New Funders Back BIPOC-Focused Climate Change With Millions

A new set of funders agreed to shift climate change-related support to environmental and justice-focused organizations led by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) leadership. In signing the Donors of Color Network’s (DOCN’s) Climate Funders Justice Pledge, the funders agree to dedicate at least 30% of their climate change funding to BIPOC-led groups within two years, and to increase transparency of their climate change funding activities.

The total effort could result in more than $100 million in donations being set aside for BIPOC-led environmental organizations, according to DOCN estimates.

The new funders, which include the Bullitt Foundation, the Grove Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Northlight Foundation and the Schmidt Family Foundation, bring the total number of climate-change funders taking the pledge to 12.

Additionally, the MacArthur Foundation has committed to following the transparency portion of the pledge.

The overall group of organizations that have agreed to the pledge since its January launch includes three of the top 20 funders, when ranked by assets, according to Donors of Color Network. The new pledges alone represent tens of millions of dollars for BIPOC-led climate change organizations.

The pledge reflects the idea that while BIPOC communities are hardest hit by climate change, efforts to support leadership within these communities are often lacking. According to Donors of Color, a scant 1.3% of funds from climate change-focused organizations goes to leadership within the community.

“The faces of climate disaster, such as Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans or Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, are people of color who are the front face of climate disaster,” DOCN Executive Director Ashindi Maxton told The NonProfit Times. “They find themselves the most at the mercy of a government sector and nonprofit philanthropic sector that isn’t meeting their needs.”

According to Maxton, leadership at traditionally funded environment-focused groups lacks representative BIPOC input, meaning that key concerns or opportunities are at risk of being overlooked.

The pledge has already begun moving the fundraising needle. “We’re increasing our climate grant budget by about 50%, which will result in significant new support for the field and for BIPOC-led and -serving organizations in the U.S.,” Pisces Foundation President David Beckman wrote in an email provided by DOCN to The NonProfit Times.

Asked why funds given to the more well-known organizations have a finite amount of effectiveness, Maxton draws on the lessons learned during the 2020-2021 Georgia elections, in which community organization among BIPOC communities helped tilt two U.S. Senate races in the Republican-leaning state to the Democrats.

“If scaling those organizations was going to get us to a win, we would be winning,” Maxton said. “They cannot do it alone. They need organizations that are not at scale to join them. All of them matter, but [funders need to] resource the folks who have not yet been at the table at full scale.”

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This story has been edited from an earlier version to reflect the specific nature of the MacArthur Foundation’s pledge to transparency only.