Laird Norton Family Foundation

OVERVIEW: This funder supports arts in education, climate change, global fundamentals, youth in philanthropy, and watershed stewardship in the Pacific Northwest.

FUNDING AREAS: Arts in education, climate change, global fundamentals, youth in philanthropy, watershed stewardship

IP TAKE:  Environmental groups in Washington and Oregon should get to know this funder and submit a letter of inquiry to introduce local or regional efforts.

PROFILE: The Laird Norton Family Foundation is based in Seattle, Washington, and governed by members of the Laird Norton family. The family has a strong logging and lumberyard background, and Laird Norton Company remains a privately owned and operated family business today. The company donated $25 million to the foundation in 2006, when the foundation took a new strategic direction.

Much of the foundation’s giving stays in the Pacific Northwest, although some grants go overseas, as well. Areas of interest include arts in education, climate change, global fundamentals, youth in philanthropy, and watershed stewardship. Arts education grantmaking goes to the K-12 demographic, and watershed grants go to restoration planning and adaptive management.

Arts education grants have gone to Puget Sound Educational Service District’s Arts Impact and the Seattle Foundation’s Creative Advantage. Recent climate change grants have gone to “efforts to hasten the demise of coal and on work that increases the abilities of the forests, agricultural lands, and estuaries of the Pacific Northwest to sequester carbon.” Almost all of these grants are in Washington and Oregon. Watershed grants are focused on the Hood Canal, Washington, Upper Deschutes, Oregon, and Rogue, Oregon, watersheds.

This foundation awards around $1.25 million per year in grants. In a six-year period, about 30 percent of grants went to general operating support. The bulk of remaining grants go to program support. Multiyear grants are not awarded, but grantees often receive support year after year. Many grants lately have ranged between $15,000 and $45,000.

The Sapling Fund was originally a family business program but has been integrated with foundation giving since 2009. The goal here is to engage the family’s young members in philanthropy. Sapling Fund grants are around $5,000 and go to youth issues. The Taproot Fund matches family member donations and volunteer commitments up to $1,000 per family member per year.

Unfortunately for new grantseekers, the foundation awards grants by invitation only. However, you are welcome to submit a letter of inquiry form if you believe your group is a strong fit with the foundation priorities. There are only two staff members here, so not every inquiry is answered.

More than 60 family members, representing all three branches of the family around the world, serve on the board and fund advisory committees. However, the staff consists only of a managing director, Katie Briggs, and a grants administrator, Cadence Miller. They can be reached at kbriggs@lairdnorton.org and cmiller@lairdnorton.org. The foundation’s address is 801 Second Avenue, 17th Floor, Seattle, Washington 98104.

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