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Seeking More, and More Effective, Environmental Philanthropy

By Florence Miller, 1st December 2015

How can we make environmental funding as effective as it can be?

How can we encourage more funders to support the natural systems on which humanity depends?

These twin questions drive the Environmental Funders Network; we invite you to expand on your own answers through submissions to this blog.

Let’s be clear: a great deal more money could go to environmental causes. UK philanthropic funders spend £25 million annually trying to pull Earth back from the precipice of the Sixth Great Extinction; meanwhile Christie’s sold a single Picasso for £112 million. Collectively, we direct less philanthropic money towards addressing climate change annually than Real Madrid paid for half of one of Gareth Bale’s legs in his transfer to their team. I could go on, but the point is simple: there’s a great deal of money out there, and not nearly enough of it is funding the solutions we keenly need. (For more analysis of annual grantmaking in the UK, see EFN’s most recent edition of Where the Green Grants Went.)

Meanwhile, of the funds being spent, the vast majority address urgent symptoms of environmental degradation — biodiversity loss, climate change, marine and terrestrial conservation, air pollution, water pollution, toxins — while only a small proportion are deployed to tackle the systemic drivers that cause those problems. As with a sickly patient, we must certainly treat the symptoms of the illness, and do it as well as we possibly can — but if we don’t address its root causes, we might well be addressing its symptoms until the patient’s untimely demise.

EFN seeks to help funders grapple with these twin challenges. Our purpose is to increase the effectiveness of the funding that is available to address environmental issues while encouraging more people, and institutions, to give. We aim for more, and better, environmental philanthropy.

This blog will explore both sides of that coin, and we plan to feature posts from a range of EFN stakeholders, from foundation trustees and staff to NGO leaders and philanthropic advisers. What could environmental funders be doing differently to make their pounds go further, to catalyse the changes we need? And what can we do to encourage more people to support environmental issues with philanthropic funds? Answers on a postcard, please, or preferably via email.

Florence is EFN’s coordinator.

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