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Climate Change: Strategies for Philanthropic Families

About this collection: This special Content Collection provides resources and guidance on accelerating climate change solutions and improving our resilience against physical climate hazards that are inevitable.

Climate hazards—driven by global greenhouse gas emissions—will continue to affect and amplify socioeconomic challenges in nearly all areas for decades to come. And many are at the nexus of the very issues that family philanthropies have prioritized: health, equality, human rights, education, health, food security, conservation, and the environment.

According to ClimateWorks, despite climate’s impact on the work of philanthropy, mitigating climate change receives less than two percent of all charitable contributions globally (one percent in the United States). Even accounting for new funding commitments from major philanthropists, climate remains meager compared with the scale of the problem and speed with which the world must act to mitigate climate change and stop suffering its consequences.

This special Content Collection provides resources and guidance for NCFP’s growing community of funders and change-makers on accelerating climate change solutions and improving our resilience against physical climate hazards that are inevitable.

Start Here

Climate Philanthropy: A Guide for Action (Climate Leadership Initiative, 2022): This guide provides a framework and considerations for getting started on your climate philanthropy journey quickly and with confidence. The guide includes inspiring stories from the field to illustrate the strategies needed to promote change and create impact.

Centering Equity and Justice in Climate Philanthropy (Candid, 2022): This field guide for funders identifies common barriers to supporting climate justice strategies, describes ways to overcome them, and shares insights and case studies from experienced funders who have helped their institutions use a climate justice lens for greater impact within their existing grantmaking priorities. For ease of use in retreats, staff and board meetings, a handy Facilitator’s Toolkit aggregates takeaways and reflection questions into one document

Investing at the Frontlines of Climate Change: A Funder Toolkit on Climate, Health and Equity (2022): This toolkit, a collaborative effort by several philanthropy-serving organizations, was developed to accelerate philanthropy at the intersection of climate change, health, and equity by helping funders gain a sense of a large, complex, and interconnected landscape. Both funders and nonprofits may use this site to find new resources, connect to new partners, and ramp up their efforts at the frontlines of climate change.

The Decisive Decade: Organising Climate Action (University of Oxford, 2021): This report proposes a framework and set of strategies for shifting from incremental to catalytic collaboration in the climate action field.

Funding Trends 2021: Climate Change Mitigation Philanthropy (ClimateWorks, 2021): This report provides guidance on key trends in climate change funding strategies as well as information on funding flows to specific regions and sectors.

The ABCs of Climate Investing: How Families Can Unlock the Trillions Needed for Climate Solutions (CapShift, 2021): This primer provides guidance for donors on how to use investments to mitigate the intensity of climate change, protect vulnerable communities from its effects, and build financial resiliency to looming climate-related risks.

Time to Act: How Philanthropy Must Address the Climate Crisis (FSG, 2021): This report provides a set of five recommendations for funders, especially those who may not have previously engaged in climate-related grantmaking or investments.

Flood, Famine and Fire: Building a Climate Justice Analysis in Philanthropy (Center for Disaster Philanthropy, 2021): This webinar explores how funders can help address climate change issues by building a more robust philanthropic response steeped in principles of climate justice. By recognizing pre-existing disparities, climate justice works to address them by boosting resilience, creating mitigation strategies and enhancing preparedness.

Perspectives from Donors and Families in the NCFP Network

Join the Climate Philanthropy Movement: Conversation with McKnight’s Noa Staryk

Blog Post
We sat down with Noa Staryk, board chair at McKnight Foundation, to learn more about their nation-leading approach to climate philanthropy. From grantmaking to investment strategies, Noa provides sharp insights and inspiration for other funders looking to join the movement. NCFP: Can you tell me a bit about McKnight and …

Family Philanthropy Versus Climate Change: An Opportunity of a Lifetime and Beyond

Blog Post
At the United Nations’ COP26 conference in November 2021, President Biden said climate change is “an existential threat to human existence as we know it.” And qualitative and quantitative data support this claim. Climate hazards—driven by global greenhouse gas emissions—will continue to affect and amplify socioeconomic challenges in nearly …

Are Foundation Trustees Perpetuating Climate Injustice? Here’s How We Can Change That.

Blog Post
This article was originally published by Inside Philanthropy and is re-posted here with permission. The recent IPCC report couldn’t be clearer: The world needs wide-scale, transformative action, swift action, to ensure we don’t blow past the critical 1.5 degrees Celsius rise in average global temperatures. Mobilizing nations and market …

Organizations and Networks

Biodiversity Funders Group: The Biodiversity Funders Group’s mission is to support and grow a community of biodiversity grantmakers that pursues complementary and collaborative strategies in their quest to create a just, healthy, and sustainable future for all life on Earth.

