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Kresge’s climate change funding to BIPOC-led organizations more than triples in last decade


In February 2021, The Kresge Foundation was among the first climate change funders to take the Climate Funders Justice Pledge launched by the Donors of Color Network (DOCN). The DOCN is the first cross-racial community of donors committed to building the collective power of people of color, driving systems change, and advancing racial equity. At that time, we committed to direct at least 30 percent of our climate change grantmaking dollars to Black, Indigenous, and other people-of-color (BIPOC)-led organizations and to publicly report our progress toward that goal on an annual basis.

Read the press release: Climate Funders Justice Pledge announces new $100M funding baseline for BIPOC-led organizations created in one year

We took the pledge because we firmly believe that the nation – and the world – will not be successful in efforts to combat and adapt to climate change unless a powerful and diverse movement demands action and is resourced to lead. We need the voices and expertise of BIPOC leaders to be authentically represented in the local, state, national, and global venues at which climate change policies are designed and implemented. And those leaders and their organizations need to receive a greater share of philanthropic funding to bring their full talent to the table.

Ten years ago, less than 10 percent of Kresge’s climate grant funds went to BIPOC-led organizations. We have worked deliberately since 2014 to increase our support for such groups.

Last year, we disclosed that 33 percent of our 2019-2020 climate change funding met the rigorous eligibility criteria of the DOCN pledge. To qualify as pledge eligible, the majority of both an organization’s board members and its senior staff must be people of color, and the organization must be committed to building power in communities of color.

This year, we are pleased to report that 39 percent of Kresge’s 2021 climate change grant dollars went to pledge-eligible organizations.

Kresge’s Environment Program aims to help cities combat and adapt to climate change while advancing racial and economic justice. Supporting BIPOC-led organizations that approach climate change work with a strong emphasis on justice is core to our strategy. The powerful organizations we assist include grassroots groups such as the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, state and regional policy leaders such as the Greenlining Institute and Partnership for Southern Equity, national networks such as the Climate Justice Alliance, national research and action institutes such as PolicyLink, and intermediary grantmakers dedicated to movement building such as the Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund and the Hive Fund for Climate and Gender Justice. These organizations fill distinct yet reinforcing niches within the climate justice ecosystem, and they meet the pledge criteria.

While 39 percent of our funding currently supports pledge-eligible organizations, that figure represents just a portion of the Environment Program’s support of climate justice efforts. As one example, our grants to BIPOC-led, power-building organizations are complemented by support to embed equity and justice competencies and practices within a variety of professional disciplines important to the future of climate action.

While not meeting the pledge criteria, organizations such as the Center for Community Investment, Emerald Cities Collaborative, Urban Sustainability Directors Network, and US Water Alliance center equity as crucial to their purpose and are working within their spheres of influence to demonstrate what equitable design and implementation of climate change interventions involves, including the partnerships it requires, the historic harms it should remedy, and the outcomes it should advance. Progress on climate justice requires this inside game as well as external pressure.

Progress also requires access to certain forms of expertise – legal support, economic analysis, and communications, among others.  Often, these skill sets reside within BIPOC-led organizations, but sometimes aligned organizations that do not meet the pledge criteria yet work to advance equitable outcomes serve as strong partners. Examples from Kresge’s portfolio include Island Press’ Urban Resilience project, Earth Economics, and Greenlink Analytics.

We need an all-hands-on-deck approach to fighting climate change. Issues of equity and justice must be front-and-center in that work, and BIPOC-led organizations must be better resourced by philanthropy to lend their power, perspective, and expertise to the work. Kresge is committed to do our part toward that end, and we invite other funders to join us. Next year, we will report the percentage of our 2022 funding that went to BIPOC-led organizations that build power in communities of color.

Learn more about the Donors of Color Network by visiting We invite you to view the full set of Kresge’s Environment Program grants here. View several recent media articles on our continued support of the Donors of Color Network Climate Funders Justice Pledge and our grantee partners in Inside Philanthropy, Associated Press, Washington Times, Seattle Times, and ABC News and Inside Philanthropy.