A Public Resource Compiled by the

Sierra Club Foundation

2101 Webster St Suite 1300 Oakland, CA 94612
501c3 nonprofit

Recipient: Focus on climate change, pollution and biotech-related topics

Key People

  • Michael Brune, Executive Director
  • Lou Barnes, Chief Financial Officer
  • Bruce Hamilton Deputy Executive Director
  • Sarah Hodgdon National Program Director

The Sierra Club, founded in 1892 by conservationist John Muir, is one of the oldest and most prominent environmental groups in the U.S. With annual revenue approaching $78 million, the Sierra Club advocates for resource preservation, rapid transition away from fossil fuels and criticizes the use of biotechnology in agriculture.

In 1960, the Sierra Club established a foundation with the same name because the nonprofit’s tax-deductible status was jeopardized by its political lobbying. “The Sierra Club Foundation became the Sierra Club’s fiscal sponsor with the ability to solicit tax-deductible charitable contributions and make grants for public education and related charitable activities,” the foundation’s website says.

As of September 2018, Sierra Club’s official position statement on crop biotechnology lists genetic engineering, including new gene-editing techniques like CRISPR-Cas9, as “weapons of mass destruction.” Although most experts agree that genetic engineering has boosted crop yields significantly while cutting pesticide use, Sierra Club also says in its 2018 agriculture position statement that “genetically engineered crops have failed to provide promised increased productivity, resistance to drought and disease, and reduction in pesticide use.”

In its push for mandatory GMO food labels, the Sierra Club has expressed support for organic industry efforts to harass biotech researchers who speak to the public about genetic engineering. Citing the work of U.S. Right to Know, an activist group that accuses academics of colluding with Monsanto, Sierra Club claims that “adequate long-term and cumulative analysis [of GMOs] continues to be lacking, mostly because that’s how the corporations want it.” U.S. Right to Know has defended the environmental group in turn, alleging in July 2018 that Sierra Club was targeted by “Monsanto PR operatives.”

Financial Data


Annual Revenue: $77,298,018 (2016)

Major Donors  (total contributions 2012-present)

Bloomberg Family Foundation $41,000,000

Foundation for the Carolinas $19,509,000

John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation 10,000,000

Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment $7,000,000

The Energy Foundation $3,371,000

New Venture Fund 1,175,000

William and Flora Hewlett Foundation $1,460,000

Schmidt Family Foundation 1,250,000

Central Indiana Community Foundation $1,250,000

Proteus Fund Inc $1,127,000

Contribution totals only reflect publicly reported donors and may not include significant contributions from corporations, litigators and governments, domestic and foreign, through percent of sales agreements and allocations through various arrangements such as state lotteries and aid programs. Many claims by nonprofit organizations that they receive no contributions from governments or corporations are misleading or false.

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Note that there are three “levels” of both donors and recipients.

Donations to advocacy groups are sometimes designated to support a specific cause, such as organic agriculture or mitigating climate change. There is no way for us to know from publicly-available documents on what the money will be spent, as we can only see the total amount donated. When we assign the levels below to donors and recipients, we assume that all donations are available to the recipient for all advocacy, including anti-GMO advocacy.

  • Level 1: Donates primarily to dedicated anti-GMO organizations
  • Level 2: A large portion of donations go to anti-GMO organizations; some donations go to organizations without a position on GMOs
  • Level 3: A small portion of donations go to anti-GMO organizations
    * Most donations go to organizations without a formal position on GMOs but which have aligned themselves with anti-GMO activists

For Level 1 recipients, all donations are used for anti-GMO advocacy. For Level 2 and 3 recipients, we don’t know how much of each donation is used for anti-GMO advocacy.

  • Level 1: Dedicated to anti-GMO advocacy
  • Level 2: Involved in anti-GMO advocacy along with other causes
  • Level 3: No specific anti-GMO advocacy, but general support
    * Organizations without a formal position on GMOs but which have aligned themselves with anti-GMO activists
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