Climate and Energy Funders Group (CEFG): CEFG’s mission is to create a vibrant and effective funding community committed to addressing the profound issue of climate change and building a just, global clean energy economy.

Climate Interactive: Climate Interactive is an independent, not-for-profit think-tank that grew out of MIT Sloan in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. Based on a long tradition of system dynamics modeling, our simulations and insights help people see connections, play out scenarios, and see what works to address climate change, inequity, and related issues like energy, health, and food.

Climate Leadership Initiative: CLI’s mission is to rapidly and exponentially increase climate philanthropy by connecting donors with peers, experts, and high-impact solutions that restore our planet and build a healthy and equitable future for all.

ClimateWorks Foundation: ClimateWorks is a global platform for philanthropy to innovate and accelerate climate solutions that scale. Since 2008, ClimateWorks has granted over $1 billion to more than 500 grantees in over 40 countries.

The 11th Hour Project: A program of the Schmidt Family Foundation, The 11th Hour Project supports two linked goals: challenging the development of fossil fuels and accelerating transformation towards a clean and equitable energy system.

Energy Foundation: The Energy Foundation supports education and analysis to promote non-partisan policy solutions that advance renewable energy and energy efficiency while opening doors to greater innovation and productivity—growing the economy with dramatically less pollution. For nearly 30 years, Energy Foundation has supported grantees to help educate policymakers and the general public about the benefits of a clean energy economy.

Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA): EGA works with members and partners to promote effective environmental philanthropy by sharing knowledge, fostering debate, cultivating leadership, facilitating collaboration, and catalyzing action.

Funders for Regenerative Agriculture (FORA):FORA is a five-year initiative creating affiliations with multiple funder networks to inform, educate, organize, provide collaborative opportunities, and recruit new members in support of regenerative agricultural systems.

Funders Table: Funders Table is an informal collaboration of foundations dedicated to climate change mitigation. Facilitated by the ClimateWorks Foundation, the Funders Table offers a peer space to examine climate trends, discusses climate mitigation opportunities, shares lessons learned, and thinks through how funders can best support the grantee community. .

Health & Environmental Funders Network (HEFN): HEFN works to mobilize philanthropy around solutions for environmental health and justice.  HEFN supports an active membership of foundations, donors and other philanthropic actors as they learn, invest, and collaborate to address environmental health and justice problems.  HEFN expands philanthropic knowledge and impact beyond its membership through programming, outreach, and partnerships with national and regional funder group partners.

The Hive Fund for Climate and Gender Justice: The Hive Fund raises funds and makes grants to organizations that have historically lacked access to funding and are essential to making progress in addressing intersecting climate, gender, and racial justice crises in the U.S. The Fund supports “groups advocating for strong policies, building social movements to intensify public demand for change, facilitating civic engagement to build political power and hold decision-makers accountable, and conducting creative communications efforts to move hearts, minds, and imaginations.”

Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF): SAFSF’s mission is to amplify the impact of philanthropic and investment communities in support of just and sustainable food and agriculture systems. SAFSF convenes, curates and leverages the broad array of experts and knowledge within its network to help the broader philanthropic sector move farther and faster toward food and agricultural justice, which necessarily include climate, health and equity considerations.

The Funders Network (TFN): TFN seeks to leverage philanthropy’s unique potential to help create communities and regions that are sustainable, prosperous, healthy and just for all people  — while engendering community-driven solutions and amplifying the expertise and experiences of those communities who are least heard.

Water Table: Hosted by the Water Foundation and started by the Walton Family and S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundations, the Water Table is a philanthropic funder collaborative that invests in promising water solutions for people and nature across the U.S.

Philanthropic Pledges and Commitments

COP26 Pledge in Support of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities: Pledge by Ford Foundation and other funders to invest US$1.7 billion to help Indigenous and local communities protect the biodiverse tropical forests that are vital to protecting the planet from climate change, biodiversity loss, and pandemic risk.

International Philanthropy Commitment on Climate Change: A call to all foundations, regardless of their mission, status, or geographic location, to come together and signal their commitment to climate action.

Foundation Reports, Guidelines, and Perspectives

NCFP’s network includes a growing number of funders who have placed a centralized focus on addressing and mitigating the effects of climate change both globally and locally. Examples include:

Paul G. Allen Family Foundation – Climate Program: The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation supports reducing human impacts on our climate and funding research that improves understanding of climate models and data.

Barr Foundation – Climate Program: Barr’s Climate Program focuses on advancing equitable solutions and leadership at the local level. The foundation prioritizes communities that have suffered the most from the fossil fuel economy and climate organizations whose work is centered in equity.

Morton K. and Jane Blaustein Foundation – Climate Justice Program: Recognizing the urgency of global warming and the disproportionate impact that it has on life in low-income communities and communities of color, the Foundation supports efforts to create sustainable and fair solutions to mitigate climate change.

