European Foundations Awarded $610 Million for Environment in 2016

European Foundations Awarded $610 Million for Environment in 2016

European foundations awarded grants totaling €583 million ($610.8 million) in support of environmental issues in 2016, a report from the European Foundation Centre finds. 

Based on data from eighty-seven foundations, the fourth edition of Environmental Funding by European Foundations (40 pages, PDF) reports that 4,093 environmental grants were awarded to nonprofits in a hundred and thirty-one countries in 2016. The report also found that environmental grantmaking by the seventy-one foundations that appeared in both the 2014 and 2016 reports increased 8.6 percent, from €476 million ($540.2 million) in 2014 to €516.8 million ($586.5 million) in 2016, due to additional grantmaking by thirty-seven of those foundations. At the same time, the average size of all grants over the two-year period fell 13.4 percent, while the median grant size fell 8 percent. 

Among environmental issue areas, climate and atmosphere received the most funding, accounting for 14.8 percent of total grant dollars and 7.5 percent of all grants, followed by biodiversity and species preservation, which received 14.6 percent of grant dollars, down from 23.5 percent in 2014, and energy (12.7 percent of grant dollars, up from 8.2 percent in 2014). The report's authors also note that foundations continue to provide little in the way of resources to address the systemic drivers of environmental harm, with efforts to address fresh water, consumption and waste, transportation, trade and finance policies, and toxics and pollution receiving relatively little funding.

In terms of geography, projects benefiting the Netherlands (15.3 percent), Denmark (9.3 percent), and the United Kingdom (8.1 percent) received the most funding in 2016, as they did in 2014, while grants awarded in support of continent-wide initiatives designed to benefit the European Union as a whole accounted for just 4.4 percent. Among the seventy-one foundations also included in the 2014 study, the share of grant dollars in support of environmental work in Europe fell from 66.9 percent in 2014 to 55.6 percent in 2016, while the shares of grant dollars supporting "international" work and work in Asia increased from 18.1 percent to 24.6 percent and from 3.6 percent to 7.8 percent.

This year's report includes findings from a survey of ninety-five European environmental organizations that are partners in Green 10, a coalition of the largest environmental organizations and networks in Europe. According to the survey, foundation grants made up 10.3 percent of the income of environmental organizations in the original fifteen EU countries, compared with 8 percent of the income of groups in the thirteen new EU member states. The survey also found that respondents' top concerns included the shrinking civil society space in Europe and a deteriorating political climate for environmentalism; the need for more general operating support, as well as funding for advocacy and campaign work and movement and organizational development; and burdensome application and matching requirements, as well as slow decision making and shifts in funding priorities on the part of funders. 

"It is clear from the four reports in this series that many European foundations continue to avoid grappling with systemic drivers of environmental damage, such as over-consumption, or the preoccupation of policy makers with economic growth," the report's authors conclude. "These are difficult issues on which to work, often with uncertain outcomes....[O]ur sense is that much more remains to be done to address environmental challenges 'upstream,' by tackling root causes, rather than alleviating symptoms. Philanthropic capital has qualities that make it particularly appropriate for challenges of this kind."