The Democracy Program supports a broad array of initiatives intended to strengthen the foundation of democracy and good governance.  Priorities include ending partisan or racial gerrymandering, overturning Citizens United, expanding ballot access, ridding elections of dark money, holding government officials accountable for corrupt and unethical practices, pushing reforms at local and state as well as federal levels, promoting progressive legislative agendas, and supporting a diverse field of emerging young leaders to help forge a truly inclusive and representative society.

Civic Participation

The  Civic Participation Program supports the implementation of democracy through exercise of the franchise and other direct forms of civic involvement.  Priorities include support for state base organizations educating, motivating, and mobilizing voters, support for national and state groups protecting voters' rights and election integrity, and for groups thwarting attempts to suppress participation.  The focus is not just on elections, but on how the vote can affect issues people care deeply about.  Addressing racial, environmental, and economic injustice requires responsive elected leadership, which in turn depends on robust and widespread involvement by the electorate.  This program supports year-round work to mobilize active engagement, not limited to election-season get-out-the-vote campaigns.  This program does not fund academic research, tech development, book projects, individual fellowships, or programs and conferences unrelated to on-the-ground organizing.


The Foundation supports public interest media that raises awareness of critical environmental, political and social issues to promote a better informed citizenry in the U.S. It supports quality, non-commercial media that is substantive, fair, and accurate. Program priorities include investigative journalism, media policy and public broadcasting.

Investigative Journalism supports excellence in reporting on nationally-significant public affairs issues in the U.S. Competitive proposals will show evidence of groundbreaking content employing multi-platform media tools with potential to achieve broad distribution and social impact.

Media Policy supports nationally-significant initiatives that promote fair and open media systems and policies in the U.S. The Foundation supports projects that advance universal access to communications, a "neutral" Internet, diverse and independent ownership, public interest media and the future of journalism.

Public Broadcasting supports nationally distributed and aired television and radio programming. Preference is given to in-depth, investigative reporting projects that include diverse, public interest voices and perspectives.

Documentary Films supports a very limited number of small grants to individual documentary projects related to civil society and democracy, environment and animal welfare. Requests for funding greatly exceed available resources and preference is given to projects with wide distribution and community engagement. Prior to submitting a proposal, prospective applicants should contact the Foundation via phone or e-mail to determine appropriate fit. Please be prepared to provide information regarding content and treatment, distribution, outreach, budget, funding sources (and fiscal sponsorship as appropriate).

Media projects are also funded in the Foundation's Environment program.


Environment Program Guidelines

The Foundation’s Environment Program has two major interests:

  • To ensure drinking water is clean, affordable, and accessible, protected and managed as a public necessity; and
  • To challenge continued shale gas extraction and infrastructure expansion.

Drinking Water: The Foundation supports efforts on a national scale or in New York State that promote: strong and enforced water policies; increased investment in publicly owned and operated water infrastructure; empowerment of communities and individuals to exercise their rights to protect drinking water resources; and reduced consumption of bottled water.

On a limited basis, the Foundation is exploring opportunities to support organizing and advocacy at the national scale to address lead in drinking water.

Energy: The Foundation supports statewide efforts in New York that decrease reliance on fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, by challenging the expansion of its infrastructure, including pipelines, compressor stations and new natural gas power plants. The Foundation will also consider requests that will help shift the state’s energy needs away from conventional fossil fuel sources and toward a clean energy system that is accessible, affordable and protective of citizens’ health.

Types of Activities Funded

The Foundation is interested in catalyzing action and is willing to consider diverse approaches that raise awareness and offer solutions to drinking water and energy concerns, including, but not limited to, policy development, advocacy, organizing, and corporate responsibility.

Additionally, the Foundation will consider support for investigative reporting outlets that raise awareness and provide new information on drinking water and shale gas energy issues. Stories may be national in scope, but funding is generally targeted to coverage of issues that are relevant to New York State.


Other environmental grants that cover additional geographic and issue areas are made at the Foundation's initiative and the scope of these interests is separate from these guidelines. Please contact the Foundation for more information.

Statement of Position on Oil & Gas           

Global emissions of climate-warming gases continue to rise, and scientists have provided dire warnings of the impacts of the predicted warming on people and ecosystems across the world if immediate action is not taken.  The most severe impacts will be faced by people already challenged by poverty and other disadvantages.  Oil and gas extraction, transport, use and its related industries are major contributors of greenhouse gases and endanger public health.

Value Statement

The Park Foundation’s Environment Committee has engaged in anti-shale gas work since 2008 and has developed a grantmaking history supporting organizations and projects working to keep shale gas in the ground through research, policy, advocacy and activism.  Although there is not a single strategy that will avert the climate crisis, the Committee recognizes that a firm stance against further oil and gas development is a necessary component to future funding decisions.  This stance includes supporting efforts that:

  • Commit to the “keep it in the ground” philosophy.
  • Commit to resisting all new gas and oil drilling.
  • Commit to resisting all new gas and oil infrastructure buildout (including: pipelines, compressor stations, new gas power plants, new petrochemical feedstock facilities).
  • Promote a managed decline in fossil fuel existing supply and production.
  • Challenge the energy status quo and promote democratic principles for citizen engagement in energy decision-making.
  • Educate and move investors towards cleaner energy choices.

Additionally, the Foundation has already transitioned its endowment portfolio; it divested its holdings of carbon stocks and committed itself to “climate solutions” investments.  More information on the Foundation’s Mission Related Investing work and activities is available here.





Animal Welfare

The Foundation is focused on nationally significant efforts to advance the protection and conservation of wildlife with an emphasis on policy and advocacy work related to threatened and endangered species. The program supports innovative, comprehensive, solution-oriented models that lead to systemic change, reduce suffering, and foster a more compassionate society.

