February 7th, 2019


Executive Director, Sierra Club Foundation

Founder, Chorus Foundation

Executive Director, The Solutions Project

President, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Executive Director, Autodesk Foundation

Science and Environment Editor, Inside Philanthropy


Fighting climate change isn’t cheap. Where’s the money coming from – and where is it going? Greg Dalton was joined by donors big and small for a Climate One discussion on harnessing the power of the purse in the fight against climate change.

Major philanthropic organizations like Hewlett, Packard and Bloomberg are at the forefront when it comes to addressing climate change.  But are their dollars going to the right places?

Tate Williams of Inside Philathropy thinks they could be doing better. 

“I find that even today philanthropy doesn't fund the grassroots enough; they don't fund movement building enough,” says Williams. “And then in particular, I find that they don't fund communities of color and low-income communities that have the most to lose when it comes to climate change.” 

In many ways, small to mid-sized foundations can be more effective on a grass-roots level. But Farhad Ebrahimi, founder of the Chorus Foundation, says that creating change means bringing everyone in the community to the table.

“We’re gonna need the folks who really care about housing or really care about transportation or really care about policing, racial justice, any of these other things -- we need them to be part of the climate movement,” Ebrahimi says.

“But for that to happen, the climate movement has to listen to them, and has to do climate work in a way that is informed by and accountable to their other concerns.”

Sarah Shanley Hope, who runs The Solutions Project, believes that diversity is a crucial component for successful fundraising.  She points to two truths she took away from her time in business school:

“One is that diverse teams outperform in any context,” she tells the Climate One audience. “And two, that the messenger matters more than the message.

“And so for all of us that care about climate action solutions, that should be a really big wake-up call.”

With only so many donor dollars to go around, it’s important to prioritize. Larry Kramer of the Hewlitt Foundation sees climate change as one of the most urgent issues on the table. It’s a matter of time, he says.

“There's poverty -- it's bad,” he admits.  “But we’ll be able to continue to work on poverty into the future.

“But we have 10 to 15 years left to deal with the climate problem, and if we fail that we go over a cliff…Whatever we’re going to do here, it's got to be something that can get us there in this short period of time.”

Related Links:

Climate Change Funders (Inside Philanthropy)

Philanthropies Announce $4 Billion Commitment to Combat Climate Change (Philanthropy News Digest)