The Tides Foundation is a progressive 501(c)(3) donor-advised fund provider that was named after a San Francisco Bay Area left-of-center independent bookstore. Individuals and organizations can give money to the Tides Foundation, which, for an 8 percent fee, then directs that money to another organization or cause that the donor or the board of the Tides Foundation chooses. Founded in 1976 by political activist Drummond Pike just north of San Francisco in Sausalito, California, the Tides Foundation collects tens of millions of dollars per year which it uses to, among other things, fund grants, sponsor new ventures and organizations, and provide workspace for other organizations. In 1996, the Tides Foundation formally incorporated the Tides Center, a 501(c)(3) created to incubate new groups.
The Tides Foundation’s financial practices have been characterized as “dark money” for allowing contributors (to Tides) to obscure their direction of funds to other left-wing organizations.
Overview of the Organization
Drummond Pike co-founded the Tides Foundation with the late Jane Lehman, heiress to Reynolds tobacco and former president of the Arca Foundation, a left-of-center grantmaking organization in Washington, D.C. Pike allegedly “created, mentored, funded, and led more progressive non-profit organizations than anyone in the world (including George Soros).”
Under tax law, the Tides Foundation is not obligated to report where it uses funds contributed by specific donors. One can discover many of donors to the Tides Foundation, and the Tides Foundation is obligated by law to disclose its grantees, but the link between the donor and the donee is washed away as the money passes through the Tides Foundation. The Tides Foundation maintains what are known as donor-advised funds (DAFs)—funds managed by a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit that can receive unlimited donations and pass those donations on to other nonprofit organizations, and in the process obscure the connection between individual donor and the final grant recipient. Donors who give to the Tides Foundation thus have the privilege of enhanced secrecy when they give to more controversial organizations or causes. Progressive opponents of free speech, including Tides recipients, have criticized this practice as “dark money.”
The Tides Foundation openly celebrates its progressivism, calling itself a “values based infrastructure service for progressive nonprofit work.” The Tides Foundation has worked with over 15,000 individuals and organizations, including “foundations, donors, corporations, social investors, nonprofit organizations, government institutions, community organizations, activists, [and] social entrepreneurs.” Claiming to have managed project and grantmaking activities of more than $2 billion since its creation, the Tides Foundation has supported hundreds of nonprofit projects in its quest to “accelerate toward a world of shared prosperity and social justice.”
To name just a few of the Tides Foundation’s projects over the years, they have promoted the anti-war movement,anti-free trade campaigns, the banning of firearms ownership, the abolition of the death penalty, abortion rights, and gay rights.
The Tides Foundation and the organizations it supports can sometimes have exceedingly close relationships. Tides founder Drummond Pike (who now works at Equilibrium Capital) is also on the Board of Tides-supported groups like the Environmental Working Group. He previously worked on the Tides Canada Foundation, Democracy Alliance, and Credo Mobile/Working Assets, which are all affiliated with the Tides Foundation.
The Tides Foundation, the Tides Center, and the Tides Network, a master corporation founded in 2007 to provide administrative control of all other Tides entities, do more than grantmaking. They also offer fiscal sponsorship and nonprofit management, shared spaces and services, consulting, global services, mission related investing, advocacy, and integrated services.
In building out other nonprofits, the Tides entities offer financial services and help with human resources, payroll, risk management, and government compliance. Essentially, the Tides groups (or simply “Tides”) take care of most of the overhead so that the left-of-center nonprofits they help can focus most on their causes.
Tides also offers nonprofits it works with real estate and shared working space, relieving the nonprofits of a top operational concern. In its consulting service, the Tides Foundation helps other foundations, individual donors, and corporations with the financial and logistical details of philanthropic programs. The Tides Foundation helps manage the application processes for funding, manage the grantee application process, manage applicant inquiries, compile proposals, and do recordkeeping.
Tides’s global services division has helped manage more than $120 million in grants to over 150 countries, helping organizations with government compliance and overcoming regulatory burdens.
Tides also helps organizations to “merge investment portfolios with philanthropic goals” so that donors can have a “socially screened investment portfolio” that aligns with progressive causes.
To help other 501(c)3’s with public policy advocacy, Tides helps ensure organizations are compliant with regulatory burdens so organizations can avoid visibly contributing to partisan causes.
Finally, the Tides integrated services partnership provides clients a “one-stop shop ” for “full-service grantmaking capabilities bundled with back-office administrative service,” essentially helping the client with every single step of the nonprofit process.
The Tides Foundation has been implicated in a scheme of funneling millions of dollars into Canada from American donors to block joint U.S./Canadian energy projects. During debate over the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport Canadian oil to U.S. refineries along the Gulf Coast, it was discovered that much of the Canadian anti-Keystone advocacy was being funded by American environmental donors.
