OVERVIEW: Endowed by the same family that founded Walmart and Sam’s Club, the Walton Family Foundation supports marine conservation in the Colorado and Mississippi river basins, the Gulf of Mexico, and the rivers and shorelines of Indonesia and Ecuador among others.
IP TAKE: The Walton Family Foundation is a force in marine conservation, especially when the grantees’ conservation projects also benefit the economy.
PROFILE: The same Walton family behind Walmart founded the Walton Family Foundation. With $1.7 billion in assets, the foundation has a charitable giving record that runs from $300 million to $500 million in most years. The foundation ultimately believes in "creating opportunity so individuals and communities can live better in today's world." It invests in education, the environment, and community efforts.
The Walton Family Foundation conducts its marine conservation through its environment program, which concentrates on water ecosystems. Walton’s environmental mission spans four initiatives: Oceans, which invests overfishing, coastal livelihoods, and overfishing in the Americas and Indonesia; Colorado River, which seeks to ensure its health; Mississippi River, which seeks to "encourage farmers to adopt practices that improve water quality, build soil health and reduce pollution across the basin, while continuing to meet the growing demand for food;" and the Coastal Gulf of Mexico, which helps to "ensure that the restoration dollars from the 2010 oil spill settlement flow to priority restoration projects." The foundation prioritizes giving to large, established organizations; however, the foundation also channels several smaller grants to groups working in each geographic area of focus.
The foundation seeks market-based solutions, and prefers work that will benefit businesses and local economies. Walton espouses a philosophy of “conservationomics," which refers to job creation and economic growth that occurs hand in hand; and by the same token, depleting ecosystems through pollution and overuse sooner or later destroys jobs and human livelihoods. In keeping with this philosophy, the foundation expresses a keen interest in environmental conservation efforts that include businesses in their efforts and that make “economic sense.” For instance, it has collaborated with the Environmental Defense Fund on developing catch-share programs, which would give cooperatives of fishermen allowances to catch a designated total of fish and distribute the shares among the individual fishermen, thereby eliminating any one individual fisherman’s financial incentive to overfish.
Grantseekers can submit a letter of inquiry detailing their organization, specific project, and its relevance to the foundation’s funding areas. Note that Walton only accepts solicited proposals.
- Barry D. Gold, Director, Environment Program