Philantropy is our government, now: How to Fund Your Great Scientific Idea

On January 1, 2016, the Southern Fried Science central server began uploading blog posts apparently circa 2041. Due to a related corruption of the contemporary database, we are, at this time, unable to remove these Field Notes from the Future or prevent the uploading of additional posts. Please enjoy this glimpse into the ocean future while we attempt to rectify the situation.

Since Congress decided to cut science funding to all but matters of national security, many of us in the environmental field have existed in the new world of science funding–Foundations and Charitable Giving. While one might make the case that protecting the environment is in fact a matter of national security, our elected representatives disagree and sliced funding to climate change, political science, and education first. But they’ve also constructed a tax code favorable to private donors and foundations supporting science, sometimes because they really like the idea, they see future payoffs from their investment, or because they need the tax writeoff. The problem with these sources of private money is that they’re not as easy to discover as some of those public sources once were, and often require developing a personal relationship with the family owning the endowment. After polling the environmental science community, here’s some tips and tricks for finding and courting money that have set up some fantastic labs for others. Learn from their success.

Know the Next Big Thing

There are fads amongst the problems that need to be solved, and any successful research lab has at least one toe in the water of the subject at the top of the publicity agenda. For ocean topics, for a long while this was charismatic endangered species like whales and turtles. Once we realized we’d done as much as we could in this arena, other subjects started getting attention. For the foundations who take on these issues, they want to be seen at the forefront of an issue, not the tenth batter up, so the field is a constantly shifting landscape and the pace of that shifting hastens each year. Remember when citizen science was the next big promise for marine research? That it offered cheap, high quality data covering large spatial scales collected by the good graces of volunteers? People loved to suggest starting citizen science projects, and it solidified the institutional landscape we see today with professional associations and research institutions designed around maximizing the promise of citizen science. That all happened within the space of a few years and some large investments by the Packard and Bechtel foundations. But once something is institutionalized, it’s time for the foundations to move on to the Next Big Thing. Read More

Help Support Ocean Conservation this Holiday Season and Promote your Ocean Conservation Organization!

With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, we have entered the season for charitable giving. In America alone, there are thousands of ocean conservation organization that rely on donations and grants for their continued operation. Rather than list out our favorites, which tend to get quite a bit of promotion through Southern Fried Science’s various platforms, this year, I am inviting representatives from any ocean conservation organization to promote themselves in the comment thread. So, if your NGO is doing an end of the year fund raiser, if you have an “adopt-a-critter” programs going for the holidays, or if you just want to get the word out about your organization, feel free to leave a comment and let us know a bit about you organization and its goals.

Southern Fried Science has a large, dedicated, and ocean literate audience. Let us know what you’re up to. I promise it will be worth your time.

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Making Your Donations Count: 5 simple guidelines for selecting conservation organizations to support

headshot-thalerSMALLEvery year, the number of non-governmental organizations (NGO’s for short) committed to reducing climate change, saving the ocean, developing alternative energy sources, cutting down plastic use, not cutting down forests, or myriad other worthy causes, grows. Many of these organizations are staffed by committed, hard-working environmentally minded advocates struggling to make a difference. But, with so many NGO’s out there, and more being founded, how are concerned citizens expected to know which NGO’s are effective, which best match their ideals, and, most important, which NGO’s are worthy of their donations (either of money of of volunteer time). To alleviate this problem, I’ve assembled a set of 5 relatively simple guidelines to help you evaluate and select a conservation NGO that fits your values and gets the job done.

1. Determine how well the NGO incorporates local and indigenous stakeholder groups into their programs.

I’ve started here because this is the most difficult to assess but, by far, the most important. The most successful NGO’s seek out local stakeholders for consultation. The very best include local stakeholders among their employees, at high management positions. The reasons for this should be obvious: local stakeholders are familiar with the political and social climate of the region in which they’re working. They have personal connections to key decision makers in the community. Stakeholders are more sympathetic to a conservation message when that message is being delivered by respected members of their community, rather than purely by outsiders. Without local support, many conservation initiatives are doomed to failure.

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