Oct 20, 2011

This plenary kicked off EGA’s Fall 2011 Retreat at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Unlike traditional plenaries, this session consisted of five individual stories and conversations about bringing environmental change through unlikely alliances and harnessing the “power of the collective.”

Dave Schulz is the Madison County Commissioner for Montana. He is involved in a new project in which Northwestern Energy plans to construct a new power line that runs through the county and 9 others. This 400 mile line will bring renewable wind energy from Montana to lower, more populated areas. The MSTI Review Project investigates the economics of the project, the wildlife impacts, and how it might affect the counties. The county has formed partnerships with Jefferson County of MT, Western Environmental Law Center, Headwaters Economics, Sonoran Institute, Craighead Institute, and Future West.

Bill Parker is a fourth generation rancher in California raising roughly 300, grass-fed cattle. A former veterinarian, Bill inherited his family ranch that has been in existence since 1858. Conserving the land was also inherent for Bill, and he sought for new partnerships that would not only allow him to protect his 10,000 pristine acres, but also allow him to continue his living as a cattle rancher. Through a friend at the Audubon, Bill was able to set up a conservation easement with the Nature Conservancy. The ranch’s property fell inside the wildlife corridor of the Sierra foothills that the Conservancy was aiming to preserve. With the help of the Packard Foundation and the Nature Conservancy, Bill was able to preserve his family ranch, a vast stretch of undeveloped habitat for Californian wildlife, and still raise grass-fed cattle.

Haile Johnston’s Common Market is a wholesale distributor of local foods in the Philadelphia region. The organization believes in giving residents access to good, local foods, and providing fair treatment for farmers that produce these foods. Through the combination of restoring reclaimed, former lands of Philadelphia and transforming them into community gardens and safe place bases, and being aware of the area’s vast health problems including diabetes and heart disease, the Common Market was developed to provide local, healthy foods in areas of food deserts to low-income and colored communities. Through a generous grant by the Claneil Foundation and the Rudolf Steiner Foundation, the Common Market was able to be launched as a full organization after rigorous business and economic analysis and feasibility studies. The main clients are Philadelphia institutions such as hospitals and schools. The Common Market also sells protein, dairy products in addition to produce.
Michael Burd represents the labor side of philanthropy. As a huge supporter of the Blue Green Alliance, Michael and his colleagues were able to see that they had a lot in common with conservation groups. Many local labor workers also enjoy the outdoors and mountains that conservation groups seek to protect. However, with the ever presence of high energy demands, Wyoming’s landscape harbors rich natural resources in coal and natural gas. With new partnerships with the Wyoming Outdoor Council, Trout Unlimited, and the United Steelworkers Local 13214, they were able to invest $1 million to protecting 200 acres from future oil and gas development.

Vicky Tauli-Corpuz is the chairperson for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The Tebtebba Foundation is an international center for policy research and education based in Baguio City, Philippines. Her involvement with the United Nations in partnership with the Christensen Fund and Ford Foundation enabled the passing and adoption by the General Assembly of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in 2007. Indigenous areas overlap with many biodiversity hotspots and protected areas. Together, protection of indigenous rights can help facilitate national interests in other protected areas. Over the years, newer and stronger partnerships have developed between communities, governments, environmental organizations, industrial sectors such as farming and labor, scientists, and restoration groups.

Recommendations for funders:

  •  Often in order for projects and organizations to get started, funding is needed for feasibility studies and business models: “Investments of ideas.”
  • Don’t be afraid of taking risks and meeting new challenges. Invest in leaderships and plans.
  • Information is critical for any partnership to bring together diverse groups of stakeholders. Help fund the translation of these information such as translating documents and science to policy and decision makers.
  • Support grassroots efforts. Change often comes from the communities who have more knowledge and more will power for implementation. It is important to help strengthen not only innovative communities, but also communities willing to do the change.
  • With Rio+20 on the horizon in 2012, funders are being requested to help support groups from around the world to attend Rio +20 and to share what groups are doing. Just because governments ultimately make the decisions, this does not mean local groups do not have an impact or influence at these international conferences.
  • Help link the past with present successes. This helps organizations to avoid repetition and invest in new ideas built on the foundations of successes before them.

