Profiles > Philanthropy > The Sierra Club Foundation
The Sierra Club Foundation
The Sierra Club Foundation Foundation is an independent 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charity governed by an independent board of directors. As the fiscal sponsor of the charitable programs of Sierra Club, the foundation provides resources to it and other non-profit organizations to support charitable scientific, educational, literary, organizing, advocacy, and legal programs that further The Sierra Club Foundation's mission, which is to help educate, inspire and empower humanity to preserve the natural and human environment. The foundation
does this by raising funds donated for tax-exempt charitable purposes and by preserving, enhancing, and administering these funds so that future generations will inherit a healthy planet with wild places left to explore.

By law, The Sierra Club Foundation retains control and discretion over all charitable funds received, including how they are disbursed within the purposes for which they were contributed; the Foundation reserves the unilateral right to select those recipients or beneficiaries it believes will best accomplish those purposes. Financial support for The Sierra Club Foundation comes from individual and institutional donors.

With nearly $100 million in assets, The Sierra Club Foundation spends 90% of its funds on environmental and conservational programs. Aligning the Foundation’s mission and values with its investment portfolio continues to be a major focus in stewarding the Foundation's charitable assets responsibly, efficiently, and effectively.
Founded 1960
Headquarters San Francisco
Type Domestic
Recent Revenue $47,100,000 (2012)
Charity Navigator 66.08 / 70.00 (four stars)
BBB Accredited 20/20
Charity Watch N/A
Executive Compensation $157,160
Responsible Stewardship

The Sierra Club Foundation's investment strategy is to achieve superior long-term performance while moderating risk to maximize the resources available to meet the mission objectives of the Foundation and its donors. Investment decisions are customized in the investment portfolios for program funds, endowment funds, and trust funds in a manner that will best meet the donor's objectives, the Foundation's operating needs, and which will maximize returns with an appropriate level of risk on funds invested for long-term growth. Managers are selected based on their expertise and proven performance in each of the asset classes within each of the portfolios with priority given to mission-aligned, socially responsible investment managers whenever possible.
Asset Classes
  • Short-term investments are managed to achieve maximum current income and minimize market volatility to preserve principal. Maturities are also managed to meet liquidity requirements of less than three years.

  • Intermediate-term investments are managed to achieve maximum income with low market volatility consistent with a time horizon to meet liquidity needs of three to five years.

  • Endowment and long-term operating funds are managed utilizing a multi-asset, multi-manager diversification strategy that will yield a net rate of return sufficient to cover long-term inflation plus the endowment spending rate of 5%, while preserving capital over a market cycle (of at least 10 years).

  • Planned Gifts are managed through an investment strategy that utilizes fixed income and equity asset classes selected for each trust or portfolio to achieve an appropriate risk/return profile and market performance that approximates long-term historical averages.
Socially responsible Investing
The Sierra Club Foundation's Investment Committee has worked to transition The Sierra Club Foundation's equity holdings in the operating and endowment portfolios to funds and managers that meet their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria. The Foundation will continue to prioritize mission-aligned investing consistent with the Foundation's strategy to achieve superior long-term performance while moderating risk to maximize the resources available to meet the mission objectives of the Foundation and its donors.

