General News

Switzer Fellows attend annual Environmental Grantmakers conference

For the last few years, the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA), which is the national affinity group for environmental funders, has opened some of its funder-only gatherings to Switzer Fellows. Our partnership with EGA has evolved as we seek to offer new kinds of professional development opportunities for Fellows, and as EGA tries to model the kind of inclusive leadership that works with emerging leaders across age, background, and diverse environmental issues.

The 2015 annual EGA conference was held in New Paltz, New York, at Mohonk Mountain House at the edge of the Shawangunk Mountains. Five Switzer Fellows were selected among those we nominated to attend and they were joined by recipients of the Wilburforce Fellowship in Conservation Science and Claneil Foundation’s Emerging Leaders Fund and other funder fellowship programs. Evan Hansen, Isella Ramirez, Laura Bozzi, Christy Merrick and Melissa Nelson attended and were able to make useful contacts in their field (although there is NO fundraising allowed at these events).  In addition, Trustee and fellow Margaret Rubega attended, and several of our Fellows who are employed in various foundations were there as well. We have a growing body of Fellows who are working in philanthropy and it can be a rewarding career, especially after experience in one’s field.

The conference theme emphasized the emergent success of grassroots movements and their role in environmental politics and issues, ranging from urban community development issues in low-income neighborhoods to indigenous activism in support of aggressive climate change policies to reduce carbon emissions and community-based efforts for public lands protection.  Departing from past practice, there was also a healthy infusion of arts, music and young leaders as presenters. We were particularly proud to have one of our Fellows, Isella Ramirez, Environmental Justice Program Manager for Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark, New Jersey, as one of the panelists in a closing session on "Next Generation Grantmaking: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion".

These conferences enable Fellows who are working in policy or NGO settings to understand how funders frame critical environmental issues and talk about strategies and priorities.  For me, these conferences help me and the Switzer Foundation learn about current and ongoing issue and policy efforts around the country including many issues Switzer Fellows are involved in.  

We look forward to offering similar opportunities in the future, and we suggest that Fellows working for nonprofits avail themselves of their local grantmaker associations and also tune into the Switzer Foundation network call "Working with Funders" available under Network Resources / Trainings on the private side of our website. We hope to offer similar opportunities for Fellows in future years either at the annual conference or the biennial Federal Policy briefing in Washington, D.C.