There are a multitude of nonprofits dedicated to helping protect the environment. Here’s how to choose where you want to give.

Driven by worrisome headlines about climate change and pollution, clients increasingly ask me about effective ways to support organizations working to protect the environment.

It’s not as straight-forward as it might seem.  Environmental concerns are central to other important causes—improving health, reducing global poverty and supporting human rights, for example. Having a focused giving strategy is key to ensuring that your efforts will have an impact and be personally satisfying—whether you are giving your money or your time.

To help you narrow down your options, I’ve broken down environmental giving into three major categories, each of which has a number of paths you can choose. See if one of these paths inspires you.

Climate Change

Climate change has already had, and will continue to have, a negative impact on our environment while also contributing to dangerous weather patterns. Philanthropists can play a major role in combatting further destruction. We can provide local, regional, national, and global support to mitigating carbon emissions and reducing the use of fossil fuels. In addition, we see philanthropists working to build a greener economy and increase the public’s knowledge and understanding of the impact of climate change through educational programs. 

Land and Ocean Conservation

The preservation of our open lands and oceans is central to our planet’s and our global economy’s long-term sustainability. Yet, despite making up more than 70% of the earth’s surface, ocean-related causes have received less than 1% of all philanthropic funding since 2009.i  We are seeing philanthropists in the tech and finance sectors increasingly dedicate their resources to addressing the problems that our oceans are facing, including warming temperatures, overfishing, pollution from plastics and ocean acidification. This growing attention is a step in the right direction, but significantly more resources will be needed to start reversing the damage.

Wildlife Conservation

Wildlife conservation, protecting both animal species and their habitats, can be achieved in a variety of ways. Through legislation, such as the Endangered Species Act, the safeguarding of established public lands, as well as responsible practices to conserve wild animal populations, we can work to keep both animals and their habitats safe. Zoos are just one type of nonprofit that can contribute. The San Diego Zoo Global, for example, has a team of over 200 field conservationists and scientists working with conservation partners in 70 countries on the conservation of more than 130 species around the world.

No matter what approach you choose, recognize that there is a lot of opportunity to contribute to environmental charities. The hardest part may be deciding which one.

Becca Topper, an analyst with the Morgan Stanley Philanthropy Management, contributed to this article.

Photo: Philip Carter

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