Non-profit

Sea Change Foundation

Website:

www.seachange.org

Location:

SAN FRANCISCO, CA

Tax ID:

20-4952986

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)-PF

Budget (2014):

Revenue: $61,247,967
Expenses: $45,127,742
Assets: $167,908,151

Formation:

2006

Founder:

Nathaniel Simons

President:

Stephen Colwell

Nathaniel Simons, the billionaire son of Renaissance Technologies co-founder and progressive donor James Simons, established the Sea Change Foundation in 2006.[1] The foundation, based in San Francisco, California, was created as a 501(c)(3) exempt private foundation.[2] The foundation’s mission is to address “serious threats posed by global climate change.”[3]

At the end of 2015, the foundation’s assets were $176 million.[4]

Founding

The Sea Change Foundation is funded by Nathaniel “Nat” Simons, co-founder of Prelude Ventures, a clean-tech investment fund.[5] Funding from the foundation comes from the personal wealth of Simmons and his wife, Laura Baxter-Simons.[6] The foundation also receives funding from Renaissance Technologies, the successful hedge fund that Simons’ father and major Democratic donor, James Simons, created and where Simons spent years as a portfolio manager.[7] Nat Simons currently serves as a board member and vice-chair of Renaissance, in addition to managing Meritage Group LP, a spin-off portfolio of hedge fund and direct investments.[8]

Overview

The Sea Change Foundation’s philanthropic interests are climate change and clean energy policy.[9]

In 2015, the foundation’s total giving was over $33 million.[10] The foundation funds a wide array of environmentalist groups along with center-left think tanks and groups.[11]

The foundation’s main grantee is the Energy Foundation. In 2015, the Energy Foundation received over $16 million in grants.[12] Other major grantees ranging in the six-figures include the Sierra Club, World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly the World Wildlife Fund), Natural Resources Defense Council, Food and Water Watch, the League of Conservation Voters, and Center for American Progress (CAP).[13]

The philanthropy blog Inside Philanthropy noted the quiet profile that Simons and Sea Change have taken, stating in 2014 that Sea Change had “what is quite possibly the world’s least informative website.”[14]

Sea Change Foundation faced criticism in 2015 for taking substantial contributions from Klein Ltd., a firm with ties to investors in Russian oil and natural gas concerns.[15]

Board and Key Staff

Nat Simons serves as President of the Sea Change Foundation.[16] The only other board member is his wife, Laura Baxter-Simons, who is listed as Secretary.[17]

Stephen Colwell is the current Executive Director of the foundation. Colwell previously served as Executive Director of the Coral Reef Alliance and the Ocean Foundation as well as an advisor to other environment-focused grant-makers including the David and Lucile Packard and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundations.[18]

Other key staff members of the foundation include:[19]

  • Shawn Reifsteck is the group’s Chief Operations Officer.
  • Sandra Doyle, Satkartar Khalsa, and Clifford Chen are listed as Sea Change’s program strategists

Affiliations

The Sea Change Foundation’s involvement with environmental policy efforts and funding from overseas companies came under scrutiny in a 2014 report released by the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee titled, “How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA.”[20]

The report states that an elite group, referred to as the “Billionaire’s Club,” directs and controls the center-left environmental movement, which in turn controls policy decisions of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report also cites that “a dominant organization in this movement is the Sea Change Foundation, a private California foundation, which relies on funding from a foreign company with undisclosed donors. In turn, Sea Change funnels tens of millions of dollars to other large but discreet foundations and prominent environmental activists who strive to control both policy and politics.”[21]

The foreign company in question is Klein Ltd., a Bermuda-based company that funnels anonymous donations for philanthropic efforts. The report finds that the company was one of the sources of the Sea Change Foundation’s funding in 2010 and 2011, contributing over $23 million to fight domestic fossil energy production.[22]

