Puget Sound

New Partnerships Toward A Sustainable Future

We have great enthusiasm that further gains toward a cleaner Puget Sound can be realized. We believe advances will be accomplished through focused, strategic and collaborative work, and the Foundation is committed to applying its grant resources toward these ends.

In 2015, we announced several refinements to our 2015 Puget Sound portfolio (formerly Polluted Runoff and Green Infrastructure) in order to increase partnership and impact in the region:

  • Same level of commitment, but with a focus on partnerships & collaboration: As a component of TRFF’s continued commitment to clean water for Puget Sound, the foundation will engage in a deeper way with grantees around the issues of (1) meaningful evaluation and (2) measureable collaboration. In 2015, this means TRFF will make fewer individual organizational grants as research shows that nonprofit partnerships and regional collaborations hold the highest potential of systemic-and-measurable change. Instead, funding will focus on partner efforts between organizations that target influencing (1) government, and (2) residents and private property owners.

  • By Invitation Only: With the portfolio organized around a smaller number of collaborative initiatives in service of scaled-up results, grants will be made by invitation only. Although this grantmaking approach represents a departure from TRFF’s previously open Letter of Inquiry (LOI) process, TRFF will work to remain diligently aware of emerging opportunities that may be a close fit with our interests. If you have an idea you believe is worthy of invitation, please send an email with your concept to TRFF’s Grants Manager Linsey Sauer at linsey@trff.org. The “by invitation only” approach does not apply to TRFF’s Environmental Education portfolio, which will still be open to Letters of Inquiry. If you have questions about TRFF’s grantmaking processes, please contact TRFF’s Grants Manager Linsey Sauer at linsey@trff.org.
  • Coordinating the Field: To help further this new approach, TRFF will explore ways to align and coordinate the field, an effort that will invite new leaders beyond our grantees to join the process of change. We anticipate these strategies will evolve over time and may include: collaborative grants, collective planning, coalition and campaign work, learning cohorts and field-wide convenings.
Our grantees are combining their talents and efforts across multiple organizations for meaningful and measurable collective impact. 
The legacy of our grantees has made a significant difference for Puget Sound. 

Looking Back to Look Ahead

Over 15 years, we've invested in 798 grants toward environmental restoration and protection for a total of $39.4 million. After such deep investment, we joined our partners to step back and ask: What's been accomplished?

In 2014, The Russell Family Foundation’s Environmental Sustainability Program completed an opportunity assessment and field scan of its Polluted Runoff and Green Infrastructure grants portfolio. The purpose of this assessment was to identify strategic opportunities for TRFF and other private funders to reduce polluted runoff and protect Puget Sound.

The assessment findings were based on research as well as numerous thought leader interviews and surveys with TRFF grantees and regional leaders in the field. The results emphasized several potentially transformative opportunities to address the most pressing existing barriers:

  • Finding: Address inadequate funding and high costs to fix outdated stormwater infrastructure by helping secure a permanent and stable funding source for Puget Sound.
  • Finding: Address a lack of coordination by promoting alignment within the field; support grantees to develop collective and strategic goals.

Note: The full Opportunity Assessment and Field Scan can be downloaded here.

With assessment in hand, TRFF board and staff entered a conversation about the direction of the grants portfolio, including a deeper look back on our Puget Sound focused grantmaking over the last 15 years.

Measuring the impact of even a single grant can be difficult. The 2014 assessment revealed that only 33% of TRFF grantees interviewed could empirically demonstrate that their funded work had resulted in less pollution entering Puget Sound.

TRFF perceives this as yet another opportunity - to dig deeper into how we evaluate and measure the quantitative and qualitative outcomes of this work. We are aware that countless variables exist and no sizable metric can be attributed to one organization or achieved in isolation. 

New Grantees

Washington Water Public Education Campaign: TRFF recently made a $100K grant to Resources Legacy Fund (RLF) to work in partnership with Puget Sound-based organizations. Together, RLF and local partners will mount a 2015 campaign in Washington State focused in part on securing a permanent and stable funding source for Puget Sound. For more information on this exciting effort, please contact Sybil Ackerman-Munson, Resources Legacy Fund.