Independent blogger from British Columbia, Vivian Krause, estimates that over the last 12 years, U.S. donors have poured around $300 million into controversial Canadian environmental groups that meddled with Canadian politics. When her journalism uncovered the depth of U.S. donor involvement in Canada, the Canadian government withdrew an $8.3 million funding agreement with Tides Foundation-affiliate Tides Canada, one of the organizations operating as a dark-money conduit for American donors.
The Tides Foundation was also crucial in environmentalist-driven attack on the apple industry during the “Alar-on-Apples” scare. Environmentalists—most notably actress Meryl Streep–falsely claimed that children were developing cancer by eating apples treated with the plant-growth regulator Alar, causing the apple industry to take a major hit as parents stopped buying the fruit for their children and schools stopped purchasing it as well. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) was the main promoter of the hoax, and the NRDC used the Tides Foundation as a go-between to pay the fees for Fenton Communications, which helped the NRDC run a public relations campaign against Alar.
It is difficult to know the full extent of the Tides Foundation’s donor network. As a dark money operation, the Tides Foundation is not required to release this information, even if it does release some aggregate numbers.
So, for example, from 1991 to 2013, Tides received 2,314 grants from 471 foundations totaling $522,950,992. In 2013 alone it received 181 grants from 107 foundations for a total of $42,557,073.
The fifteen largest donors in 2015 were
- The Novo Foundation ($6,395,927)
- The Ford Foundation ($3,298,000)
- The M.A.C. Global Foundation ($2,683,438)
- The Wallace Global Fund II ($2,395,000)
- The New Field Foundation ($2,340,000)
- The Annie E Casey Foundation ($2,340,000)
- The Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program ($2,320,000)
- The Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund ($2,128,789)
- The Open Society Foundation ($2,014,350)
- The Natem Foundation Inc. ($1,598,356)
- The Children’s Investment Foundation ($1,500,000)
- The Pema Foundation ($1,159,278)
- The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ($1,127,434)
- The Schwab Charitable Fund ($1,070,842)
- The Broad Reach Foundation ($1,000,000)
Among the foundation contributors, Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program, Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund, and Schwab Charitable Fund are commercial donor-advised fund providers, further obscuring the source of money passing through Tides.
Discover the Networks compiled a list of at least 91 foundations that made grants to the Tides Foundation between 1993 to 2003, including
- The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
- The Annie E. Casey Foundation
- The Arca Foundation
- The AT&T Foundation
- The Barbra Streisand Foundation
- The Bauman Family Foundation
- Ben and Jerry’s Foundation
- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
- The Blue Moon Fund
- The Bullitt Foundation
- The CarEth Foundation
- The Carnegie Corporation of New York
- The ChevronTexaco Foundation
- The Columbia Foundation
- The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
- The Energy Foundation
- The Fannie Mae Foundation
- The Ford Foundation
- The Foundation for Deep Ecology
- The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation
- The Heinz Family Foundation
- The Hoffman Foundation
- The Homeland Foundation
- The Howard Heinz Endowment
- The M. Kaplan Fund
- The James Irvine Foundation
- The JEHT Foundation
- The Jenifer Altman Foundation
- The Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation
- The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
- The Joyce Foundation
- The Lear Family Foundation
- The Liberty Hill Foundation
- The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation
- The Foundation for Women
- The Nathan Cummings Foundation
- The New World Foundation
- The Open Society Institute
- The Pew Charitable Trusts
- The Ploughshares Fund
- The Proteus Fund
- The Public Welfare Foundation
- The Richard And Rhoda Goldman Fund
- The Righteous Persons Foundation
- The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
- The Roberts Foundation
- The Rockefeller Family Fund
- The Rockefeller Foundation
- The Schumann Center for Media and Democracy
- The Stern Family Fund
- The Stewart R. Mott Charitable Trust
- The Summit Charitable Foundation
- The Surdna Foundation
- The Threshold Foundation
- The Turner Foundation
- The Vanguard Public Foundation
- The Verizon Foundation
- The Vira I. Heinz Endowment
- The K. Kellogg Foundation
- The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
- The Woods Fund of Chicago
It’s not just private organizations and individuals who donate to the Tides Foundation. The Tides Foundation and affiliated Tides Center received “$395,319 from the Department of Interior; $3,350,431 from the Environmental Protection Agency; $3,487,040 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development; $208,878 from the Department of Agriculture; $39,550 from the Department of Energy; $93,500 from the Small Business Administration; $10,986 from the Department of Health and Human Services; and $84,520 from the Centers for Disease Control U.S. Agency for International Development” from 1997 to 2001 alone.
