Wilburforce Foundation




Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2015):

Revenue: $28,534,079
Expenses: $15,018,831
Assets: $96,326,699




Rose Letwin

Executive Director:

Paul Beaudet

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The Wilburforce Foundation is a private grantmaking foundation founded and funded by Rose Letwin, the ex-wife of early Microsoft employee Gordon Letwin. 1 The Foundation primarily funds environmentalist projects. It has funded hundreds of left-of-center environmentalist groups including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Greenpeace. 2

Most of the grants and programs conducted by the Wilburforce Foundation emphasize training environmentalist professionals as well as providing general support to the operations of hundreds of environmentalist organizations in North America. 3


The Wilburforce Foundation was founded in 1991 by Rose Letwin, whose ex-husband Gordon Letwin was among the first employees at Microsoft. The Letwins founded the foundation in 1991 using money made from Microsoft and other endeavors in the technology field. 4

Since the foundations founding it has invested over $150 million in environmental projects and institutions. The foundation’s takes special interest in Western North America, including areas surrounding Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Alaska, and British Columbia. 5


The primary purpose of the organization is grantmaking to left-of-center environmentalist organizations. Several Wilburforce grantees are noted for their activism surrounding left of center public policy and politics. 6

These group vary from very well-known and well-funded activist organizations like Sierra Club to research projects at universities. Research projects funded by the foundation have been housed at schools including The University of Washington, The University of Utah, and the University of Alberta. 7

Most grants given by the Wilburforce Foundation range from $10,000 to $50,000, and most are designated for specific environmentalist projects across dozens of organizations. However, there are a large number of general support capacity-building grants made that fund the general operations of the recipient organizations. 9 much higher than any other grant the foundation has disclosed. Wilburforce appears to fund the principal portion of TREC’s budget, as the group reported just over $1.6 million in revenue in 2016. 10

Other notable organizations funded by the Wilburforce Foundation from 2016 to 2018 are below:11

  • Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
  • Center for American Progress
  • Conservation Voters for Idaho Education Fund
  • Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund
  • Defenders of Wildlife
  • EarthJustice
  • National Parks Conservation Association
  • New Venture Fund
  • Sierra Club Foundation
  • Taxpayers for Common Sense
  • Tides Foundation
  • Union of Concerned Scientists

Other projects

Aside from funding projects at other organizations, the Wilburforce Foundation is currently directly managing several environmentalist projects and programs across the United States, with an emphasis on the Western United States and Alaska. The Wilburforce Foundation also has an annual fellowship program where they train more than twenty Ph.D.-level scientists in environmental research. 12


  1. Weinberger, Matt. “WHERE ARE THEY NOW? What happened to the people in Microsoft’s iconic 1978 company photo”. Business Insider. December 28, 2018.
  2. “Wilburforce Foundation”. Activist Facts.
  3. “Grants Database”. Wilburforce Foundation. Accessed October 7, 2018.
  4. “About Us”. Wilburforce Foundation. Accessed October 7, 2018.
  5. “Programs”. Wilburforce Foundation. Accessed October 7, 2018.
  6. Myrick, Susan. “Mapping the Left” Civitas Institute. October 21, 2015.
  8. “Grants Database”. Wilburforce Foundation. Accessed October 7, 2018.[/note]

    Many projects of the Wilburforce Foundation center around training professionals in the environmentalist community. The largest grant listed in the entire grant database that the foundation maintains is to a group titled Training Resources for the Environmental Community, which the Wilburforce Foundation reported a grant of over $1 million each year in 2016, 2017, and 2018,8“Grants Database”. Wilburforce Foundation. Accessed October 7, 2018.

  9. “IRS Form 990”. Training Resources for the Environmental Community.
  10. “Grants Database”. Wilburforce Foundation. Accessed October 7, 2018.
  11. “Programs”. Wilburforce Foundation. Accessed October 7, 2018.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: June 1, 1991

  • 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
    2015 Dec Form PF $28,534,079 $15,018,831 $96,326,699 $12,600 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form PF $60,657,741 $14,266,288 $87,923,032 $2,012 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Dec Form PF $43,979,241 $13,685,069 $42,980,023 $11,198 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Dec Form PF $13,682,463 $12,999,102 $12,590,012 $10,452 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2011 Dec Form PF $16,634,137 $12,483,442 $11,991,932 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Wilburforce Foundation

    2034 NW 56TH ST STE 300
    SEATTLE, WA 98107-3429