Socially responsible investing (SRI) has evolved considerably from its origins as "negative screens" designed to exclude so-called "sin stocks" like tobacco and alcohol, nuclear energy, or companies with ties to apartheid. While negative screens are still used, increasingly investment managers are incorporating ESG criteria into their investment strategies and portfolio construction, including using "affirmative screens" to assess environmental sustainability, green technology, and renewable energy investment opportunities.
What does the foundation fund?
The Sierra Club Foundation stands at the crossroads between strategic philanthropy and grassroots advocacy. As a publicly supported charity, they partner with thousands of donors from across the US to make investments in grassroots-based organizations that have an outsized impact on the health of the planet. TSCF gives strategic emphasis to charitable programs focused on moving beyond coal and oil as primary energy sources, replacing them with renewable sources of energy, building broad and powerful alliances with communities that have a vested interest in the success of a clean energy economy, and reducing the natural world's vulnerability to climate change while ensuring safe and healthy communities.
The Climate Recovery Partnership unleashes the full strength of The Sierra Club Foundation’s charitable engine to power Sierra Club’s 2.1 million members and supporters, working in every state on nationally coordinated public education, advocacy, organizing, research, communications, and litigation. Together with the scientific community, entrepreneurs, labor unions, communities of faith, community based organizations serving diverse ethnicities, aligned non-profits, tribal nations, and the philanthropic community; the Partnership can wage the intellectual, political, social, and financial battle to make America the leader in the climate fight – not its largest contributor.
Sierra Club's Environmental Law Program directs legal strategy for the Club's Climate Recovery Partnership Campaign and supports environmental litigation work by local chapters and groups. They take pride in being lawyer organizers. Their docket covers the entire range of environmental issues, from local fights over polluting coal plants to cases of national significance on greenhouse gases, toxic pollution, clean air, clean water, and wilderness preservation. They have been doing this work since 1970. In the process, the Environmental Law Program partners with a range of diverse partners, from hunting clubs in Arkansas to farmers in South Dakota to faith groups in Appalachia and labor leaders around the country. This work is integrated with a substantial grassroots organizing effort in more than 40 states, implementing strategic communications and policy campaigns at the national, state, and local levels. As the Club’s in-house legal team, the Environmental Law Program is one of the smartest, most creative litigation programs ever assembled. They stay one step ahead of the curve by continually updating their knowledge and tactics, keeping opponents on their heels, and forever striving to enforce a vision of leaving a prosperous and healthy planet for generations to come.
Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships -- Climate disruption is not an equal opportunity threat. People of color, indigenous communities, and low-income families bear disproportionate health burdens such as asthma, certain types of cancer, cardiac problems, and heat-related deaths. Over the past decade, through carefully nurtured relationships, the Sierra Club’s Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships program, with support from The Sierra Club Foundation, has been bringing environmental health issues present in our most vulnerable communities into the national spotlight. The Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships program is a core part of the Sierra Club’s work to build partnerships to move the nation beyond coal and oil, and to create a just, healthy, and prosperous society.

Through local outings, conservation-oriented activities, and leadership training, Sierra Club Outdoors programs support John Muir's assertion that people who experience wilderness firsthand are much more likely to preserve it for future generations. By supporting Sierra Club Outdoors, the Foundation is building a stronger, healthier, more inclusive environmental movement by employing a combination of strategies to reach across economic bounds, cultures, and communities to encourage people to explore and enjoy the wild places that surround them.
Partnership grants -- In addition to the Sierra Club, The Sierra Club Foundation supports other organizations and programs that are strategically aligned with the Foundation’s mission and values.
Grassroots Impact -- Environmental and social change comes through efforts large and small. The Sierra Club Foundation supports a broad range of volunteer and youth-led conservation efforts at the local, regional and state level in communities and on campuses across the US. Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) draws upon those characteristics to empower 75,000 young leaders nationwide, engaging in broad-based education and advocacy efforts to involve young people in moving the country to a clean energy economy. With more than 250 groups nationwide and through its award-winning grassroots training program, SSC students not only set national priorities, they develop new resources and support the Coalition’s volunteer network. A small staff supports SSC programs, but participants provide the creativity. SSC has been instrumental in fighting coal
and dirty fuels on college campuses across the country, securing the commitment of a number of schools to move towards a clean, renewable energy future.
The Sierra Club Foundation owns and operates the historic Shasta Alpine Lodge, a climbers' hut located at Horse Camp, a 720-acre area that has long been a popular base camp for climbers and hikers on Mount Shasta. Located at an altitude of nearly 8,000 feet, Horse Camp offers low impact campsites, a seasonal source of fresh water, and emergency shelter during the winter.
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