Each year, the Tides Foundation releases a list of grantees, including their country of origin and the amount given. As the Tides Foundation funnels donations to hundreds of organizations per year, the below list is a small sampling grantees and the amount given in 2015, the last year with a public list:
- #BlackLivesMatter ($5,000)
- 350.org ($81,815)
- Academy for the Love of learning ($5,300,000)
- ACLU Foundation ($38,176)
- Center for American Progress Action Fund ($20,000)
- Color of Democracy Project ($280,000)
- Democracy Now! ($302,373)
- Earthjustice ($370,250)
- General Assemly Space, Inc. ($765,344)
- Initiatives for Medicines Access and Knowledge ($1,105,000)
- International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission ($21,622)
- J Street Education Fund ($1,404,000)
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology ($680,000)
- Media Matters for America ($225,000)
- Mind and Life Institute ($2,500,000)
- Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies ($1,500,500)
- The Opportunity Institute ($1,499,144)
- Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Federation, and Affiliated ($146,415)
- Sierra Club Foundation ($56,500)
- Tides Canada Foundation ($74,000)
- Tides Network ($643,581)
- Working Families Organization ($213,800)
In 2015 alone, the Tides Foundation made $110 million in domestic grants and $39.8 million in foreign grants that reached 110 countries on 6 continents.
Past recipients of Tides Foundation grants include:
The ACORN Institute
The Center for Community Change
Earth Island Institute
Feminist Majority Foundation
The Jane Addams Peace Association
The Mexico Solidarity Network
The National Organization for Women Foundation
The National Wildlife Federation
The Nature Conservancy (of California and of New York)
The New Israel Fund
The New World Foundation
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
The Pacifica Foundation
The Sierra Club
The Southern Poverty Law Center
The Threshold Foundation
Outside of its traditional grantmaking operation, the Tides Foundation also supports other affiliated organizations, most notably the Tides Center, a 501(c)(3) devoted to incubating new progressive organizations. Below is a sampling of some of the organizations founded or supported by the Tides Foundation.
The Tides Foundation began the Thoreau Center for Sustainability in San Francisco, a 150,000-square foot office space for more than 60 organizations in the Presidio National Park, as well as the Thoreau Center for Sustainability in New York, which is across the street from the New York Stock Exchange. These centers operate as a shared offices space, housing dozens of environmentalist nonprofit organizations dedicated to “social, cultural and environmental sustainability.”
Groundspring was founded by the Tides Foundation in 1999 as an online fundraising and donor management tool designed to facilitate giving to progressive groups.
The Tides Center Pennsylvania, founded at the request of Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, manages local civic programs.
The Tides Canada Foundation is a conglomerate of nonprofits in Canada that operates as a grantmaking organization like the Tides Foundation in America.
The Tides Advocacy Fund, now just The Advocacy Fund, is a 501(c)4 lobbying arm founded by the Tides Foundation to push for progressive public policy.
The Tides State Equality Fund is a donor-advised fund of the Tides Foundation that, since 2007, has granted more than $16 million to advance LGBT issues on the state level.
Drummond Pike, the founder of the Tides Foundation, served on the board from 1976 until 2010 when he began working as a principal at Equilibrium Capital Group, a “sustainability-driven asset investment” firm. This $1 billion asset management platform built on the idea that “environmentally and socially beneficial practices can drive operational efficiencies.” According to Bloomberg, Equilibrium Capital Group invests in asset management companies with a focus on “areas of municipal wastewater sectors, water management, renewable energy, electric power, sustainable agriculture, integrated land management, and green real estate.”
Pike was essential to the founding of the Thoreau Center for Sustainability, Groundspring.org, the Tides Foundation, and the Tides Canada Foundation, as well as building out the Tides Foundation into the multi-million dollar grantmaking organization it is today. After an embezzlement scandal at the controversial Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) left ACORN founder Wade Rathke in a $1 million hole, Pike anonymously footed the bill.
Kriss Deiglmeier, the CEO of the Tides Foundation, was the founding Executive Director for Stanford’s Center for Social Innovation., Deiglmeier became CEO of Tides on February 19, 2014, replacing Interim CEO Gary Schwarz.
Rahul Young, the Chief Operating Officer of the Tides Foundation, was an environmental consultant for ICF International, working for clients like Google, eBay, Yahoo!, Time Warner, and more. He was the city of Berkeley’s first Green Building Coordinator and received a BA in Public Policy from Stanford University.
Amanda Keton, the General Counsel for the Tides Foundation, also serves as Managing Director of the Tides-affiliated Advocacy Fund. A former consultant at Ernst & Young, Amanda is also on the Board of Directors for the San Francisco LGBT Community Center as well as the ACLU of Northern California.
Alex Sloan, the Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Tides Foundation, was previously a director at the Skoll Foundation and the founding chairman of Excelerate Foundation, another left-of-center nonprofit. Sloan has also worked at venture capitol firms, including JPMorgan Partners and Expansion Capital Partners.