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What is Earth Island Institute?

About Us

It all started in 1982 with a big idea from environmental visionary David Brower: Why not create a new home for dedicated environmental activists – a place where bold people with big ideas can collectively build the awareness and change we need to take on the environmental issues of our time? Decades later, Earth Island Institute has grown and prospered. With incredible activists and leaders, we are working to drive the change that can create solutions we need for a sustainable future. Now, more than ever, the Earth Island Institute matters.

Read about Earth Island Projects’ 2016 highlights.

PROJECT SUPPORT People have passion. But let’s be honest – usually it’s for solving problems and building movements, not handling paperwork. We serve as an organizational hub so environmental activists can focus on their program ideas and campaigns while leaving the bureaucracy to us. By providing fiscal sponsorship, administrative backing, and compliance support, we free our projects to go do their important work. In addition to institutional support, we provide training, technical assistance, and opportunities for our projects to connect with one another. Our unique model currently supports 70 autonomous projects worldwide, from the Bay Area to Borneo, and has aided more than 150 projects over the years. Some of these have spun off on their own, including International Rivers and the Rainforest Action Network. Others, like the International Marine Mammal Project (yes, the “Dolphin-Safe Tuna” and “Free Willy” people) and Sacred Land Film Project, have been with us since the very beginning.

PUBLIC EDUCATION Our award-winning quarterly publication Earth Island Journal, IslandWire newsletter, and robust social media presence help keep our community informed on the latest issues. Special events, brown bag lectures, and other opportunities provide our members with viewpoints and insights that matter to them.

NEW LEADERS INITIATIVE/BROWER YOUTH AWARDS We elevate and nurture the next generation of environmental leaders year-round. Since 2000, our Brower Youth Awards has become known as the leading youth environmental prize in North America. Casting a spotlight on six emerging environmental leaders (ages 13-22), BYA is the culmination of a week-long celebration that includes speaking engagements, media events, networking, and mentoring in the Bay Area. Beyond the awards celebration, the cohort of leaders is supported year-round with resources to develop their advocacy, leadership, and project management skills. Many of our “alumni” awardees have gone on to lead influential initiatives and projects in the environmental space – sustaining the vision of our founder David Brower into the 21st century and beyond.


Earth Island’s project support model is unique within the environmental sector and has been time-tested over three decades. As we continue to learn from and with people responding to the urgent environmental issues of our time, we invite one and all to engage with us further.

About the Earth Island Project Model

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Earth Island Institute’s integrated project support model makes it easy for community groups/activist leaders responding to today’s environmental issues to set up a non-profit operation and start making impact where it’s needed.

Building on nearly 35 years of experience, we understand the administrative and knowledge-sharing challenges faced by grassroots leaders and have designed an enhanced model to build leadership and scale impact.

We do something many other fiscal sponsors do not; we welcome projects seeking Federal grants and/or international funding. And unlike some others, we do not require a minimum organizational budget to join EINS – we want to give activists the chance to create the change they want to see.

Each program organizes its own individual Programs & Fundraising while leveraging the power of our connected network of over 70 projects, the invaluable knowledge and influence of renowned leaders in the environmental movement, organizational partners, and the longevity of our 34-year old organization and experienced staff.

Below is a peek at our project matrix, clustered by area of issue focus. We are complex, far-reaching, and interconnected!

The Impact of Earth Island Institute’s Project Support Work

• ~70 projects, from the Bay Area to Borneo

• 150 total projects over the years

• More than ONE MILLION dollars saved from the “administrative landfill” each year*

*Calculation methodology: The Stanford Social Innovation Review (“Pay What it Takes Philanthropy,” Summer, 2016:) reports that nonprofits that are focused on policy and advocacy, and have budgets up to $20M annually spend on average 26% of direct costs for administrative expenses. These are defined as costs of shared functions housed in headquarters, such as leadership, finance, human resources, technology, and legal issues. EII’s fiscal sponsorship model provides these functions to our projects, for which we assess a Fiscal Sponsor fee of 10%. This alone represents 16% net saving to the projects compared to their being standalone organizations – and this projection does not include the value of other soft and hard resources that consume staff time, such as governance, tax preparation, etc. Over the three most recent years, projects have paid EINS an average of $780k annually in Fiscal Sponsor fees. Applying a factor of 1.5, we arrive at a modest estimate of $1.17M per year that is made available for environmental activism!


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