Fossil fuel expansion projects often succeed or fail based on the strength of support or opposition from local communities, landowners and Tribal Nations. BIPOC-led frontline resistance to oil and gas infrastructure makes it impossible to ignore the racial disparities in the siting and permitting of these projects. From Keystone XL to Standing Rock, these communities have proven that they can win David and Goliath battles with little to no financial support. When they are connected to the state and national strategies and movements that can shift hearts, minds, law and policy, the potential is vast, and we know they will have even greater impact with greater resources. We invite you to invest in their power.

We work with philanthropic institutions and donors to enable historically underfunded groups to stand shoulder to shoulder with peers in the national environmental community, and to access the powerful levers of finance, media, law, and policy that can deliver the changes they urgently need. 

We identify our grantee partners through a national network of allies, building trust and carefully evaluating need while ensuring that funds go straight to those most directly impacted, which often requires unconventional investment and funding, like seed money, technical support, and rapid response grants. We aspire to the core tenets of Trust-Based Philanthropy, particularly unrestricted grants that allow organizations to prioritize where to deploy grant dollars, enabling maximum flexibility, innovation, and impact. 

In 2020, Equation Campaign created two regranting mechanisms that reflect our priorities and align with our experience and ability to conduct due diligence: the Frontline Environmental Justice Fund and the Climate Legal Defense Fund.

Frontline Environmental Justice Fund

If all goes according to plan, governments and fossil fuel companies will increase oil and gas production by 120 percent with a vast majority of expansion located in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities in the US. The industry is investing billions in new projects and infrastructure, and consolidating political, legal, and media power where its upstream and midstream operations take place. At the same time, local opposition to these operations is what ignites the passion and power of national and international campaigns, and is what oil and gas industries fear most. That this resistance is often led by BIPOC communities makes it impossible to ignore the racial disparities in the siting and permitting of these projects. Now is the time to invest in the power of those frontline communities whose rights, health, and safety depend on stopping industry expansion and abuse.

Equation Campaign established a Frontline Environmental Justice Fund (FEJF) in 2020 to serve as a vehicle to raise funds and steer support to groups opposing specific fossil fuel projects that threaten their communities and the climate. We work with a national network of allies in identifying our grantee partners, building trust and carefully evaluating needs and priorities to make high impact grants with a special emphasis on funding the BIPOC-led organizations impacted first and worst by fossil fuel projects. We ensure that funds in this area get directly to the frontlines which often requires unconventional investment like seed money, technical support, and rapid response grants. 

Given the increasingly hostile atmosphere for climate and environmental justice advocates in many states, our commitment to resource the movement ecosystem includes a related Climate Legal Defense Fund which identifies and directs funding to skilled lawyers and NGOs working to protect the constitutional rights of activists and organizations challenging the industry. Likewise, our FEJF supports initiatives that connect prominent local voices to the national campaigns that target the legal, financial, and policy decisions that drive fossil fuel expansion.   

Racial justice is both a precursor to and an outcome of lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Through our FEJF intermediary, donors can invest in the power of those communities, leaders, and movements at the forefront of those integrated struggles, and address each crisis to the mutual benefit of both.

Climate Legal Defense Fund

We are at a critical juncture where the fights to stop climate catastrophe and for racial, social, and economic justice is being propelled by the force of people demanding action. Yet violent police repression, increased civil and criminal penalties, and new legislation at the federal, state and local levels dangerously criminalize peaceful advocacy, punish those who fight for a just and sustainable future, and chill others from speaking out. In 2020, Equation Campaign launched the Climate Legal Defense Fund, an intermediary that raises money and makes grants to build and support a standing army of lawyers to defend activists, NGOs, and organizers on the frontlines of the climate movement. 

In addition to these increased crackdowns, new anti-protest laws – including so-called “critical infrastructure” bills – are proliferating to target the free speech and assembly rights of environmental and racial justice activists around throughout the US. These laws – passed in states like Texas, Louisiana and South Dakota – were specifically designed to silence Indigenous, Black Lives Matter, and climate activists and have been proliferating since the historic mobilization at Standing Rock. Oil and gas companies have had the law on their side for too long, hiring lobbyists and lawyers to create the most lucrative and permissive environment possible for their continued extraction of oil and gas.

The Climate Legal Defense Fund provides rapid response grants for people and organizations requiring legal support for their engagement in advocacy and protest against oil and gas expansion. In addition to funding a standing army of skilled civil rights lawyers to defend climate activists, the Fund supports efforts to convene and catalyze coordinated legal challenges to these punitive laws, and projects that provide training and resiliency to climate movement activists so that they may more safely exercise their protected rights. Funds raised and given through this intermediary help resource a robust legal defense apparatus, and support affirmative constitutional challenges against these punitive laws and practices.

For more information on our intermediaries or to discuss aligned grantmaking, please contact Katie Redford or Annie Plotkin Madrigal.

Their deep understanding of social justice and movement power, combined with their ability to move money fast makes them ideal collaborators for collective impact. In addition to being funders, they are practitioners who have decades of experience lawyering and organizing to challenge climate-depleting industries and institutions steeped in injustice. They are bold and unapologetic about protecting the climate and advancing racial justice. 

Conniel Malek
Executive Director, True Costs Initiative

Equation Campaign Contributors

  • 11th Hour Project of the Schmidt Family Foundation
  • Open Society Foundations
  • David Rockefeller Fund
  • The JPB Foundation
  • MacArthur Foundation
  • Rachel’s Network 
  • Rockefeller Brothers Fund
  • Various individuals

Partners Making Aligned Grants

  • Aileen Getty Foundation
  • CS Fund
  • David Rockefeller Fund
  • Hive Fund for Gender Justice
  • Overbrook Foundation 
  • Rockefeller Family Fund 
  • Solidaire 
  • True Costs Initiative
  • UMI Fund
  • Wallace Global Fund
  • Zegar Family Foundation
  • 11th Hour Project of the Schmidt Family Foundation