The Sierra Club Foundation is the education and fundraising arm of the Sierra Club. The organization provides fundraising support for the Sierra Club and other environmentalist organizations. The organization supports the environmental movement by providing grants to various campaigns.
Among the campaigns the foundation supports are a campaign to end the use of coal for generating electricity. Coal is the single-largest source of electricity in the United States and ending its use would put tens of thousands out of work. The foundation also supports efforts to end the use of other fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas. Instead, the foundation supports switching to less-efficient and less-reliable sources of energy such as wind and solar.
The foundation has also found itself involved in the land rights fights in some parts of the country. The foundation supports placing more and more lands under the control of the government either as “wilderness areas” or national or state parks. Many landowners, especially in the West, view these as infringing upon their property rights.
The foundation works to spread the word on environmental issues of importance to the Sierra Club. It works and trains like minded activists to promote their issue viewpoints.
It is also the primary fundraising arm of the Sierra Club. The group works to solicit donations from corporations, individuals, and foundations in order to fund their issues. It also awards grants to various environmental campaigns such as “Beyond Coal”, “Beyond Nuclear”, and working to protect so-called “wilderness areas” and public lands.
In 2015, the foundation raised $87 million and spent $63 million. Among those who have donated money to the foundation are the Bush Foundation (not related to either former U.S. President), which has donated $525,000 to study various environmental issues. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund also awarded nearly $400,000 to work on various projects in 2016.
In 2014, the Sierra Club Foundation and its parent organization were accused of violating tax laws. The Energy and Environment Legal Institute accused them of not paying taxes on unrelated business income and giving an impermissible benefit to private interests. They were accused of sending volunteers to sell solar panels from selected local companies in exchange for donations from those companies.
The single-largest campaign the foundation funds is the “Beyond Coal” campaign. The goal of the campaign is the end the use of coal for generating electricity in the United States. As of 2015, the “Beyond Coal” campaign was responsible for killing a coal-fired power plant every 10 days. The foundation funded armies of lawyers and sent them to kill coal power plants on the local and county level. It also formed anti-coal coalitions with various business interests and local activists.
The coal industry fought back suggesting that the foundation and its allies have no realistic back-up plan for coal. The industry points out that the foundation and its parent organization also oppose nuclear and natural gas. Natural gas is the fastest growing source of electric power generation in the U.S.