Eligibility and Priorities California Wildlands Grassroots Fund

What and Who We Support

Because of the complex network of agencies, stakeholders, processes, and programs that affect land and habitat issues in California, wildlands protection efforts are challenging. That is why the Cal Wildlands Fund provides a broad range of support for activists and organizations working to protect wildlands and habitat throughout the state. The Fund supports:

  • Small nonprofit organizations with annual actual expenses and income of $200,000 or less; and
  • Individual activists* (with a sponsoring organization) with a solid track record of protecting California’s natural landscapes, ecosystems, plants, and wildlife.
  • Geographic areas and advocacy efforts that have not received significant foundation support.


The strategies we support include, but are not limited to the following:
Grassroots organizing; organizational capacity building; participation in public meetings and hearings; public education; communications; legislative and regulatory advocacy; media campaigns; lawsuits; listing petitions; conferences and meetings; skills and leadership trainings; restoration and trail maintenance; scientific research, including citizen science; coalition building; and developing partnerships with government agencies, private entities, nonprofit organizations, and communities.

The activities we support include, but are not limited to the following:
Communications campaigns (including mailings, web-based communications and social media, paid advertising, etc.); strategic campaign planning and implementation; advocacy-related travel or other expenses; research; hiring technical, legal, or scientific experts or consultants; equipment purchase or rental; training; conferences; retreats; monitoring; mapping; and restoration and trail maintenance. Educational activities targeting legislators are allowable, but grant dollars may not be used for lobbying as defined by IRS 501(c)(3).

Funding Priorities:

  • Requests for discrete, project-specific support in which both the site and strategy are concrete and specific, e.g., saving the River Styx from hydroelectric development by getting stakeholders and community members to a hearing in Sacramento.
  • Geographic or issue areas that have not received significant financial support in the past, including rural communities and other regions without easy access to financial and political support.
  • Community-based advocacy and organizing efforts in which the campaign/project is steered by affected community members and interest groups.
  • Effort is predominantly driven and staffed by volunteers.
  • Project will establish or combat a critical precedent that will influence other wildlands protection efforts.
  • Innovative strategies.
  • Project seeks to build diverse constituencies for wildlands protection and engage non-traditional stakeholders, especially communities of color.

Other parameters and requirements:

  • Typical grants range between $4,000-$7,500.
  • Maximum grant is $10,000.
  • If your organization’s actual annual income and expenses are $30,000 or less, we strongly encourage you to request a grant of $5,000 or less.
  • If your organization’s actual annual income and expenses are between $50,000-$200,000, you may request up to $10,000.
  • Organizations seeking the maximum grant size of $10,000 must be able to articulate a clear project and budget that justifies the full grant.
  • The fund prioritizes project-specific requests, but will accept general support requests from strong organizations whose work is well aligned with the fund’s priorities. We will support stipends for organizers; portions of staff salaries linked with a project; consulting fees for technical experts; equipment purchase; and research costs.
  • Our goal is to help as many organizations throughout the state as possible and, as a result, we are not always able to provide 100 percent of the funding requested.
  • Environmental education programs must include a strong element of environmental advocacy to be considered.
  • We do not fund lobbying activities as defined by IRS 501(c)(3).
  • We do not fund beach clean-ups.
  • We do not fund film or video production or completion, although we will fund outreach or communications strategies that use films or videos as advocacy and organizing tools.


*Note: Individuals may apply for Cal Wildlands support, but must be affiliated with 501(c)(3) organization. Cal Wildlands cannot make grants directly to individuals.


Tips for Applicants

  • Does the proposal address the goals of Cal Wildlands as described in the funding guidelines?
  • How important is the overall issue addressed by the proposal?
  • Is the work plan clear and reasonable?
  • Is the budget realistic and specific? Can the work be done for the amount requested? Is there a viable plan to raise any additional needed funds?
  • Does the organization have the capacity and leadership to complete the workplan?
  • Does the project help build a broader environmental constituency and reach diverse stakeholders?
  • Does the project have an effective outreach and communications strategy, including a clearly defined target audience?
  • Does the project have clearly defined results and impacts?
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