Compton Foundation – Climate Initiative: The Compton Foundation’s Climate Initiative supported organizing for climate action ahead of COP21 and the 2016 US presidential elections.

Nathan Cummings Foundation – Inclusive Clean Economy Program: The Nathan Cummings Foundation supports a just transition to an inclusive clean economy where prosperity and a healthy environment go hand in hand.

The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations – Environmental Solutions Program: The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations’ Environmental Solutions Program seeks to support organizations that are helping to change the way we think and act when it comes to some of the most important environmental issues of our time.

Flora Family Foundation – Climate Protection Program: Flora’s Climate Protection Program focuses on ways to slow emissions of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere and to speed the transition to a clean energy economy.

Gates Family Foundation – Natural Resources Program: The Gates Family Foundation plays an active role in conserving Colorado’s unique landscapes, waterways, and agricultural heritage in ways that allow both natural and human systems to thrive.

Gates Foundation – Investing in Climate Change Adaptation and Agricultural Innovation: This paper, developed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in advance of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November 2021, highlights the growing negative impacts of climate change on lives and livelihoods, and we call for urgent action to increase investment in climate adaptation, particularly climate-smart agriculture.

Heising-Simons Foundation – Climate and Clean Energy Program: The goal of the Heising-Simons Foundation’s Climate and Clean Energy program is to protect people and the planet from the worst impacts of climate change by cutting pollution and accelerating the transition to a clean energy future.

Hewlett Foundation – Environment Program: Hewlett’s Environment Program makes grants to protect people and places threatened by a warming planet by addressing climate change globally, expanding clean energy, and conserving the North American West.

Roy A. Hunt Foundation – Environment: The Hunt Foundation envisions a natural environment that is understood and respected as a web of interconnections of which human beings are a part, where people live in harmony within the Earth’s ecological systems, where biodiversity is preserved as an integral component of economic and technological progress, and where human impact on Earth serves to maintain sustainable processes.

McKnight Foundation – Look to the Midwest for U.S. Climate Leadership: This video and Newsweek opinion article from the McKnight Foundation explores how the Midwest is powering climate solutions and climate hope.

The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation – Clean Energy Program: Texas is far and away the biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the United States, emitting almost much as the second and third states combined. The U.S. cannot meet its emissions reduction goals without Texas, and progress in Texas can help unlock additional federal action. The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation is committed to achieving that progress in Texas and supports strategic efforts across a range of issues.

Oak Foundation – Tackling Climate Change Head On: In 2019, the Climate Leadership Initiative (CLI) formally launched to rapidly and exponentially increase climate philanthropy by making it easier for new donors to tap into a network of peers, experts and high-impact solutions. Oak Foundation is one of CLI’s founding funders, along with the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, David & Lucile Packard Foundation and Sea Change Foundation.

Overbrook Foundation – Environment Program: The Overbrook Foundation’s Environment Program provides support to environmental organizations in the United States and in Latin America. In Latin America, the Program funds initiatives that advance biodiversity conservation and sustainable community development, with a specific focus on the Mesoamerican region.

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation – Climate Program: In partnership with other funders, the Packard Foundation has invested in the ClimateWorks Foundation and their network of hundreds of non-profit organizations worldwide. The foundation is focused on proven and emerging mitigation strategies that will make the biggest difference.

David Rockefeller Fund – Climate Program: The DR Fund’s Climate program supports efforts to support and sustain bold, science-based leadership on equitable climate solutions. This includes organizing efforts to: address intersecting climate, gender, and racial justice inequities and accelerate and expand movements to keep coal, oil and gas in the ground and shift whole regions to affordable clean energy.

Rockefeller Family Fund – Environment: Since 2006, RFF has focused its Environment program almost exclusively on climate change. RFF’s programs emphasize public education on the risks of global warming and implementation of sound solutions.

Surdna Foundation – Environmental & Climate Justice Program: Through deep collaboration with grantee partners and philanthropic colleagues, the Surdna Foundation intentionally supports people and organizations that build power within communities of color and low-wealth communities to address the systemic environmental injustices caused by historic power imbalance.

Turner Foundation – Land Conservation Program: The Turner Foundation’s land conservation program supports the restoration and protection of both private and public lands. The Foundation works to conserve both private and public lands that protect wildlife species that serve as indicators or keystone species for priority ecosystems, and supports conservation efforts to enhance climate resiliency.

Wyncote Foundation Northwest: The Wyncote Foundation Northwest is focused on the environment, low-income housing and health & human services to promote viability in both our natural ecosystems and within communities.


For additional suggestions of funders active in Climate Change, see Inside Philanthropy’s list of Climate Change & Clean Energy Funders (available to current Inside Philanthropy subscribers only).