programs related to the protection of marine ecosystems. 

WILLIAM PENN FOUNDATION

Penn supports work to protect and restore the Delaware watershed through scientific research, policy development, restoration projects, and advocacy efforts.

PEW CHARITABLE TRUSTS

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.

PISCES FOUNDATION

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.

ROBERTSON FOUNDATION

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.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN OCEAN FUND

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.

SAVE OUR SEAS FOUNDATION

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.

SCHMIDT OCEAN INSTITUTE

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.

SHARED EARTH FOUNDATION

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.

SIMONS FOUNDATION

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.

SUMMIT FOUNDATION

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.

G. UNGER VETLESEN FOUNDATION

Vetlesen funds marine protection, conservation, and research projects. 

WAITT FOUNDATION

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 FAMILY FOUNDATION

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 FOUNDATION

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.

XEROX FOUNDATION

The Xerox Foundation supports science education, environmental affairs, and arts and cultural programming

MOHAMED BIN ZAYED SPECIES CONSERVATION FUND

The fund supports organizations that protect deep-sea beds and conserve near-shore marine ecosystems.