Foundations can do a better job of funding climate justice work by partnering with funders who already work with small community organizations, especially those led by people of color, and looking at their existing grantees in different areas. other causes to find opportunities to fund climate work.
It’s a takeaway from a guide released Thursday by Candid which hopes to stimulate more donations to these groups that have long been underfunded.
In 2019, just $1.6 billion, or 2% of global giving, went to groups fighting climate change, according to a report by the ClimateWorks Foundation. Of that amount, only about $60 million went to climate justice groups.
The purpose of this guide, which is the result of interviews with 30 foundations and leaders in the field, is to provide funders with concrete examples of how they can support grassroots groups.
The guide highlights a Buffalo community organization that transformed an abandoned building into affordable housing and a community center that uses solar power and was built by local workers. He also discusses the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s decision to support organizations that give money back to smaller climate justice groups and the Libra Foundation’s decision to better meet the needs of these groups by deleting requests and reports.
“It doesn’t get us very far from telling funders what to do,” says Janet Camarena, Senior Director of Learning Experience at Candid, who edited the guide. “What really convinces them are examples they can bring to their boards and program directors to say, ‘This is what it looks like from funders who have done it. “”
Candid decided to create the guide after hearing from Julie Broome, director of Ariadne, a European network of human rights funders, that its members wanted to learn how to fund smaller local climate groups in Europe but also in the south of the world, which is experiencing some of the most severe effects of climate change. The emergence of youth-led climate groups and big funders like the Bezos Earth Fund has increased interest in supporting a wider range of climate groups, not just large mainstream environmental organizations.
“Let’s really take this opportunity to think about the societies we have, the systems we have, and how can we restructure things in a more equitable way that really reduces our impact on this planet but also really helps the communities of people who are the most vulnerable, the most marginalized in this crisis,” says Broome, who was an adviser on the report.
Community groups led by people of color working on climate have been overlooked by mainstream foundations for a host of reasons. Big backers often focus on technical fixes, looking for fixes that can scale and deliver quick, real results, Camarena says. There are racial and gender biases in foundations that affect who funders consider trustworthy, says Erin Rogers, former environmental program manager at Hewlett and now co-director of the Hive Fund for Climate and Gender Justice. .
Large funders are often finicky and lack the capacity to engage in movement building, says Gloria Walton, Solutions Project CEO and technical advisor on the report. She says this has led to severely underfunded groups that often have the best solutions to the problems facing their communities.
learn from others
Organizations like the Solutions Project and the Hive Fund provide grants to smaller climate justice groups, one of the solutions identified in the guide. These types of redistribution groups can help large funders transfer money faster than if they had to develop the in-house expertise to understand who to fund and how to work effectively with small groups.
“We are ideally situated between grassroots movements and philanthropy,” says Walton. “Because we are closer to the ground, we are more accountable to the ground.”
Intermediaries can also help educate funders so they can become better at this type of work themselves.
“They can help foundations feel more comfortable, build trust, build relationships, better understand a different worldview about the problem and the solutions,” Rogers says. “The report is an excellent call to action, and I hope it will help major funders to act faster.”
These groups have recently garnered more attention due to a few large donations from the Bezos Earth Fund in 2021. Still, Rogers says many of its backers have not renewed their support after their initial donations and that it looking for new people to work with.
Close to the house
Foundations can also check their own portfolios for opportunities to support climate justice, Camarena says. Traditional funders tend to separate issues from each other and view them in a vacuum, she says. But climate change is such an important issue that it cuts across many program areas. Climate affects health, education, economic growth, immigration, democracy and many other issues. Now, she says, nonprofits have the opportunity to get ahead of some of the results of climate change that will affect communities.
“It’s not necessarily a binary question. Am I a climate funder? Am I not a climate funder? Camarena said. “We will all be forced to solve this problem in our lifetime.”
Broadening the notion of not-for-profits working on climate can also lead to supporting groups that approach climate very differently from mainstream groups. Many local climate justice groups are making changes in people’s daily lives and implementing solutions suggested by community members. This builds popular interest and support for change and makes it harder, for example, for a polluting industry to fight it, Rogers says.
The shift to climate justice funding can also push funders to develop systems to better listen to their grantees and get to know the communities where they are making grants. And that can lead to better long-term support, says Marion Gee, co-executive director of the Climate Justice Alliance.
Donors need to see that everyone needs a climate program, says Walton. “We all have a role, no matter what you’re doing, no matter what issue you’re working on.”
Climate justice groups have long pointed to funding disparities and the tendency of large environmental funders to fund large white-led environmental groups. But having a report like this from Candid has special value, Gee says. “It doesn’t just name the problem, but actually offers many very clear solutions.”