Four of Top 40 Climate Donors Pledge 30% of Funding to Minority-led Climate Organizations

A push by the philanthropic group Donors of Color Network to increase transparency in how the nation's top climate donors distribute funding has encouraged five top climate funders to disclose their data and pledge at least 30 percent of their donations to minority-led organizations.

With effort to increase how much philanthropic funding goes to minority-led groups, Donors of Color pressed the top 40 climate funders to disclose what percentage of their funding over the past two years went to organizations led by Black, Indigenous, Latino and other racial minorities, as well as pledge at least 30 percent of their climate donations to these groups.

Five of the top 40 donors released their data, as well as another nine smaller funders. Donors of Color said four of the donors and a dozen other foundations signed the pledge agreeing to meet the 30 percent minimum set by the group and make their data public.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Climate change
Four of the top 40 climate change-fighting groups have answered Donors of Color Network's call to pledge 30% of donations to minority-led organizations. In this Feb. 3, 2021 file photo, Ashindi Maxton, co-founder of the Donors of Color Network, poses for the Associated Press. Julio Cortez, File/AP Photo

On Thursday, two of them—the California-based William & Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Boston-based Barr Foundation—released data that shows 10 percent of their climate funding went to minority-led environmental justice groups. That number was 31 percent at the New York-based JBP Foundation, another top donor.

Advocates for environmental justice—which promotes fair treatment of racial minorities and low-income residents when dealing with environmental issues—argue more funding for their groups is needed to win the climate change debate.

A study released last year from The New School showed that, between 2016 and 2017, environmental justice groups received just 1.3 percent of the funding earmarked for climate organizations in the Gulf and Midwest regions.

"Engaging those communities in decision-making (and) in the solutions for climate is essential," said Miya Yoshitani, the executive director of the Oakland-based Asian Pacific Environmental Network and a member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. It's important, she said, for communities "to see themselves as part of the solution to this incredible and enormous problem."

The Hewlett Foundation is one of three top donors that only agreed to the transparency portion of the pledge. Larry Kramer, the president of Hewlett, says the organization declined to pledge 30 percent of its climate funding towards minority-led groups as a matter of "both legal and policy judgment."

"We don't think there are magic numbers," Kramer said. "We prefer to do our grantmaking, be transparent about it and always be working to improve."

Kramer says the foundation is doing other things to improve diversity among its climate grantee pool, including employing efforts to make its own staff—and the staff of the organizations it supports—more diverse.

Five of the the top 40 donors have declined the pledge, with some citing that their climate funding is mostly done outside of the U.S., according to the Donors of Colors Network. Ashindi Maxton, the executive director of the organization, says the group is in conversation with more than two dozen of the other top donors about the pledge, though some say they don't sign pledges.

"No one has said that they don't sort of agree with the ultimate end goals of what we're doing," she said. "A lot of people just have a lot of internal machinery to move to do this."

Climate protest
Donors of Color also asked that the large groups making their data public. Here, Natalia Salgado of the Working Families Party speaks at Go Bigger on Climate, Care, and Justice! on July 20, 2021, in Washington, DC. Shannon Finney/Getty Images for Green New Deal Network