Pisces Foundation: Grants for Marine & Rivers

OVERVIEW: Pisces is the family foundation of Bob Fisher, an heir to the Gap clothing company fortune, and his wife Randi. Its water program seeks to fund efforts to protect the U.S.'s water supply. It is based in California, but is open to programs outside of the state.

IP TAKE: The foundation is particularly interested in innovative approaches that will result in a "transition from a system that manages quality and supply in isolation with a more powerful, integrated paradigm." It does not, however, accept unsolicited proposals, so you should work with the foundation first if you are interested in its funds.

PROFILE: Pisces Foundation was cofounded in 2006 by Bob and Elizabeth “Randi” Fisher to work to solve our country's natural resource challenges by supporting environmental education. It states three priorities: climate & energy, water resources, and environmental education. Aside from a good amount of support still going to big green groups like NRDC, grants are pretty diverse, including those for parks, city planning, and agriculture. 

Pisces is carving out a unique niche in the field of integrated water management, which seeks a bigger-picture approach to water issues, simultaneously taking into account quantity and quality. That means viewing protection of rivers and streams through the same lens as urban water management. The goal is to transition to a more integrated, carefully managed water system that supports sustainable communities and agriculture.

“Water policy in the U.S. is a classic example of silo-ization,” says David Beckman, executive director. “You basically have taken the issue and chopped it up so narrowly that it’s very difficult to see the whole thing, and very difficult to actually achieve the goals.”  

It’s been largely focused on California in the past, but is now branching out to other locations. For example, they’re now taking on green infrastructure as one approach to integrated water management, launching work in a handful of cities. 

To tackle urban runoff pollution, in which stormwater whisks all kinds of nasty city gunk through gutters and pipes out to bodies of water, cities can build features like strategically designed parks that absorb and filter water. This simultaneously recharges groundwater supplies and curbs pollution, while establishing nice green space in urban centers.

Pisces recently made planning grants to five national environmental groups to identify cities in prime positions to implement such techniques. They selected six urban watersheds, each holding their own opportunities for advancing better water management.

The NRDC continues to be a major water grantee, as is the previously mentioned California Water Foundation, working on management, efficiency, and restoring river systems. The foundation is backed primarily by Pisces and S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, among others, and is an initiative of Resources Legacy Fund. RLF receives as much as $3.5 million a year from Pisces, presumably toward the CWF.

Another big water grantee is the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit with one of four programs on water efficiency, access and environmental protection.

But there are also many small grants made, and Beckman recently emphasized to Inside Philanthropy that they seek to be open-minded to new ideas and players in their space (they don’t accept unsolicited proposals at this point, but are always open to finding people they’ve not worked with before). 

Pisces Foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals, but they can be contacted at (415) 738-1212 and admin@piscesfoundation.org. They are also active on Twitter at @PiscesFnd. 

PEOPLE: 

  • Bob Fisher, Trustee
  • Randi Fisher, Trustee
  • David Beckman, Executive Director
  • Nancy Stoner, Water Program Director

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