Photo: Bill Stransky

Grantmaking Priorities

In early 2019, the Foundation embarked on an exciting and important new strategic planning process in which the Board members and staff reflected on our past grantmaking and discussed what our future investment priorities should be in order to maximize our impact.

As a result of this process, we have reaffirmed the five priority areas that have been the focus of the Foundation’s grantmaking since the beginning:
  1. Preservation and conservation of land, forests, streams, wetlands and habitat existing in a natural state and the defense of such resources
  2. Establishment, conservation and preservation of parks and open space for public use
  3. Care facilities for domestic and wild animals and birds
  4. Educational efforts to promote environmental literacy and comprehension of the complexities of the web of life, particularly in primary and secondary schools, museums and through citizen nonprofit organizations with like purpose
  5. Efforts toward reproductive rights, family planning, and sex education

As in the past, we remain primarily interested in making investments that benefit one or more of the following geographic regions: Houston, Austin, Texas, southern Colorado, and the U.S.

We will continue to provide different types of support – including operating, project, and capital grants – and are particularly interested in innovative efforts that have multiple benefits and are expected to achieve measurable impact.

Our grant making priority areas – including our vision, the types of investments we are seeking, and the measurable impacts we hope to see for each area – are described in greater depth below.

1. Natural Resources Conservation

Preservation and conservation of land, forests, streams, wetlands and habitat existing in a natural state and the defense of such resources

Why is this a priority area for the Foundation?

The natural environment is an interconnected system that is essential to the lives and well-being of people and wildlife. Because each component of the environment is inextricably linked to others, altering or destroying a habitat can not only negatively impact the plants and wildlife that depend on it, but can also have an array of other negative impacts far from the initial damage. It is essential to think about the environment holistically. Given the increasing impact of climate change, the Foundation believes it is imperative to invest in reversing environmental declines resulting from human activity, as well as in preserving and protecting land, forests, streams, wetlands, and habitats to avoid further losses of – and threats to – natural resources and wildlife.

What is our vision?

  • A world in which the current climate change trajectory is reversed through intentional efforts to decrease human impact on the environment
  • Healthy forests, streams, wetlands, and other natural areas protected from losses and threats resulting from human activity
  • Responsible and efficient use of natural resources
  • Clean air that is safe for everyone to breathe
  • An adequate supply of water not just for people, but for the natural environment and its denizens as well

What kinds of investments do we think will advance progress toward this vision?

We are most interested in making project grants in the following areas:

  • Efforts to reduce climate change
  • Preservation and protection of natural areas and wildlife habitats
  • Restoration of natural areas that have been negatively impacted by human activity
  • Purchase of development rights (PDR) programs
  • Advocacy for stronger environmental regulations, particularly for air and water
  • Efforts to reduce energy consumption, reduce fossil fuel use, and to increase the use of alternative energy sources
  • Efforts to improve natural water quality and quantity
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Land trust accreditation

What specific impacts do we hope to see?

  • Mitigation of climate change
  • Preservation, conservation, and restoration of habitat and natural acreage
  • Watershed protection
  • Strengthened water and air regulations

2. Parks & Open Space

Establishment, conservation, and preservation of parks and open space for public use

Why is this a priority area for the Foundation?

Parks and open spaces are important places for people to engage in outdoor recreation, promoting better physical and mental health. When people are outside and engaged in the natural world, they are more likely to appreciate it and want to protect it. By encouraging people to get outside, parks and open spaces help people become better stewards of natural resources. The Foundation believes that establishing, conserving, and preserving parks and open space – and making them more accessible – is more important than ever. This is especially true in cities where development is increasingly reducing and fragmenting green space.

What is our vision?

  • Beautiful, accessible, sustainable parks and open spaces that people use and enjoy

What kinds of investments do we think will advance progress toward this vision?

We are most interested in project grants in the following areas:

  • Efforts to develop sustainable infrastructure for parks and open spaces

What specific impacts do we hope to see?

