Where Are Marine Foundations Spending? New Report Is a Directory for Grantseekers

Organizations applying for marine conservation grants can gain insight into they way foundations think and structure their strategies by reading the report Investing In Our Oceans: Insights for Building Lasting Marine Conservation Funding Initiatives. This 2013 executive summary, published by Coastal Quest, a 501(c)3, and its partner Blue Earth Consultants, LLC, is the glossy version of a much longer study conducted for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in 2010. Both the longer study, Ocean Conservation Strategic Funding Initiatives: A Study of Successes and Lessons Learned, and its shorter version analyze 20 large-scale ocean conservation funding initiatives to highlight the successes, failures, and common pitfalls made by grantmaking organizations. (See Packard Foundation: Grants for Marine and Rivers.)

Ocean conservation grants have multiplied since the 1990s, which is good news to anyone looking for a marine-related grant. According to the report, a collection of private foundations called the Marine Funders Working Group increased its membership since the mid-1990s from eight donors in the United States to 30 donors currently. Likewise, ocean investments by the group increased from $60 million in 2004 to somewhere between $167 and $289 million in 2009. In general, this should mean there is more money available to grantees. However, since competition is tough, it would be worthwhile to see where foundations have been focusing their efforts.

Fortunately, the Coastal Quest report does just that. Over the past couple of decades, the main priorities for ocean conservation investment have been: 1) promoting sustainable use of marine resources, 2) improving ocean and coastal governance, and 3) fostering relevant science. In particular, donors have been partial to marine biodiversity protection funding.

Especially heartening is the report's observation that donors "rarely exited from funding ocean conservation." Rather, foundations are more likely to shift initiative priorities to new geographic areas or to new implementation strategies. Shifts in strategy have been driven by a number of factors, including changes in board interest, budget restrictions, or evaluation findings and recommendations.

The Coastal Quest report offers excellent insight into the concerns and worries of major U.S. ocean foundations. The report outlines challenges the funders face, conditions for successful initiatives, and strategies to achieve overarching goals. It's certainly worth a read for anybody in the grant-writing business. The report can help grantees better tailor their applications to ensure they give foundations what they want.