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Report: Biggest Green Groups Get the Most "Greenbacks"



March 2, 2012

LAS VEGAS - The largest national environmental groups are getting the most charitable dollars, a new report says, while in many cases, important conservation projects taken on by smaller groups in Nevada and across the nation are being overlooked.

People at the local level are often the ones most affected by their area's environment and climate challenges, according to the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), although its research found they receive only 15 percent of the grant money given by foundations for environmental work.

Aaron Dorfman, NCRP executive director, says charitable funders need to change that.

"They've got the freedom to take risks and experiment. Foundations are supposed to be society's 'passing gear,' to really invest in those things that might not be attracting support otherwise. We just don't see that happening."

Bob Fulkerson, executive director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, says the three-decade fight by locals to prevent the federal government from turning Yucca Mountain into a nuclear-waste dump is a prime example of the power local grass-roots groups can muster to protect the environment.

"When the federal government first wanted to put nuclear waste here, it was local citizens and it was Native Americans who were working together to fight that dump. And so far we've held them off, and the delay is victory."

In recent years, Fulkerson says, small grass-roots groups played a major role in blocking the massive water pipeline project conservationists fear could dry up rural Nevada's water supply.

Half of all environmental grants are awarded to large national organizations with budgets of $5 million or more, the report says. It suggests that at least 25 percent of a foundation's grant dollars should go to grassroots organizing and advocacy.

The report, "Cultivating the Grassroots: A Winning Approach for Environment and Climate Funders," is online at ncrp.org.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV