Ireland, like many other countries has declared a state of climate emergency. There is a real and increasing concern for the future of the planet. Many sectors of society – both private and public -must collaborate to combat one of the most pressing issues of our current generation. We have yet to see this translated to a growth in donations to environmental charities in Ireland. New philanthropists have yet to emerge in Ireland establishing foundations or Donor Advised Funds with an environment focus.
According to the Environmental Funders Network, UK trusts and foundations only direct between 0.93% and 2.2% of their giving to address climate change. In comparison to the funding other social issues receive, environmental funding is lacking. The Community Foundation for Ireland wants to change this to encourage other donors, trusts and foundations to start directing more funding to tackle the environmental crisis we now face.
One of the environmental focuses for The Community Foundation for Ireland is biodiversity. We are losing global biodiversity at a rate unprecedented in human history. In Ireland, even though we have a tradition of rich biodiversity, many of our protected habitats are in poor condition. 14% of assessed species here are thought to be endangered. As Ireland loses its biodiversity, it is vital that communities engage with conservation at a local level. Over 90% of our protected habitats are in poor or inadequate condition.
The Community Foundation for Ireland is a leading Irish philanthropy organisation. It tends to be ahead of the curve in supporting critical social issues and has sought to address the lack of environmental funding. It started by making environmental grants of €35,000 in 2018, which was hugely oversubscribed and so the Board decided to put a large of chunk of the organisation’s funding into this area.
In 2019 it established a dedicated Environment and Nature Fund. The grants scheme was devised to enhance biodiversity in communities throughout the country by combining the expertise of qualified ecologists with the skills, experience and enthusiasm of local community groups. The Community Foundation for Ireland offered grants up to €10,000 to organisations who are undertaking projects that aim to protect, enhance, restore or create biodiverse habitats, or protect and provide shelter and/or food sources for native Irish species.
The Community Foundation for Ireland committed €200,000. €100,000 was provided by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and a large corporate added an additional €70,000. €370,000 was awarded in 2019 to 82 organisations. While this was a great achievement the demand far outweighed the means with almost €1 million in funding requested. Among the 82 successful applicants were:
- Ballybunion Community Forum who received €8,580
- County Nature Trust – One Green Village (Ballincollig) – €3,300
- Port Omna Beo Biodiversity Group (Portumna) – €5,000
- Plastic-Free Kinvara – €5,000
- Refill Ireland Project – €10,000
- Dodder Action – €4,334;
The volume of applications demonstrated the clear need for funding just in the area of biodiversity alone. Individuals, families, corporates and other trusts and foundations must look at the largely underfunded area of environment – and for those with means to give back strategically for impact. Government bears the main responsibility; but no government is successful without the participation of people. There is more to be done. Philanthropy has a crucial role to play.
Those interested in learning more can explore the links below. For 2020 the aspiration is to increase the level of funding available. The hope is that more companies and individuals will be inspired to join forces with The Community Foundation for Ireland and pledge their support to the Environment and Nature Fund. Working together as a community of donors, we can make a difference.
Author: Niall O’Sullivan, Fund Development Associate at The Community Foundation for Ireland www.communityfoundation.ie
For more information see: