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Program Area Priorities

The Mayer and Morris Kaplan Family Foundation is interested in supporting organizations and initiatives aimed at halting climate change in order to safeguard the health of people, places and the planet.
Fossil fuel production and consumption are major factors that have caused global temperatures to rise at an alarming rate. Unchecked, climate change will drastically impact global safety, security, health, and most critically, the future of our planet. However, growing research, smart policy, strategic legal interventions, and bold innovations in education and science offer promise for a strong and effective response.
To that end, the Foundation supports efforts aimed at decreasing domestic fossil fuel demand and production, and at promoting high-quality and scientifically accurate climate change education for young adults.  The Kaplan Foundation prioritizes being responsive to short- and long-term threats and opportunities, using research and data to inform decisions, and being innovative in our approach to finding solutions.

Climate and Clean Energy Policy

The Kaplan Foundation employs the following strategies within this focus area:

1. Electric Utility Reform

Utility reform can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the power sector by increasing renewable energy though innovative business models, grid modernization, and distributed energy resources (DERs).  Utility reform can help utilities reduce dependence on fossil fuels, avoid transitioning from coal-fired power plants to gas-fired power plants, and facilitate the electrification of the building and transportation sectors.


  • Organizations that work in California, Colorado, and Illinois. Work in other states will be considered if there is a strong viability of reform given the political make-up of the state, and/or the presence of a legislative or regulatory ‘window’ to advance meaningful action in the near-term

  • Organizations that have successful track records of advancing utility reform, participating in climate coalitions, and building the trust of utilities, coalition members, and the public

2. Oil and Gas Infrastructure

If built, new and expanded oil and gas infrastructure – from natural gas-fired power plants to pipelines, LNG export facilities, refineries, and petrochemical facilities – would significantly undermine climate goals. They would lock in fossil fuel consumption for decades, facilitating continued market growth of oil and gas, and impeding further integration of renewable energy.


  • Organizations or projects that provide opportunities to block specific proposed infrastructure that potentially ‘lock in’ GHG emissions for decades

  • Initiatives that anticipate and prevent new and expanded fossil fuel development

  • Coalitions aimed at increasing NGOs’ alignment and effectiveness in opposing new and expanded infrastructure

  • Efforts that increase funders’ coordination in and contributions to opposing oil and gas infrastructure project

3. Carbon Pricing

Carbon pricing (either through a tax or emissions trading system) can play a role in transitioning the U.S. to a low-carbon economy and in reducing GHG levels.


  • States where the political make-up of decision-makers and voters make it feasible to make meaningful progress toward a price on carbon

  • States that have an existing foundation of effective clean energy policies

  • States that have or are building a broad and diverse coalition of supporters for carbon pricing

Climate Change Education

The Kaplan Foundation is interested in organizations and programs doing the following work:

  • Develop or disseminate scientifically accurate climate change curriculum aimed at educating high school and college students about the imminent and profound effects of climate change

  • Provide climate change education to young adults with a focus on taking action, including leadership development and opportunities for participation in advocacy and policy efforts

  • Work with teachers, teacher unions, schools, school districts, and community-based organizations to promote climate change education; training and ongoing professional development and support of teachers and educators responsible for developing and teaching climate change curriculum

Other Considerations and Criteria

  • In both interest areas, the Kaplan Foundation prioritizes opportunities where we think we can be most effective and that can engage our Trustees; priority may be given to initiatives in states where more Trustees live (e.g., California, Colorado, Illinois), but all geographies will be considered.

  • Whenever possible, we are interested in partnering with other funders and stakeholders to leverage our resources.

  • The Foundation aims to use research and data to inform decisions and views itself as a learning organization. As new information becomes available, we incorporate findings and feedback from myriad stakeholders to inform our future grantmaking.

  • Trustees are looking to be proactive, responsive, flexible, and open to new and potentially risky endeavors. We hope to encourage and support innovative approaches to problem-solving.

Please note that the application procedures and deadlines found elsewhere on this website do not apply to Environment grantmaking. If your organization aligns with the Foundation’s Environment priorities, please contact staff to discuss eligibility and application procedures.

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