In addition, the Foundation has decided to focus on the following specific areas:

  1. Organizing, education, legal advocacy, and power building in support of endangered wildlife and significant national policies that are protective of endangered species and related ecosystems;
  2. Indigenous wildlife management practices;
  3. Maintaining support for existing partner sanctuaries caring for great apes; and
  4. National and regional efforts to preserve the following species/groups and related habitats:
    a.  Pollinators
    b.  Wolves
    c.  Whales
    d.  Birds

The Park Foundation has committed to providing support to the Tompkins County SPCA, which is located in the community where the Foundation offices are located, as the sole support for companion animals.

Sustainable Ithaca

The vision of the Sustainable Ithaca program is that Ithaca and Tompkins County become a fully sustainable community – environmentally, socially and economically.  Accordingly, grantmaking addresses a spectrum of topics with emphasis on integration of systems and cross-sectoral collaboration. A special interest is on projects that enable low-income and the community of color access to and participation in sustainability measures.

In addition to the Foundation restrictions outlined in the general overview above, grants are limited to projects and programs that impact sustainability in Tompkins County, NY. Requests for projects outside the county will generally not be considered.

Ecosystem Conservation includes both terrestrial an aquatic systems conservation and restoration. The primary emphasis of aquatic systems is Cayuga Lake and its tributaries. The overall goal is to maintain intact, functional ecosystems in Tompkins County. Projects and programs that address toxic threats to humans and natural systems will also be considered.

Energy and Climate Change includes addressing climate change by reducing energy use via efficiency measures and increasing use of renewable energy sources. The overall goal is to assist the residents of Tompkins County in meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Environmental Education includes an emphasis on informal K-12 programs and adult education to encourage individual and organizational sustainability practices.

Smart Growth includes support for smart growth planning, zoning reform, alternative transportation modes, and vehicle mile reduction.

Community Needs

The Community Needs program concentrates on opportunities for low-income residents of Tompkins County, NY. An important value of the Foundation is equity and the Foundation places a strong emphasis on equity in human service grants and efforts which lead to good outcomes for all.

The Foundation believes that it is better for everybody when it is better for everybody. As a result, a social justice lens for Community Needs grant making will be employed. For the purposes of grantmaking, social justice is defined as understanding and interrupting the traditional patterns of exclusion which prevent equal opportunity for all. The emphasis is on addressing the needs and barriers to success faced by the most disenfranchised members of our community.

The Foundation has historically funded projects within the categories of health and human services, youth services and education, social justice and equity, and capacity building and philanthropy within its Community Needs program. It is anticipated that programs within these broad categories will continue to be funded along with proposals that advance social justice in other human service fields locally.

Priority will be given to low-income and historically disenfranchised populations. A strong preference will be given to proposals that:

  • Develop interventions in partnership with the populations the project is intended to serve.
  • Include relevant data for subpopulations within the target audience and tailor programs to meet the needs of those people who are most impacted by the issue being addressed.
  • Identify barriers to success and facilitate initiatives that will surmount those obstacles.
  • Describe how the proposed project will be implemented and evaluated in order to ensure that the intended beneficiaries are most effectively reached.

Other Interests
Grants for advocacy and community organizing around critical issues in Tompkins County will be considered. Technical assistance, capacity building and planning grants are also available and interested parties are encouraged to discuss these needs with program staff before making an application.

Funding is limited to organizations serving residents of Tompkins County. Youth populations are given higher priority. Generally, the Foundation does not support disease-specific programs or capital requests.

School Food and Nutrition

The vision for the School Food and Nutrition Special Project area is that all Tompkins County residents will have adequate nutritional security to support their health, growth, and well-being. In particular, the Park Foundation has set a goal of ensuring that every student in Tompkins County has access to and is choosing to eat nutritious and appealing food in school. The Foundation is viewing this work through a social justice lens. This includes the understanding that access to adequate, healthful food is a human right and closely linked with an individual’s or family’s ability to focus on higher-order priorities such as employment, education, participation in public life and caring for family and community.

The goal of the Foundation is disruption of the self-reinforcing cycle depicted below:

Currently, the Foundation is pursuing two strategies to achieve this goal:

The Single District Strategy involves a close multi-year partnership with one Tompkins County School District focused on advancing the district’s and community’s goals regarding school food, nutrition and nutrition education. The Foundation has selected the Groton Community and the Groton Central School District for its pilot partnership.

The Tompkins County Opportunity Strategy seeks to develop relationships, skills and ideas in support of quality school food and nutrition at Tompkins County public schools. This is envisioned as grantmaking in support of discrete programs requiring technical assistance, planning or training that will advance the overall project goal of ensuring that every student in Tompkins County has access to and is choosing to eat nutritious and appealing food in school. On-going operating funds for such projects is not available. Grant decisions will be guided by the following parameters:


  • All projects should generally address opportunities or shortfalls identified in the Needs and Asset Assessment of Child Nutrition in Tompkins County Links to that report are here:  Full Report or Executive Summary .
  • Projects and interventions must be developed in partnership with the populations the project is intended to benefit.
  • All school-based projects (programming during the school day or at a school) must involve relevant school district personnel in planning, design, implementation and evaluation.
  • Grant proposals should address school-year, school-day nutrition in one or more Tompkins County public school(s).

Equipment purchases will be limited to items essential to advancing the goals of proposed projects. Requests for projects outside Tompkins County will not be considered.



The PDF includes a comprehensive list of all grants given in the 1st quarter of 2022. To see previous grants scroll to Grants Awarded Archive.