Facilitator: Michelle DePass, Assistant Administrator for the Office of International and Tribal Affairs, US Environmental Protection Agency

Speakers: Michael Burd, VP, United Steelworkers Local 13214
Haile Johnston, Co-Founder and Boar Chair, Common Market Philadelphia
Bill Parker, Parker Ranch in Caliente, CA
Dave Schulz, Madison County Commission, MT
Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, Founder and Executive Director of Tebtebba Foundation

For more information on these speakers and their projects:

By: Manna Hara, Intern, EGA

Oct 20, 2011

EGA’s plenary session on Tuesday, September 27th 2011 featured a highly informational conversation regarding collaborative efforts to conserve large-scale ecosystems. It opened with a short video specially commissioned for the plenary, with moving footage of northern locales and birdlife, with an emphasis on the Golden Eagle, a pivotal cornerstone species in North America whose numbers – despite commendable efforts – are still falling. However, the projects and partnerships discussed offer a means for more successful environmental conservation.

Three projects in particular were covered by the expert panelists: the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, efforts to conserve and restore the Great Lakes basin, and the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem in Montana. The lessons learned from each ongoing program contribute to the broader conversations vital to both funder knowledge and the foundation-grantee relationship. It is particularly important to engage communities at the grassroots level and encourage them to develop their own answers to environmental questions. A combination of addressing issues at scale and partnering together would inherently make grantees more participatory while removing the perception of “outsider” or “interest group.”

The discussion’s first takeaway was the collaborative partnerships among ‘strange bedfellows.’ Solely environmental coalitions lobbying for an initiative face a steeply uphill battle. However, finding common ground with unlikely partners will yield increased results. For example, in the Great Lakes basin, chambers of commerce have joined hands with environmental groups, as remnants of industrial pollution and the threat of invasive species present a real danger to basin’s fishery, a foundation of the region’s economy. Similarly, in Montana differences between wilderness advocates and the timber industry were settled due to a shared sense of frustration, and their resulting partnership paved the way to a 150 percent increase in the Forest Landscape Restoration Program’s budget from FY2010 to FY2011. Cases such as these simply require some aligning goal, vision, or shared environmental interest in order for significant progress to be made.

While these partnerships are proving to be quite effective, there is one cautionary note. The first is that rather than attempting to agree on everything or sway the other side, it is generally counterproductive to do so. The 80/20 idea presented holds that groups might agree on 80 percent of an issue and disagree on the other 20 percent. This is to be expected, as those involved are coming together from in some cases opposite ends of the political or environmental spectrum. Come into a partnership ready to collaborate; a predetermined mindset is not a way to reach out, regardless of prior experience. The speakers agreed on what can be called the “pizza theory,” which states that no ‘ingredient’ is more important than the other. To paraphrase: a foundation may be the dough that supports the sauce and cheese (grantees and other partners), but without the latter, all you have is crust. As a relatively new conservation method, collaboratives are potentially powerful advocacy mechanisms, but also incredibly fragile, so it is important that no one side attempts to get an advantage or leg up on the other because it can have a serious destabilizing effect.

Finally, our question and answer session was especially fruitful because the panelists were specially questioned as to what funders were doing that was helpful and what had been done in the past which was not. Among the questions answered was the role of litigation as a tool in collaborative efforts, the importance of engaging today’s youth, and how exactly funders should go about adopting these new collaborative efforts vis-à-vis older strategies. For more information, send us an email or join us at our next retreat!

 By: Adam Fishman, Intern, EGA

Oct 20, 2011


The Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA )held its 24th annual fall retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA on 24-28 September in glorious autumn sunshine; I joined about 350 green philanthropists convened at Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park.

I want to give a shout out to fellow EGA board member Jon Cracknell of the UK-based JMG Foundation – a stalwart transatlantic EGA member who can be counted on to remind US environmental donors that the environment doesn’t end at the shores of the Atlantic and the Pacific. Jon diligently shepherds EGA’s ‘Tracking the Field’ research of environmental grantmaking, and is a founder of the UK Environmental Funders Network.

