Introducing Multi-Year Grants

Photo: Brian O'Keefe
Boundary Waters by Brian O’Keefe


For the first time since our inception in 1989, we are changing how we invest in key partners working to protect our most iconic landscapes. We are proud to announce that we are deepening our partnership with two organizations through multi-year grant funding. Bolstering our support will provide revenue stability, allow for greater innovation, reduce paperwork, and ultimately help them secure new protections for threatened wild places.
Our first commitment is to Alaska Wilderness League (AWL) for their effort to protect and defend the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Our second commitment is to Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness for their effort to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Each group will receive $75,000 in funding in 2021 and in 2022.
Keep reading for the why, what and how behind our decision to award multi-year grants:

Shifting the Power Dynamic

Our team is expanding, our membership is growing in size and breadth of industries, and our grant budget is on track to exceed last year by a significant amount. As our organization grows, our strategic plan for grantmaking is evolving too. We’re embracing principles outlined in Trust Based Philanthropy and we’re exploring Participatory Grantmaking concepts. Our Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee is helping to guide our grant program toward a more balanced slate of applicants and grantees that represent diverse communities. Our newly formed grant committee is taking a deep dive into the types of projects we fund, and we’re working with a third party to survey our grantees to uncover our blind spots as a funder. Our goal is to break down the power dynamic that often exists between grantees and funders, and be the best partners we can be to our grantees. Being good partners will ultimately benefit the wild places that are mitigating the impacts of climate change, supporting biodiversity, protecting the way of life and sacred land of Indigenous people, and providing recreational opportunities for all Americans.

Aligning Our Priorities

The 117th Congress is well positioned to pass significant public lands legislation. An opportunity like this does not present itself very often, and now is the time for us to go big. Our advocacy committee identified the Campaign to Protect the Arctic Refuge and the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters as two of our top priorities during the next two years. We hope that additional financial support, combined with our advocacy efforts, will help these campaigns succeed.

Why Alaska Wilderness League and Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness?

Our member companies vote for the projects they would like us to fund by casting ballots in each grant cycle. History tells us that our members love these groups and the places they are working to protect. AWL is consistently ranked #1 by our member companies in the voting process for their work to protect the Arctic Refuge. As a result, we have fully funded their work to protect the Arctic Refuge eight years in a row. Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness also receives overwhelming support from our member companies in the voting process, resulting in five consecutive grants for their work to Save the Boundary Waters.

Member Engagement is Our Priority

We recognize that awarding multi-year grants outside of the voting process is a departure from the grantmaking process that has served us well for 32 years. Member voting and engagement is—and will always be—a keystone of our grant program and organizational philosophy. We plan to award a total of three multi-year grants in 2021, totalling $225,000. This is approximately 10% of our annual grant budget. We plan to award an additional $1,975,000 in 2021 through the member voting process. By supporting the groups who have consistently earned the approval of our members, we are also making room on the ballot for other groups whose work meets our funding criteria.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by Florian Schulz
The Mechanics of Multi-Year Grants

Each group will receive $75,000 in 2021 and another $75,000 in 2022. $25,000 of each grant will be unrestricted funding. Every six months, grantees will submit two-page progress reports. If one of the campaigns crosses the finish line in 2021, we will follow through on our commitment to award funding in 2022. The goal of this investment is to provide stability and allow for innovation, which means the funding needs to be guaranteed. In this case, we will work with the grantee to direct remaining funds to another project that meets our funding criteria.


For now, multi-year grant opportunities are by invitation only. Organizations are eligible for multi-year grant funding if they are working on a campaign identified by our advocacy committee as one of our core priorities, and if they have already been funded by The Conservation Alliance.

Future Multi-Year Grants

Today we are awarding two multi-year grants to key partners, and we plan to support a third group later this year. We are also evaluating the possibility of awarding small capacity building grants for emerging organizations and/or making three-year commitments.

Impact of Multi-Year Grants, In Their Own Words

“This multi-year grant is an enormous lift in the fight to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, coming at a critical moment when President Biden and the Congress have the opportunity to ensure that this iconic wilderness and the indigenous people who depend on it are no longer subject to the threat of massive industrialization and drilling. We’re grateful for the Conservation Alliance’s longstanding partnership and unwavering commitment to this campaign including this timely new infusion of resources.” Adam Kolton, Executive Director at Alaska Wilderness League.
“The Conservation Alliance is an exceptional partner to the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, and we are so grateful to be part of their new grant program. These funds allow us to continue the fight to protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, America’s most visited wilderness, from proposed sulfide-ore copper mining. This shift towards multi-year grant funding demonstrates the Conservation Alliance’s commitment to and understanding of the time and effort it takes to protect our public lands, and we are so fortunate to be able to partner with them in pursuit of permanent protection for the Boundary Waters.” Tom Landwehr, Executive Director at the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters


If you have questions or would like to discuss our multi-year grant program, please contact Kim ( Thank you for your support as we evolve as an organization and learn through the experience of awarding our first multi-year grants.