Pew Charitable Trusts: Grants for Marine Conservation

OVERVIEW: Pew reflects a consolidation of seven funds; its assets total about $5 billion. Now a public charity, Pew conducts one of the largest oceans advocacy programs in the world. Pew is no longer a foundation, and has no marine grantmaking program, but generously supports partners in marine causes. 

IP TAKE: Pew stopped operating as a foundation in 2002, and does not accept applications for grants. However, the organization offers large grants and oversees a few competitive programs worth noting.

PROFILE: The work of Pew Charitable Trusts is expansive. The Philadelphia-based organization has a trust of about $5 billion, facilitates more than 40 active projects, and employs about 1,000 people. In addition, it boasts a complete research arm. The trusts originally emerged from seven charitable funds established from 1948 to 1979 by family related to the founder of the Sun Oil Company. Its interests were scattered, and it ceased functioning as a foundation in 2002. Today Pew operates as an independent nonprofit organization. Across its grantmaking, Pew "is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems." While it maintains five programs, each of them houses several subprograms, which makes the Pew's reach truly wide-reaching.

Pew pursues its marine conservation grantmaking, also known as the oceans subprogram, through its environment program. Pew’s ocean program seeks to protect habitats and important species like sharks, penguins, and tuna, predominately from threats such as overfishing. This work falls under the Pew’s policy arm, and aims to create large marine reserves, end illegal fishing, protect key species and restore the overall health of ecosystems. Within the subprogram, there are 15 active, main projects, protecting everything from the Arctic to the Antarctic, whales to krill. One key project, protection for east Antarctica, seeks to safeguard vital Southern Ocean waters. Covering almost 1-million square kilometers, the marine protected areas help "the oceans and the planet adapt to six key impacts of a changing climate: ocean acidification, sea level rise, increased storm intensity, shifts in species distribution, and decreased biological productivity, and oxygen availability." To say the least, Pew's work seeks to be more than ground-breaking. 

Pew supports established, large organizations and institutes. Grants range from $30,000 to well into the millions. Past grantees include Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the world-renowned research center in Massachusetts; and the Ocean Conservancy, an advocacy group that’s been around for 40 years protecting the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico.

The organization also has two competitive marine funding programs worth noting: 

Pew Marine Fellows is one of the trusts’ more accessible funding programs. The fellowship awards $150,000 each to five mid-career professionals who are doing critical marine conservation work internationally. The fellowships are still by nomination only.

Lenfest Ocean Program, funded by the Lenfest Foundation, is managed by Pew Charitable Trusts. Established in 2004, the program "funds scientific research on policy-relevant topics concerning the world’s oceans and communicates the results of the supported research to decision makers and other interested audiences." Ultimately, it funds ocean research motivated by policy questions, with an emphasis on fishing, fisheries, and aquaculture. This program also does not accept unsolicited proposals. 

Grantseekers are advised to read each subprogram and grant opportunity in-depth as requirements are subject to change. For instance, while most programs do not accept unsolicited proposals, some offer other restrictions. At the bottom of the main pain, grantseekers can also sign up for a weekly newsletter and grant news. 


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