Frequently Asked Questions

What are ‘Catalytic Grants’ and why did HCF choose this as a model?

Catalytic grants are philanthropic investments into organizations or projects with the goal of helping to kickstart a new idea and gain financial traction with other supporters. Often, these grants support small or early-stage nonprofits, or established organizations that are launching a new initiative. HCF maintains a ‘Catalytic Fund’ as a central part of its organizational process, which is made up of contributions from a number of philanthropies, foundations, family offices, and corporations. This Catalytic Fund is what we typically pull from to support our partners financially. It essentially is our form of venture philanthropy.

What is ‘Venture Philanthropy?

Venture philanthropy is a form of impact investment that combines the principles of venture capitalism and traditional philanthropy. Conventional venture capitalism provides initial rounds of funding to companies and/or projects to help kickstart their ideas, with an expectation of a financial return on investment. Traditional philanthropy involves charitable funding for a cause with limited or no expectation of a return on investment, but with an expectation of an impact in the beneficiary’s chosen cause. Merging the two concepts, venture philanthropy provides funding to organizations to help kickstart a project with the expectation of non-financial returns on investment, such as measurable environmental outcomes. More about our approach to venture philanthropy can be found in our June 2023 interview with A New Earth Project.

What makes venture philanthropy different from other grantmaking?

We believe that a business-as-usual approach to environmental philanthropy limits the progress of all parties toward achieving meaningful environmental change. There are lessons to be taken from the nonprofit sector in placing the environment and humanity over profits. There also are lessons to be taken from the for-profit sector in creating solutions that tie into our existing economic paradigm through market-based approaches. HCF’s goal is to accelerate conservation efforts around the world by bringing together the know-how of the business sector, the cause-driven nature of the nonprofit sector, and the funding opportunities from the philanthropic sector. It is at the intersection of these market segments that we have the best chance at generating the greatest impact. 

What is a ‘Market-Based Approach?

Market-based approaches are organizational strategies that use traditional business practices and apply them to the nonprofit or philanthropic sector. The idea is to create a program with environmental conservation at its core, but designed in a way where they provide financial value in our current economic system. An example is our partner program with the Loon Preservation Committee, which removed lead fishing tackle from circulation in New Hampshire by creating a buy-back program and incentivizing anglers to use less toxic products instead.

What is ‘Circular Economy?

Circular economy describes a market in which materials that are already in production are reused, repurposed, or upcycled as many times as possible before being discarded as waste. The idea is to keep existing man-made or processed materials in production and in-use before incorporating new or virgin materials into production. By creating new uses for existing materials, we can illustrate that these materials still have intrinsic, monetary value when used in the appropriate applications. Furthermore, all new products should be designed with the intention that they will someday be repurposed into new products.

What is a Theory of Change?

A Theory of Change is a tool that nonprofit organizations use to identify their vision for the world, determine the impact that they want to have, and create a roadmap for achieving their goals. HCF’s Theory of Change can be found on our About Us page.

What are the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 interconnected goals adopted by the United Nations member states in 2015. They provide a comprehensive framework for addressing the world's most pressing social, economic, and environmental challenges by the year 2030. The SDGs aim to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. The SDGs that HCF focus on include:
12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
13 - Climate Action 14 - Life Below Water
15 - Life on Land

How do I become a partner with HCF?

If you are working on an environmental conservation initiative and could benefit from partnering or collaborating with us, we would love to hear about it. We have developed a prospective partner intake form that you can fill out to indicate your interest in working with us. Depending on the project, we provide ourselves with four types of services: project and program management, grants, education and awareness building, and fiscal sponsorship. We would be happy to speak with you about whether your program is a fit and how we might be able to support you. Our next round of catalytic grants is available to be applied for here

What areas of conservation do you work in?

Because of our background, we are most interested in supporting projects related to conservation of marine and aquatic ecosystems, as well as the circular economy. However, if you have an early-stage or innovative conservation project and could benefit from collaborating with us, we encourage you to reach out.

What is considered “early-stage” in order for our nonprofit to partner with you?

We typically work either with new organizations, or with established organizations that are creating new programs or initiatives. Our grants are ‘catalytic’ in nature, meaning they are intended to help these ideas get off the ground, gain traction, and attract further support.

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