The Ocean Foundation (TOF)



Washington, DC

Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2021):

Revenue: $9,142,772
Expenses: $8,502,759
Assets: $16,392,830


Fiscal Sponsor and Environmental Grantmaking




Mark J. Spalding

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The Ocean Foundation (TOF) is a left-of-center fiscal sponsorship and grantmaking organization that focuses on environmental issues, especially those related to the world’s oceans. Founded in 2001, TOF has received private and governmental funding, and also offers corporate partnerships, drawing attention to the public relations face-lift it can bestow: “improved brand lift, increased sales, engaged employees, [and] a boost in customer loyalty[.]” 1

The Ocean Foundation is a partner of the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. It also began a fund to support the United Nations’ “Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development” which runs from 2021 to 2030. 2

Along with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOOA), and the Cuban Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment (CITMA), it was a participant of the fifth International Marine Protected Area Congress (IMPAC5), advocating for increased protected status for marine environments, and increased participation of local indigenous groups in the wider environmental movement. 3

Identity Politics

Diversity/Equity/Inclusion/Justice (DEIJ) Initiative

The Ocean Foundation stated that it would incorporate a “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice lens”into every aspect of its environmentalism by incorporating DEIJ staff training and applying these principles to its recruitment of staff and board membership. TOF’s “Diversity/Equity/Inclusion/Justice (DEIJ)” project also included an announcement that it would start distributing a monthly newsletter to focus on this facet of its environmental advocacy. TOF also participated in the environmental nonprofit monitoring group Green 2.0’s 2021 “Report Card on Diversity,” which tracked equity outcomes in nonprofits that chose to participate by self-reporting. 4

Pride 2022

In June 2022, TOF published a blog post decrying a supposed “critical lack of diversity” in science technology engineering and math (STEM) fields. The article, “Pride 2022: Putting LGBTQ+ Voices on Deck,” highlights an executive order signed by President Joe Biden earlier that month which focused on LGBT issue areas such as ending the ban on transgender military personnel and addressing the high suicide rate among these groups. 5

Marine Pathways Internship

In March 2019, TOF announced the Marine Pathways Internship Program, a flexible, paid internship offer with special invitation extended to “women, people of color, people with disabilities, veterans, LGBTQ+, and individuals with diverse backgrounds.” 6


International Ocean Acidification Initiative

In 2003, The Ocean Foundation spearheaded the International Ocean Acidification Initiative (IOAI) to monitor the increase in global oceanic acidity allegedly caused by an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. This project spun off the Global Ocean Acidification Observation Network (GOA-ON), a brainchild of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, and eventually spawned the Friends of the Global Ocean Acidification Observation Network Fund to financially sustain a global network of scientific research in this field. This project is supported by the U.S. State Department, which expanded the program to include monitoring in several African nations including Mozambique and South Africa. The State Department then began a similar project in 2016, spearheading the Ocean Acidification Monitoring and Mitigation (OAMM) program, which focuses on similar research in Latin America and the Pacific Islands. 7

Blue Resilience Initiative

In 2022, TOF launched the Blue Resilience Initiative (BRI), pledging to give $8 million over a three-year period toward ocean conservancy projects. Partnering with private sector groups such as Grogenics, several non-governmental organizations of Cuba and Puerto Rico, and the University of Havana, this project aims to renovate coral and mangrove forests, as well as developing invasive sargassum sea grasses into organic compost. 8


The Ocean Foundation gave nearly $1.2 million in grants throughout its fiscal year 2022. Grants included $142,000 to the Resiliencia Azul (Blue Resilience) project in Mexico, which aims at creating “blue carbon” markets by planting marine seagrasses to reduce carbon emissions, and the implementation of carbon tax and credit systems. The Great Marsh Blue Carbon Feasibility Study received $50,000, which will investigate the feasibility of carbon-offset planting in Massachusetts wetlands. Grants were also given to social influence campaigns, such as $20,000 for the Wildland Conservation Project to build support among African youth for the United Nations’ “30×30” sustainable development goals, and a small set of donations given to local groups surrounding the Chesapeake Bay for a campaign to increase awareness of marine plant importance among recreational boaters. 9


Mark J. Spalding is the president of the Ocean Foundation and is an ocean investment advisor to climate tech group Green Swan Partners LLC. He is the former executive director of the environmental advocacy groups Loreto Bay Foundation and the St. Kitts Foundation, and is a senior fellow at Middlebury Institute of International Studies’ Center for the Blue Economy. Spalding is also former CEO of the marine food sustainability group SeaWeb. 10 11


  1. “For Corporations.” TOF. Accessed May 29, 2023.
  2. “Networks, Coalitions, and Collaboratives.” Accessed May 29, 2023.
  3. Bretos, Fernando; Thomas, Katie. “Making and Impact at IMPAC5.” TOF. February 16, 2023. Accessed May 29, 2023.
  4. “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice.” TOF. Accessed May 29, 2023.
  5. Logan, Michelle. June 28, 2022. “Pride 2022: Putting LGBTQ+ Voices on Deck.” TOF. Accessed May 29, 2023.
  6. “Announcing the Marine Pathways Internship.” TOF. March 14, 2019. Accessed May 29, 2023.
  7.  “Annual Report Fiscal Year 2019.” TOF. Accessed May 29, 2023. chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/
  8. “The Ocean Foundation’s Blue Resilience Initiative…” United Nations. Accessed May 29, 2023.
  9. “Grantmaking.” TOF. Accessed May 29, 2023.
  10. “Mark J. Spalding. Linkedin. Accessed May 29, 2023.
  11. “Mark Spalding.” Conservation Media Group. Accessed May 29, 2023.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: May 1, 2002

  • 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
    2021 Jun Form 990 $9,142,772 $8,502,759 $16,392,830 $807,781 N $8,260,790 $718,825 $2,274 $316,734
    2020 Jun Form 990 $18,510,600 $8,760,634 $15,351,389 $492,259 Y $17,828,372 $636,145 $7,743 $326,526 PDF
    2019 Jun Form 990 $8,532,198 $8,202,116 $5,940,901 $833,618 Y $7,733,201 $759,947 $1,961 $308,321 PDF
    2018 Jun Form 990 $8,496,190 $7,604,021 $5,482,926 $726,911 N $7,983,847 $474,807 $2,036 $439,135 PDF
    2017 Jun Form 990 $7,049,901 $6,252,396 $4,325,615 $498,821 N $6,646,293 $372,855 $953 $399,832 PDF
    2016 Jun Form 990 $6,074,490 $6,966,562 $3,527,793 $526,708 N $5,526,291 $507,289 $1,310 $399,967 PDF
    2015 Jun Form 990 $7,128,825 $5,820,613 $4,189,522 $297,336 N $6,654,638 $431,718 $1,450 $389,224 PDF
    2014 Jun Form 990 $5,264,763 $5,401,568 $2,796,059 $206,754 N $4,724,273 $535,873 $1,517 $381,401 PDF
    2013 Jun Form 990 $4,795,529 $5,512,711 $2,808,790 $107,277 N $4,303,385 $488,421 $3,723 $715,344 PDF
    2012 Jun Form 990 $5,065,861 $5,065,829 $3,568,985 $162,947 N $4,687,890 $368,842 $3,027 $361,906 PDF
    2011 Jun Form 990 $5,004,165 $5,638,164 $4,169,155 $763,149 N $4,766,405 $228,159 $9,601 $435,947 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    The Ocean Foundation (TOF)

    1320 19TH ST NW STE 500
    Washington, DC 20036-1634