The Founders Pledge Perspective
Climate change is one part of a triple challenge surrounding energy production. Not only does most current energy production lead to damaging carbon emissions, the effects of which are devastating ecosystems and changing our planet beyond recognition, it also pollutes the air and leaves many of the world’s poor without sufficient energy. This adds up to an environmental and humanitarian crisis.
Thus, we face a triple challenge: we not only need to drive down carbon emissions to near zero by mid-century, and drastically reduce air pollution, but we need to do so while supporting work to reduce global poverty that will often be accompanied, or even driven, by increased energy consumption.
We aim to take a holistic approach that recognizes the global nature of this challenge, as well as the fact that, despite its urgency, we are still in the early days of climate action. This means that the solutions that we focus on will not only reduce emissions now, but will do so in a way that avoids future emissions, while also creating opportunities for the world’s poor and eventually ending energy poverty entirely.
We aim to do this in three ways:
- Audacious advocacy: By focusing our grantmaking on organizations leveraging large amounts of money through policy advocacy. There are highly effective organizations with budgets in the millions of dollars which have influenced government innovation budgets, orders of magnitude larger than their costs. By looking for opportunities with leverage like this, we can have an outsize impact.
- Accelerating low-carbon innovation: By finding and funding advocacy opportunities that strengthen the energy innovation eco-system or promote particularly neglected technologies. As the success of solar has shown for electricity, the availability of cheap, low carbon alternatives to our current energy sources can make a very significant difference. Efficient, low-cost technology can spread around the world without inter-governmental cooperation or expensive policies to spread around the world, making it a more robust strategy in a world where climate action will often not be the first priority of policy makers and the public.
- Focusing on blindspots and bottlenecks: By focusing on areas neglected by other stakeholders, we can ensure that fund dollars make as much difference as possible. While some technologies, such as solar, enjoy widespread popularity and significant policy support, this is not similarly true for other approaches, resulting in a huge imbalance in resource allocation. By finding and funding advocates for overlooked solutions, such as carbon capture and storage technology, we can ensure we are making the most of every tool available to us in the fight against climate change.
Managed by two members of the Founders Pledge Research team, the Climate Change Fund identifies and supports sustainable, evidence-based solutions to the “triple challenge” of carbon emissions, air pollution, and energy poverty.
Our Approach to Grantmaking
When evaluating potential grants, we consider several key points:
- Counterfactual impact. Our grants are designed to create a meaningful outcome that would not otherwise have happened. In particular, we aim to make grants that otherwise wouldn’t have been made, rather than those which just take the place of other philanthropists’ donations. This means that you can rely on the Funds to create meaningful, real change, rather than just maintaining the status quo.
- Impact-driven philanthropy. The goal of this fund is maximal positive impact, irrespective of this impact being “sexy” or visible. This means we will focus on opportunities that others focused on clear attribution of their work or shiny outcomes might neglect. For example, we are very comfortable funding organizations to increase their general capacity and strategy when we perceive this as their bottleneck to higher impact, rather than being tied to specific outcomes or deliverables.
- The organization’s funding gap. Not all organizations are set up to scale up their programming and many can’t productively absorb large amounts of unsolicited funding. We evaluate all potential grantees’ capacity for growth and consider how much money they could put to good use.
- Organizational strength. Particularly with unrestricted funding, it’s important to have trust in the leadership and capacity of the organizations we support. We look at their track record of success and their transparency about failures as well as successes, and we only support those organizations which are exceptionally well run.
- Time-critical opportunities and funding certainty. While Founders Pledge members give to our top climate charities regularly, sometimes there are time-critical opportunities which require fast decisions. Or there are needs for certainty of funding streams to allow new hires and start new campaigns and programs. We will use the Fund to make grants that enable such short-term opportunities and stability for high-impact funding opportunities thereby increasing the impact compared to individual giving to specific organizations.
- Portfolio approach. Because most climate damage comes from particular severe outcomes – with a world of 4 degrees of warming being much worse than twice as bad as a world with 2 degrees – and because every particular strategy – such as energy innovation – might underdeliver, we pursue a portfolio approach to maximize positive impact. This means we will diversify our bets in ways that, when one approach fails (such as energy innovation), the others we promote (such as carbon removal) can be expected to be particularly important and still available. This maximizes the expected impact of your donation in a world characterized by huge uncertainty about the success of different high-impact solutions.
Can charities apply for money from the Fund?
The Funds do not generally accept applications from charities. If the Fund Managers choose to open up an application round, this will be publicized. Charities are requested not to send unsolicited applications for funding.
How frequently will you make grants from the Fund?
Fund Managers will review grant-making decisions on a quarterly basis. Decisions will be made based on the value of Funds and the available options for high-impact grant-making. We may sometimes delay grant-making if we believe that waiting for more promising opportunities will be more impactful. Conversely, we may disburse funds outside of our quarterly review dates if we become aware of a particularly promising and time-sensitive funding opportunity.
How will my contribution be used?
All funds are granted out. The Fund is not an investment vehicle. The Fund does not use any percentage of contributions to cover staff time or other overhead costs. Every dollar contributed to the Fund will be used to make grants directly to end-user organizations creating a real difference.
To learn more about the Founders Pledge Climate Change Fund, please visit founderspledge.com or email the Fund Managers at firstname.lastname@example.org.