Some Big Green Groups Drawing More Foundation Money Than All Environmental Justice Groups Combined

The Nature Conservancy's headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

The Nature Conservancy's headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. Ajay Suresh via Flickr

Foundations have given more money to individual green groups, including the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund, and The Nature Conservancy, than to every U.S. environmental justice group put together, according to a new analysis.

“Some of the communities that are most in need of funding are the ones getting the least funds to do environmental work,” said Dorceta Taylor, professor of environmental justice at the Yale School of the Environment and lead author of the report.

The analysis examined more than 30,000 environmental and public health grants from 2015 to 2017, finding that more than half of grant money went to organizations with revenues of at least $20 million. Organizations with less than $1 million in revenues received less than 4 percent.

The Sierra Club drew more than $200 million in grants, roughly five times as much as every environmental justice group combined. The Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Resources Legacy Fund, and The Nature Conservancy also each received more than twice as much foundation money as all environmental justice groups.

The report finds a stark divide on race and gender, with organizations led by white men drawing 61 percent of grant dollars. Environmental justice groups tend to be “female-led, have a person of color as the chief executive, and focus on people of color,” Taylor said in a statement. The report found that less than 10 percent of grant dollars went to organizations focused on people of color.

“Foundations are hesitant to fund organizations that focus their work on people of color,” Taylor said. “When foundations fund grantees to work on issues focused on people of color, they tend to make small grants. This bias has been found in other studies. It is an entrenched pattern that activists try to highlight and change.”


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