The Brainerd Foundation

OVERVIEW: This funder supports environmental groups in the Northwest states of Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, and Alaska. Letters of inquiry can be submitted online at any time of the year.

FUNDING AREAS: Environment in the Northwest

IP TAKE: Introduce your Northwest environmental cause to this funder ASAP. Brainerd is spending down and looking to go out in 2020.

PROFILE: The Brainerd Foundation is a Seattle-based family foundation focused on the Northwest. It funds organizations that protect the environment in the Northwest and support conservation. Brother-and-sister founders Paul and Sherry Brainerd spent their summers in Southern Oregon and learned to respect nature and the environment. They both became successful entrepreneurs, with Paul founding and selling the Aldus Corporation and Sherry co-founding two tech companies. The proceeds of the Aldus sale launched the Brainerd Foundation.

Brainerd Foundation grants are limited to Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Grants support conservation policy funds, place-based conservation funds, conservation capacity funds, grassroots funds, opportunity funds, and discretionary funds. Through these categories, the foundation aims to strengthen environmental nonprofits and protect the Northwest’s air, land, and water.

Within Brainerd’s conservation policy funding category, typically only two or three organizations in each state or province are supported each year. Through its place-based conservation program, Brainerd has three priority landscapes: Central Oregon, the north-south corridor from the Canadian Central Rockies to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and the east-west zone between the Yellowstone and the Salmon-Selway ecoregions. The conservation capacity funding program is all about inspiring the next generation of conservation philanthropists, boosting the capacity of current leaders, and encouraging innovation within these organizations. Grassroots Fund grants go to regional groups with operating budgets of $250,000 or less. Finally, the Opportunity Fund features small grants to apply to outreach, emergent litigation, applied research, and unexpected needs.

Brainerd has invested in over 300 groups in the Northwest since 1995. Grantees include the Oregon Environmental Council, Trout Unlimited’s Bend Office, and WaterWatch of Oregon. Other grants have gone to Headwaters Montana, Idaho Smart Growth, the Alaska Conservation Foundation, and the Washington Environmental Council. Learn more about grantees here and read their success stories here.

The best way to get involved with this funder is to submit a letter of inquiry. As a rule, this foundation does not support academic research, most book or film projects, direct land purchases, K-12 education programs, programs that exclusively focus on marine conservation, or capital improvements.

In a recent year, the foundation had $14.9 million in assets and net worth and made nearly $2.8 million in annual grants. Current financial data can be viewed on the funder’s website.

Keep in mind that this foundation will sunset in 2020. Brainerd isn’t solely concerned with preserving its endowment, so it’s spending down by primarily funding its long-standing programs in conservation and place-based conservation. The other initiatives were established to strengthen nonprofits as the foundation closes its doors.

General questions can be directed to the staff at or 206-448-0676. The funder’s address is 1601 Second Avenue, Suite 610, Seattle, Washington 98101.


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