Equilibrium & Sustainability

Philanthropic foundations failing to act on climate change: report

While philanthropic leaders overwhelmingly cite climate change as a pressing issue, the efforts of their foundations to actually address climate change remain limited, a new report has found.

About 60 percent of foundation and nonprofit administrators surveyed said they believe climate change is an “extremely urgent problem,” but only about 10 percent considered this the most important problem to address right now, according to a survey conducted by the Massachusetts-based Center for Effective Philanthropy. 

Only 11 percent of these leaders rated their own foundation’s approach to combatting climate change as “very effective,” while just 4 percent said that broader efforts by philanthropic foundations to address climate change were very effective. 

“The research reveals that leaders of climate-focused nonprofits and foundations see opportunity for philanthropy to engage more deeply with the issue of climate change and urge funders to consider how climate change affects their mission,” a statement from the Center for Effective Philanthropy said.

The mission of the nonprofit organization, which received funding for the report from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, involves generating data and feedback to help individual and institutional donors enhance their effectiveness.

The Center for Effective Philanthropy identified this stark gap between beliefs and actions on climate change by surveying CEOs and administrators of U.S.-based foundations and nonprofits between January and March of 2022.

The sample pool included both climate-focused and nonclimate-focused funders and organizations, according to the study.

Among the 188 foundation leaders that responded to the survey, 61 percent said that their organizations finance efforts to address climate change.

Of these foundations, 22 percent said they were “explicitly” funding initiatives to combat climate change, 45 percent were funding “environmental efforts” that address climate change and 33 percent said they fund both climate and environmental initiatives.

Thirty-six percent of the foundation leaders said that their organizations do not finance efforts to address climate change, according to the report.

Among the 120 nonprofit leaders that responded to the survey, 25 percent affirmed that climate change is “a core focus” of their operations.

Within that group, 20 percent said their organizations explicitly focus on addressing climate change, 57 percent on environmental efforts that address climate change and 23 percent on both climate and environmental initiatives.

Seventy-three percent of nonprofit leaders responded that climate change is not a central concern of their work, according to the survey.

“Despite their concerns about climate change, most non-climate funders tend to see this issue as outside the scope of their mission,” the report authors stated, acknowledging that some have not ruled out funding such efforts in the future.

“Even as they see the public and private sectors as playing a more significant role than nonprofits and foundations, virtually all foundation leaders say philanthropy can play a unique, meaningful, and important role in addressing climate change,” the authors added.

Tags Climate change Massachusetts

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