Grand Teton National Park is a spectacular 39,000-hectare park in the Rocky Mountain Range established by the US government in 1929 – amidst considerable controversy. Much of the surrounding valley was then owned by John D Rockefeller Jr, who planned to eventually donate his land to the National Park to prevent commercial development of the spectacular landscape. But Rockefeller’s plan was not popular with locals, who prevented the National Park Service from accepting the Rockefeller donation until the 1940s when President Franklin D. Roosevelt finally accepted Rockefeller’s donation and incorporated the land into the newly established Grand Teton National Monument, invoking the rarely used Antiquities Act, which enabled the president to set aside land for protection without the consent of Congress – which then made Congress unhappy. Congress then tried repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, to abolish Grand Tetons National Monument. The National Monument eventually became a National Park and the land has been protected ever since.

Such heated environmental controversies have become common in the US since the 1940s, but today very few people regret that permanent protection of the Grand Tetons and the Jackson Hole Valley. So, it was an auspicious location for the EGA retreat in 2011.

Ironically, my first association with the EGA was 22 years ago, in 1989, when I was the regional director of Greenpeace in San Francisco. The EGA was holding its second annual retreat in a downtown hotel when Greenpeace got word of the EGA’s plan to consider a new corporate member – the environmental bad-boy Waste Management Inc. The internal politics of EGA were already brewing with angst over the debate, since Waste Management was responsible for creating toxic waste sites around the country and was the defendant in pollution lawsuits. So, Greenpeace being Greenpeace, we decided to show up at the hotel with picket signs protesting the incongruent ethics of environmental philanthropy. Many EGA members took note and tried to block the admission of Waste Management into the environmental donors’ affinity group.

To complicate things further, the EGA was one of the first issue-specific donor affinity groups formally associated with the much larger and more indiscriminate Council on Foundations (CoF) – which meant that EGA was obliged to accept any CoF member into the membership of EGA. But many members of EGA were deeply uncomfortable with the CoF criteria, because it constituted a conflict of environmental ethics in forcing EGA to admit Waste Management Inc. – a convicted corporate polluter – as a member.

The creative minds of EGA’s leadership got engaged to solve the unusual ethical dilemma for environmental philanthropists. They realized that CoF’s standard for membership could have prevented them from blocking Waste Management’s membership in EGA so that they had three viable options; 1. Accept Waste Management Inc. as an EGA member and risk losing other members; 2. Block membership in EGA and then get kicked out of CoF; or 3. Adopt an EGA membership standard that forbids new members who had been convicted of an environmental crime.

What do you suppose they did?

Chet Tchozewski is the founder and a board member of Global Greengrants Fund

Oct 1, 2011

MY TRIP TO WYOMING, by Sophie Bauder age 11

Last week I was lucky enough to get to expierience Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone National Park because my mom organized the EGA Retreat. Every day I did something more exciting then the day before, whether it was raising $3,000 for charity, or witnessing Old Faithful erupt.

But lets just start from the beginning, when I arrived and hopped on a raft for a day long trip... At first, I was reluctant to go on the trip, thinking spending 7 hours on a raft with only adults wouldn’t exactly be, well, fun. I was completely wrong. The people on the raft were inviting and kind. The wildlife we saw may not have been as plentiful as we had hoped, but it was still breathtaking to see whole trees brought down by beavers or watch a bald eagle soar overhead.

We didn’t see the actual beavers, though, since they are nocturnal. That is one of the many things I learned in that trip, along with facts about the park and the animals I had never even wondered. For example, have you ever seen the antler chandeliers in a hunters lodge, and assumed that many elk and deer gave their lives for it? Well, truth is, every year elk shed their antlers to make room for new ones. An easy way to tink about it is that the antlers are teeth, massive, strong teeth, and they have to lose antlers to make room for new ones to come.

The next day, since I went to Wyoming for my mom’s conference, I met with the only other two kids there, and we started working on the annual name tag decorating. It has been going on for 7 years, and we weren’t about to break the tradition. So we started decorating like crazy, looking up names and animals to fulfill requests. By the end of our first day, my friend and I had raised over $1,200. That night, as we were finishing up our last wave of name tags, a man came over and said he would match our price for $900! After some confusion, and more name tag decorating, and another $600m, we got Paul, the man matching the price, to raise his donation to $1,200! So, all in all, we raised a total of $3,232 for theNorthern Rockies Conservation Cooperative!