  • Creation and expansion of trails
  • Expansion, protection, and restoration of parks and open space acreage
  • Reduced concrete
  • Increased connection of people to the outdoors

3. Animal and bird care facilities

Care facilities for domestic and wild animals and birds.

Why is this a priority area for the Foundation?

To maintain a healthy ecological balance, it is vital that humans protect and care for animals and plants on land, in the air, and in the water. Every species on earth contributes to the ecosystem in its own special way and the loss of any of them can have far-reaching repercussions. Domesticated animals provide us with food and other products, and pets provide important comfort and companionship that increases our quality of life. Humane treatment for these animals is important for our own moral well-being.

What is the foundation’s vision?

  • Healthy animal populations, both domestic and wild
  • Humane care and treatment for all animals
  • No stray dogs or cats
  • No animal cruelty

What kinds of investments do we think will advance progress toward this vision?

We are most interested in making operating support and capital support grants in the following areas:

  • Humane treatment of animals
  • Efforts to protect endangered or threatened species
  • Animal care and rehabilitation
  • Collaborative efforts to improve animal well-being
  • Spay and neuter programs
  • Efforts to create a more coordinated and efficient system of animal and bird care

What specific impacts do we hope to see?

  • Reduced euthanasia rates
  • Expanded number of adoptions
  • Expanded access to quality treatment
  • Expanded number of spay/neuters
  • Expanded service to underserved geographic areas

4. Environmental Literacy

Educational efforts to promote environmental literacy and comprehension of the complexities of the web of life, particularly in primary and secondary schools, museums, and citizen nonprofit organizations with similar purposes.

Why is this a priority area for the Foundation?

According to the Science Advisory Board, environmental awareness and attitudes are the most important drivers of future environmental change. Developing environmental stewardship among children is one of our most crucial responsibilities. Many young people, especially in urban areas, are disconnected from the natural world – children today spend approximately 50% less time outdoors as their peers did 20 years ago. The Foundation believes strongly in the importance of investing in efforts to expand environmental literacy – to teach future generations (and their teachers) about the environment and the critical environmental issues facing us today.

What is the foundation’s vision?

  • People of all ages who appreciate and enjoy being outdoors, are deeply interested in the natural world, and care about being good stewards of natural resources
  • Teachers, parents, and community members who are environmentally literate and who share their deep appreciation and understanding of the natural world with children (0-18)
  • People of all ages who are able and inclined to think critically about environmental issues

What kinds of investments do we think will advance progress toward this vision?

  • Efforts to develop and/or disseminate evidence-based teacher training and educational programming in environmental literacy for children and youth
  • Efforts to expand understanding of nature, conservation principles, and the web of life through high-quality programming in schools and other places
  • Efforts to develop people’s ability to think critically about environmental issues

What specific impacts do we hope to see?

Expanded reach and impact of evidence-based programming that achieves:

  • Improved critical thinking skills
  • Increased appreciation for science, nature, and the outdoors
  • Increased exposure to nature

5. Reproductive rights

Efforts toward reproductive rights, family planning, and education

Why is this a priority area for the Foundation?

Promotion of family planning and ensuring access to preferred contraceptive methods are essential to securing the well-being and autonomy of women, while supporting the health and development of communities. Family planning and sex education can prevent unwanted pregnancies and births.

What is the foundation’s vision?

  • Universal access to family planning and safeguarding of reproductive rights
  • All babies born to families that want them and have the capacity to care for them
  • A world population that can be successfully sustained without environmental destruction

What kinds of investments do we think will advance progress toward this vision?

We are most interested in making operating and project support grants in the following areas:

  • Advocacy focused on safeguarding reproductive rights and expanding access to family planning
  • Voter education related to reproductive rights and family planning
  • Efforts to educate leaders and voters about the societal and environmental repercussions of population growth
  • Efforts to expand access to sex education in schools, in the media, or through other means

What specific impacts do we hope to see?

  • Political or policy change
  • Success in litigation
  • Expanded numbers of teenagers who are knowledgeable about family planning
  • Lowered teenage birth rates
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