Tracking the Field

October 22, 2012
Franny Canfield, Rachel Leon

We caught up with our friends at the Environmental Grantmakers Association last week to discuss the preliminary findings from their latest Tracking the Field Report, which they previewed at EGA’s Fall 2012 retreat and will release as a final report later this year. EGA’s Rachel Leon and Franny Canfield shared insights on their latest data and what it tells us about environmental health philanthropy.

What is Tracking the Field?

Tracking the Field is an annual report that analyzes environmental giving trends of EGA members and overall environmental philanthropy. The project is based on data collected by our research team. The researchers analyze all of our members’ 990 tax forms, grantees and foundation websites to categorize over 10,000 grants. It also includes in-depth reports on more specific regions and issue areas. In 2012 EGA launched an interactive searchable database available to EGA members as a tool for them to utilize, and to help to enhance our community capacity to interact all year-long.

So what does the latest Tracking the Field tell us are the current trends for overall environmental giving?

The report will show a large increase in grantmaking by EGA members in 2010, after a dramatic drop in funding in 2009 in the aftermath of the Great Recession. This increase in 2010 reflects almost 2,000 more grants and over 155 million dollars in environmental giving.

What are the new totals for grants for toxics, environmental health and environmental justice?

Between 2009 and 2010 the Toxics and Environmental Justice grant categories each saw large increases in funding. Reaching $18.6 million in funding by EGA members, Toxics funding ascended above pre-recession 2007 funding in 2010, increasing 90% between 2009 and 2010. Environmental Justice saw a 50% increase in funding as a primary issue between 2009 and 2010 and a 484% increase as a secondary issue area.

While Environmental Justice funding still receives less than 2% of EGA member’s grantmaking, these increases are significant.  As a primary issue area Environmental Health stayed consistent at $18 million of environmental funding by EGA members. However, because Environmental Health, like Environmental Justice, is a very cross cutting issue, looking at it as a secondary issue area is critical to get the full picture. As a secondary issue area, Environmental Health received $21.5 million dollars, up from $14.5 million in 2009.

You mention a secondary issue area. What does that mean and what other changes has EGA made to coding?

Between Tracking the Field Volume 2 and 3 EGA added two new categories: grantmaking strategy and secondary issue area. The secondary issue area is second most relevant issue area of a grant. Including a secondary issue area is imperative to have a better understanding of how issue areas connect, because of how crosscutting environmental issue areas are.  It also helps us get a better grasp on grantmaking to broader issue areas that are affected by a very diverse spectrum of environmental grants.

This is especially evident in looking at issue areas that HEFN members fund. When categorizing a grant to toxic agriculture run-off researchers were forced to pick between Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems, Toxics, Fresh Water/Inland Water Ecosystems, Environmental Health, and other relevant issue areas. Adding a secondary issue area has allowed us to begin to analyze these relationships between issues and more accurately capture issue areas that are often considered the secondary purpose for the grant.

How are EGA members using the data?

EGA members have been using Tracking the Field to find new partners, learn about trends, and make program related decisions based on gaps in funding. The Tracking the Field searchable database has allowed members to search issue areas, geographic regions, and possible grantees to connect to other EGA members with similar grantmaking interests. We have also heard from many program officers that they have used Tracking the Field as a valuable lens on the wider field of environmental philanthropy and to identify future trends and priority areas in discussions on their dockets with their boards.

What lessons has EGA learned about tracking grants in cross-cutting issue areas?

We have found that many grants that we would consider to be “environmental” were not necessarily categorized by our member foundations as being environmental because they were outside of the foundation’s environmental program area. We believe that a sustainable communities grant or environmental health grant that is funded out of a community-based program area is equally important to include in our analysis. Therefore, our research team looks at all of our members’ grants rather than focusing on environmental programs.

What does the report data tell us about grantmaking geographically?

In 2010 approximately 32% of EGA member grantmaking was international. While the amount of money foundations are giving internationally has stayed pretty consistent, there is a trend toward EGA members giving international grants to other EGA members (regranting). When looking exclusively at regranting this number jumps significantly to 73% showing that foundations are giving grants to other foundations that have expertise in international grantmaking.

Is EGA planning any upcoming releases on specific interest areas?

In 2011, EGA released a report focused on international grantmaking leading up to Rio +20 in partnership with the Ford Foundation. We are currently talking to a number of foundations about other focused research. We hope to hear from the EGA and HEFN community about what would be the most useful next steps for the health and environment focused community. We are excited by the amount of data we have collected over the years and look forward to digging in where we can add value! We welcome ideas for collaboration, drawing on our baseline of data to help inform and strengthen environmental philanthropy.

Rachel Leon is executive director of the Environmental Grantmakers Association, a high-impact network of environmental funders working to achieve a sustainable world. EGA works with members and partners to promote effective environmental philanthropy by sharing knowledge, fostering debate, cultivating leadership, facilitating collaboration, and catalyzing action.

Franny Canfield is the knowledge and program manager at the Environmental Grantmakers Association. She has been the lead researcher on Tracking the Field Volume 2, Volume 3, and Volume 4.

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