The next day I went on a short hike with my dad and brother. I was wary about going on that hike as well, assuming it to be boring and totally time-wasting. Instead, the beauty of it was absolutely breathtaking, watching the Snake River wind through endless forests of pine and cottonwood. The water was amazingly clear, and I found out that dumping any form of pollution in it was totally illegal.

Finally, on our last full day, we drove toYellowstone National Park. My family and I had been looking forward to this trip all week, and it was just as wehad expected: beautiful, breathtaking, and nothing short of amazing. We witnessed Old Faithful erupt, spurting thousands of gallons of pressured water into the air. Hot springs and other geysers filled up a scenic walk we took, and the colors of the hot springs were my favorite part. They were so vibrant and alive, blue and clear marking the hottest partsand a deep red marking the coolest. Smaller geysers erupted at random times and we found out that TWO-THIRDS of the worlds geysers lie in Yellowstone alone. Thats over 300 geysers. We also saw bubbling mud pools and gorgeous waterfalls flowing down towering cliffs.

On our way back home from Yellowstone, we came face to face with a herd of bison, complete with babies and huge men less than two yards away from our car.

In conclusion, that trip was definitley amazing and exciting, and I have plenty of pictures to remember it by. It was worth everything. 

Sep 16, 2011

On August 20, 2011 EGA, HEFN and FNTG hosted a webinar featuring the French American Charitable Trust (FACT). Over the past 18 years, FACT has invested in $52 million in grassroots community organizing and in groups that developed leadership and engaged community members for areas in environmental justice, health, and accountability development. As FACT nears its intentional spend-out process at the end of 2011, FACT Director Diane Feeney, Senior Program Office Laura Livoti, and Operations & Grants Manager Myra Bicknell shared FACT’s philanthropic approach and the lessons learned over the course of its grantmaking.

FACT’s mission is to help develop and sustain the field of progressive community organizing and advocacy. They have successfully done just this by building and strengthening their grantees that support low income residents and people of color. FACT decided early on to fund strategies instead of particular issue areas. In this way, grantees such as Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, are able to strengthen their own members and expand their organization (with the help of FACT) to further their cause of increasing public participation in issues such as mountain top coal removal. FACT has seen their grantees come together to vote down proposals, see wins at the federal level, and build healthier communities all at a grassroots level.

In summary, the main lessons FACT have learned that has helped it develop as a successful grantmaker are:

  1. Provide flexible funding through general operating support
  2. Staying with grantees for long terms (FACT has 6 – 18 year plans)
  3. Don’t overly burden grantees with excessive reporting requirements
  4. Giving grantees what they need in order to succeed
  5. Supporting organizations that work in partnerships with others, as well as the coalitions and alliances that they work with
  6. Helping grantees build electrical clout by supporting their c3 voter education and voting strategies
  7. Investing in groups you believe in and developing key relationships of trust over time
  8. Being active in the field and visiting grantees and their work

For More Information:
Visit FACT’s website for more information on their projects. The website will be available until 2016. Or email Ramtin Arablouei at HEFN at to access the webinar recording.

Sep 16, 2011

On June 1st, 2011, EGA and Philanthropy New York co-hosted an event in which various organization representatives, foundation members, and consultants met to discuss the latest techniques, challenges, and goals in sustainable agriculture specifically for the northeast region of the US. The field has seen an increase in participation and cooperation spanning different sectors such as the transportation sector and sustainable development.

There have been many success stories and examples of where and how local farming can be used well. Alison Hastings represents an MPO (metropolitan planning organization) based in Philadelphia, PA that supports the development of sustainable agriculture in a way to decrease dependence on fossil fuels. By focusing on transportation, land use practices, and the environment, DVRPC (Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission) helps bridge that gap between local farmers and their markets. Judith LaBelle represents Glynwood, an organization that connects communities with local farmers in the Hudson Valley of NY. Patricia Smith and the Reinvestment Fund works on projects that bring fresh foods into “farm deserts” or areas that do not have any access to any type of fresh food (i.e. produce from local farms, grocery stores, farmers markets).

