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Interview with Mafruza Khan, Environmental Grantmakers Association

Posted By WINGS, Friday, August 24, 2012
Updated: Friday, January 18, 2013

Reposted from May 2012

Mafruza Khan, EGA Enhancing the Field Director, identifies opportunities for promoting inclusive practices and diversity amongst the membership.

WINGS: Tell us about the field of environmental philanthropy and the current global trends the Enviromental Grantmakers Association is dealing with.

Khan: The field of environmental philanthropy is growing and evolving. Modern institutional philanthropy and the philanthropic sector is largest (in terms of assets and giving) in the United States, and the same is true for environmental philanthropy. In 2009, (the most recent data available from foundation filings with the Internal Revenue Service), U.S. foundations provided about $2.7 billion in environmental funding, representing just over 7% of total giving by U.S foundations. This is significantly higher than any other region in the world. According to the European Foundation Center, the European Union environmental philanthropy market is likely to be only $400-500 million per year. At the same time, as new wealth and economic growth is generated outside of the U.S and Europe, particularly in the BRIC/BASIC countries, there is increasing interest in and need for fostering environmental philanthropy in these new markets.

Equally importantly, our analysis shows that while overall philanthropic giving by U.S foundations decreased by over 2% between 2008 and 2009 because of the economic downturn brought about by the financial sector, environmental grantmaking actually increased slightly (by less than one percent).

Since many of the most pressing global challenges are environmental in nature or have stark environmental implications, it is imperative that we integrate the environment as a core part of economic and social planning and policies. Whether our goal is to keep our air, water, energy, soil/land, and skies clean or provide food, jobs/livelihoods, education, shelter/housing and other infrastructure for humanity, ultimately we are all dependent on "natural capital/environmental resources” and eco-system services for survival.

Because the major environmental problems faced by humanity do not respect geographical borders, a key challenge is global environmental governance and its implementation at the local/regional/national levels.

WINGS: EGA has been tracking environmental grantmaking strategies. Can you tell us more about this project and how have you been collecting the data? What are some of the major findings?

Khan: EGA released Tracking the Field, Volume 3 in February this year, which has been produced every 2 years since 2007. TTF Volume 3 continues the advancement of data collected, analyzed, and presented to build a better understanding of the environmental philanthropic field. TTF Vol 3 and Vol 2 both focus on overall U.S. environmental funding, as well as a deeper exploration of the EGA membership’s grantmaking.

Tracking the Field is part of a growing body of research of environmental funding trends across the globe, which includes Europe, Australia, and Canada. EGA worked with our global partners to develop a common taxonomy of 17 issue areas that cover the environment (e.g. energy, sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, transportation, trade, etc.).

Tracking the Field, Volume 3, provides for the first time an analysis of global giving and funding strategies by EGA members, regranting between EGA members, a more nuanced analysis of issues well as cross-sector analyses and trends gleaned from three years of grant data. Together with the interactive database available to members through EGA’s website, Tracking the Field represents an evolving and innovative tool to enhance EGA members’ ability to increase knowledge, coordination, and collaboration for enhancing and organizing the field.

Building on the findings of the first two reports, this document analyzes nearly 9,000 grants made in 2009 by the vast majority of EGA’s 200-plus members, with an added level of detail and rigor. To compare, the first report coded more than 5,000 grants by issue, provided a directory of members by issue, and listed members by asset level.

To put the EGA memberships’ giving into perspective, EGA partnered with the Foundation Center on TTF V.2 and V.3 to gather data on environmental giving by larger U.S. foundations. The Foundation Center data focuses on patterns of giving based on all grants of $10,000 or more awarded by a sample of 1,384 large grantmaking private (independent, corporate, and grantmaking operating) foundations in 2009. Environmental giving by foundations in the sample also accounted for well over half of estimated environmental giving by U.S. foundations overall.

Major Findings

Total philanthropic giving to environmental issues remained consistent at $2.7 billion between 2007 and 2009. (more info)

Issue Area

  • Climate & Atmosphere and Energy each received a bigger piece of the total environmental philanthropic giving, growing from 9.6% to 20.8% from all funders between 2007-2009.
  • Biodiversity & Species Preservation made up 35% of all environmental philanthropic giving.
  • Sustainable agriculture and food systems received, 1.7% of environmental funding, or $26.17 million.

Geographic Distribution

  • Of the 196 EGA members captured in EGA’s Tracking the Field database for 2009, 136 granted globally for a total of $300.9 million, or 29% of total grant dollars in the database.
  • Most of the global grants supported by EGA members were granted to U.S.-based organizations. The top five grantees were all U.S. based.

Grantmaking Strategies

  • EGA members deploy 8 primary strategies (Advocacy & Organizing; Capacity Building; Stewardship/Preservation; Public Policy; Scientific Research; Youth/Education; Communications; & Litigation)
  • Advocacy / Organizing / Movement Building was the number one strategy used by EGA members in their grantmaking initiativesand received 37% of total funding.
  • Communications / Media and Litigation were the lowest ranked strategies in EGA members’ grantmaking, with only 3% for Communications / Mediaand 1% of grants going to Litigation.
  • Globally, funding sources had the same top strategies as overall funding, but with a slightly different prioritization: Advocacy / Organizing / Movement Building led with $126.0 million, followed by Stewardship / Acquisition / Preservation at $68.67 million. Capacity Building / General Operating totaled $34.24 million, and Public Policy ($33.85 million) ranked next in order.

WINGS: How do you think WINGS members can contribute to environmental philanthropy and EGA´s agenda?

Khan: EGA members work on both structural and incremental change across 17 issue areas anddeploy8 broad types of strategies at multiple levels, i.e., local, national, regional and global. Thus, they have different levels of expectations. At a macro level, EGA members see an urgent need to better align, streamline and coordinate outcomes related to Rio+20 and other global summits and spaces where rights/resources/power are being negotiated as well as making the UN more effective. Some members expect progress on specific issues such as protection of the high seas but overall members are cautious about expectations.

The themes for Rio+20, a green economy and the institutional context for sustainable development, are reflected in issues and strategies that EGA members focus on in their global grantmaking. However, given the contested (and confused debates) about the green economy, members interviewed have different definitions and opinions on how these broad themes have shaped or will shape their work.

It is important to remember that while the three pillars of "sustainable development” are economic, social and environmental, the process is political. And, politics is inevitably about power. For philanthropy, this means working to ensure that all stakeholders, particularly those voices that are not usually heard and that have "less power,” must be heard and must count.

EGA is partnering with sister affinity groups from the U.S and members and funders to organize 4 breakfast briefings with presentations by experts, networking receptions, webinars and related programming and research/analysis to bring our members’ agenda to the conference. And, of course, many of the civil society participants are grantees who are working to make Rio+20 inclusive and advocating for our common vision of a more just and sustainable world. The important point is that they all agree that Rio+20 is not an end point, rather a stepping stone towards our common future.

WINGS members can be powerful allies by helping us to connect globally. Part of the challenge is for "non-environmental” funders to see the environment in a more expansive way and connect to their issue and region. And, with WINGS headquartered in Brazil, a critical actor in the global stage, there are important local/regional/global connections for carrying the work forward beyond Rio+20. The larger goal is to connect movements/issues/sectors locally and globally so that we can create a democratic and sustainable world.

Tags:  EGA  interview  Leadership & Advocacy 

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