Much Alarm, Less Action: Foundations & Climate Change

Despite the urgency of climate change and the narrowing window for action, philanthropic funding to address climate change remains very limited. Total philanthropic giving by foundations and individuals focused on climate change mitigation represents less than two percent of total global philanthropic giving, according to the ClimateWorks Foundation. While there is some evidence of increased momentum in recent years, more action will be needed to match the scale of the climate crisis.

Given limited sector-wide knowledge about foundation and nonprofit leaders’ perspectives on climate change, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation commissioned CEP to study foundation and nonprofit leader perspectives on this topic. This research effort sought to build on other efforts and answer the following questions:

  • How pressing of a problem is climate change from the perspective of foundation and nonprofit leaders, and how do they think climate change will affect their work?
  • What are nonprofits and foundation leaders doing to address climate change, in their mission-related work and in their investment practices?
  • How are leaders of organizations that do not focus on climate change thinking about this issue, and to what extent are these leaders currently addressing—or open to addressing—climate change relative to their context, goals, and strategies?
  • How are climate-focused organizations approaching their work? How effective do they think their work is, and what suggestions do they have for how philanthropy can help ensure that climate change remains within tolerable limits?