Yet, the major challenge lies in the fact that drastic changes must occur in our current food systems for sustainable agriculture to be truly long-lasting. The Food Bill is one obstacle that does not permit easy changes for farmers and manufacturers to invest in more sustainable farming. Other challenges include meeting food supply demands from institutions and manufacturers, how to connect and create a transportation sector between farmers and their markets, and how to balance costs and values with our current subsidies system. In addition, future partnerships can be developed between wildlife conservationists in terms of land use and sustainable agriculture that won’t threaten ecosystems or their wildlife and possibly the health insurance industry in which healthy eating habits and actions can be insured.

For Foundations
Sustainable Agriculture is no longer limited to just the farming community. Public-private-community partnerships are also bringing together rural, urban, and suburban communities. These new partnerships open up new opportunities for foundations that include and are not limited to:

  1. Fund NGOs and other organizations that support local farmers both rural and urban.
  2. Support initiatives and projects. Examples include the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Finance Initiative, Glynwood’s Keep Farming, the NY Healthy Foods Healthy Initiative, and NY City Harvest.
  3. Build capacity and help to create a network amongst existing sustainable agriculture systems and communities. Each system is specific in their location and condition. Yet networks can help develop new ideas and build support between each community.
  4. Contribute in grants that support technical assistance for small farming groups, provide subsidies to local farmers, and provide financial support that enable local farmers with food distributors.
Sep 16, 2011

On June 6, 2011 EGA, the International Human Rights Funders Group, and Grantmakers Without Borders hosted a webinar focusing on the connections between environmental issues and human rights arising from proposed and current dam construction in the Amazon. The proposed Belo Monte Dam allows a case study though which grantmakers may view efforts to promote human rights and protect the environment. Although the Brazilian government has already approved the dam’s operating license, the project has come under serious scrutiny by civil society. The result is an increasing need for grassroots action with respect to human rights and environmental policy.

The Accelerated Growth Program has shown that projects are being pushed forward by interested parties such as the Brazilian Development Bank. Efforts to bring the matter to national courts have been rather ineffective. However, in many of these cases human rights and environmental issues transcend political boundaries, creating an opportunity to address them in a recognized international forum such as the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACHR), which can both set a positive precedent with regards to international human rights and environmental norms as well as increase public awareness.

The energy produced by the dams largely would be allocated to energy-intensive products such as aluminum, which are often exported to nations with higher manufacturing capacities like China. The actors who benefit are completely removed from impacted peoples. Dam projects such as the Belo Monte divert upwards of 80 percent of the river, meaning huge impacts to both biodiversity as well as the local population. While protests by locals have been effective in the past, the hierarchical structure of investment and construction employed today renders these small-scale protest measures ineffective. The lack of participatory democracy and transparency is indicative of the close relationship between the dam industry and senior bureaucracy; therefore it must be a key goal of funders today to aid grassroots organizations, allowing them the ability to disseminate information that counters the propaganda that is currently being spread throughout both rural and urban populations. Further, the power of interested parties in international bodies such as OAS indicates a need to support national NGOs and implement a coordinated strategy that focuses on strengthening an overall respect for human rights, which would ideally translate into the delaying or cancellation of many dam projects.

For Foundations The ability of foundations to make resources available on short notice is key. Often times, funding goes directly to democratic participatory efforts such as translating complex information to local organizations, which then are able to mobilize communities. The central lesson is the importance of grassroots organizations and education, as they both allow for the population to be informed of current events and potentially speak out against them. Other lessons include, but are not limited to:

1) Increase resources available for development of communication strategies and exchange of experiences among organizations.

2) Support independent research, which is has in the past refuted the findings of environmental impact assessments and delayed construction of dam projects.

3) Aid organizations that utilize a variety of legal tools to promote human rights and hold key players accountable by investigating human rights or environmental violations.

4) Support the development of a viable alternative energy strategy to show that more efficient ways of producing energy exist.

5) Support local organizations comprised of members directly connected to the issues; work with indigenous people and groups who possess in-depth knowledge of the region.