Where Does the Money Go in Environmental Grantmaking?

A new study by the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Sustainability Initiative (JEDSI) at the Yale School of the Environment examined nearly $5 billion in grants awarded by 220 foundations in 35 states and found that several of the largest mainstream environmental organizations received more funding individually than did all the environmental justice organizations combined.

The study’s authors, YSE Professor of Environmental Justice and JEDSI Director Dorceta Taylor ’85 MFS, ’91 PhD, and JEDSI Program Manager Molly Blondell say that over the past decade, there has been some research on disparities in grantmaking, including on how organizations led by people of color were less likely to be funded than other kinds of organizations. However, they wanted to determine if such disparities existed in environmental grantmaking specifically and, if so, what factors contributed to the outcomes.

Taylor and Blondell surveyed more than 30,000 environmental and public health grants, with a mean grant size of $160,650, over a three-year period from 2015-2017. They found that organizations’ revenues matter in their ability to attract funding, with more than half of the grant dollars going to organizations with revenues of $20 million or more. Organizations with revenues under $1 million received less than 4% of the grant dollars.

Although environmental organizations working on “core” environmental topics, such as conservation and energy, were funded more frequently, foundations also funded organizations working on issues such as social inequality, justice, empowerment, Indigenous rights, environmental justice, disaster preparedness and relief, housing and homelessness, food assistance and food insecurity, faith and religion, movement building, voter mobilization, workplace and workforce issues, and institutional diversity. 03-29-23

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