References

  1. Williams, Tate. “The Quiet Hedge Fund Heir Who’s Engaged in Massive Climate Giving.” Inside Philanthropy. April 3, 2014. Accessed March 21, 2017. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/wall-street-wallets/2014/4/3/the-quiet-hedge-fund-heir-whos-engaged-in-massive-climate-gi.html
  2. “Sea Change Foundation.” Foundation Center. Accessed February 25, 2017. https://fconline.foundationcenter.org/grantmaker-profile?collection=grantmakers&key=SEAC007.
  3. “Sea Change Foundation.” Sea Change Foundation. Accessed February 25, 2017. http://www.seachange.org/.
  4. “Sea Change Foundation – 990 Form.” GuideStar. Accessed February 25, 2017. http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2015/204/952/2015-204952986-0c9c8674-F.pdf.
  5. Exploratorium. December 21, 2015. Accessed February 25, 2017. https://www.exploratorium.edu/about/board-directors/nat-simons.
  6. “Sea Change Foundation – 990 Form.” GuideStar. Accessed February 25, 2017. http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2015/204/952/2015-204952986-0c9c8674-F.pdf.
  7. “Sea Change Foundation: Grants for Climate Change.” Inside Philanthropy. Accessed February 25, 2017. http://www.insidephilanthropy.com/fundraising-for-climate-change/sea-change-foundation-grants-for-climate-change.html.
  8. Exploratorium. December 21, 2015. Accessed February 25, 2017. https://www.exploratorium.edu/about/board-directors/nat-simons.
  9. Exploratorium. December 21, 2015. Accessed February 25, 2017. https://www.exploratorium.edu/about/board-directors/nat-simons.
  10. “Sea Change Foundation – 990 Form.” GuideStar. Accessed February 25, 2017. http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2015/204/952/2015-204952986-0c9c8674-F.pdf.
  11. “Sea Change Foundation – 990 Form.” GuideStar. Accessed February 25, 2017. http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2015/204/952/2015-204952986-0c9c8674-F.pdf.
  12. “Sea Change Foundation – 990 Form.” GuideStar. Accessed February 25, 2017. http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2015/204/952/2015-204952986-0c9c8674-F.pdf.
  13. “Sea Change Foundation: Grants for Climate Change.” Inside Philanthropy. Accessed February 25, 2017. http://www.insidephilanthropy.com/fundraising-for-climate-change/sea-change-foundation-grants-for-climate-change.html.
  14. Williams, Tate. “The Quiet Hedge Fund Heir Who’s Engaged in Massive Climate Giving.” Inside Philanthropy. April 3, 2014. Accessed March 21, 2017. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/wall-street-wallets/2014/4/3/the-quiet-hedge-fund-heir-whos-engaged-in-massive-climate-gi.html
  15. Markay, Lachlan. “Foreign Firm Funding U.S. Green Groups Tied to State-Owned Russian Oil Company.” Washington Free Beacon. January 27, 2015. Accessed March 21, 2017. http://freebeacon.com/issues/foreign-firm-funding-u-s-green-groups-tied-to-state-owned-russian-oil-company/
  16. “Sea Change Foundation – 990 Form.” GuideStar. Accessed February 25, 2017. http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2015/204/952/2015-204952986-0c9c8674-F.pdf.

  17. “Sea Change Foundation: Grants for Climate Change.” Inside Philanthropy. Accessed February 25, 2017. http://www.insidephilanthropy.com/fundraising-for-climate-change/sea-change-foundation-grants-for-climate-change.html.
  18. “Stephen Colwell.” Global Philanthropy Forum. Accessed February 25, 2017. https://philanthropyforum.org/people/steve-colwell/.
  19. “Sea Change Foundation – 990 Form.” GuideStar. Accessed February 25, 2017. http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2015/204/952/2015-204952986-0c9c8674-F.pdf.
  20. “How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA.” 2014. Accessed February 25, 2017. https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/6ce8dd13-e4ab-4b31-9485-6d2b8a6f6b00/chainofenvironmentalcommand.pdf.
  21. “How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA.” 2014. Accessed February 25, 2017. https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/6ce8dd13-e4ab-4b31-9485-6d2b8a6f6b00/chainofenvironmentalcommand.pdf.
  22. “How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA.” 2014. Accessed February 25, 2017. https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/6ce8dd13-e4ab-4b31-9485-6d2b8a6f6b00/chainofenvironmentalcommand.pdf.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: July - June
  • Tax Exemption Received: January 1, 2007

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2014 Jul Form PF $61,247,967 $45,127,742 $167,908,151 $19,050,044 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Jul Form PF $43,742,959 $45,801,832 $134,481,603 $8,479,727 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Jul Form PF $97,719,951 $53,066,209 $124,350,435 $7,098,061 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2011 Jul Form PF $27,100,078 $57,552,377 $141,226,135 $33,047,496 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Sea Change Foundation

    1 EMBARCADERO CTR FL 22
    SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94111-3711