ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE PHILANTHROPY

Cultivating the Grassroots: A Winning Approach for Environment and Climate Funders

Cultivating the Grassroots

The pace of social change is increasing rapidly in the United States and around the globe but unfortunately the environment and climate movement has failed thus far to keep up with movements for justice and equality.

Existing environmental regulations have been diminished and new initiatives have been attacked and stymied. From 2000-2009, grantmakers provided $10 billion for environment and climate work, primarily funding top-down strategies; yet, we have not seen a significant policy win since the 1980s. The funding strategy is misaligned with the great perils our planet and environment face.

This report contends that environment and climate funders can be more effective and secure more environmental wins by investing heavily in grassroots communities that are disproportionately impacted by environment and climate harms.

By engaging meaningfully at the grassroots level, grantmakers have the opportunity not just to support efforts that are especially strong but to use their work at the local level to build political pressure and mobilize for national change. Grassroots organizing is especially powerful where economic, social, political and environmental harms overlap to keep certain communities at the margins.

By acknowledging the coming demographic shift in the United States and investing in lower-income and other underserved communities, environment and climate funders can increase their impact and build a movement that is more aligned with the future of our country.

Foundations can learn from case studies that illustrate the impact of funding grassroots groups that are organizing for environmental change. The report also includes concrete suggestions for how environment and climate funders can engage with this vast potential constituency.

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