This post was updated on 8/23.

by Niki Jagpal

Image by basketman/
The Kresge Foundation has provided Climate Central, a scientific journalism and research organization based in Princeton, N.J. with a $500,000 grant that will support a two-year long strategic communication and research project. The project will provide decision-makers and the public with user-friendly local information about future coastal flooding exposure and sea level rise, with an emphasis on socially vulnerable communities. Climate Central will partner with the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute in South Carolina to execute this important work.
Climate Central will build on work it completed in March of this year. ItsSurging Seas report combines national and local data into an easy to use interactive web tool that allows users to look up projected impacts of sea level rises by their zip codes.
Kresge is leading the way by example: focusing specifically on socially vulnerable populations is precisely what environment and climate philanthropy expert Sarah Hansen recommends for environment and climate funders in Cultivating the Grassroots: A Winning Approach for Environment and Climate Funders. As she states in this report, “Any push for environmental change that fails to prioritize communities of color is a losing strategy.” This argument is easily extended to any underserved community such as those that will benefit from the Kresge grant to Climate Central.

Hansen also noted that only 15 percent of environmental grant dollars were classified as benefitting underserved communities, broadly defined. And despite grantmakers having provided at least $10 billion in grants to environmental causes from 2000-2009, we have not seen a significant policy change at the federal level since the 1980s. This suggests that there is a misalignment among most environment and climate funders and the needs of nonprofits focused on this important work. This is further supported by the fact that in 2009, environmental organizations with budgets of more than $5 million which comprise only 2 percent of environmental public charities received half of all contributions and grants made in the sector.

Congratulations to Climate Central and the Kresge Foundation for undertaking and funding this important work.

Does your foundation prioritize socially vulnerable populations in its grantmaking? What led to your decision to do this?

PS: You can check out an excerpt of Hansen’s report in the current issue of Social Policy.

Niki Jagpal is research and policy director at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP).