Philanthropy, Voluntarism, and Grantmaking

Ocean Foundation

Tell us what you want to do for the ocean, we'll take care of the rest.

aka The Ocean Foundation   |   Washington, DC   |  www.oceanfdn.org

Mission

The Ocean Foundation (TOF) is a unique community foundation with a mission to support, strengthen, and promote those organizations dedicated to reversing the trend of destruction of ocean environments around the world. We work with a community of donors who care about the coasts and oceans to grow the financial resources available to support marine conservation in order to promote healthy ocean ecosystems and benefit the human communities that depend on them. We operate using a well-established business model (the community foundation) to serve donors and partners interested in marine conservation. As such, TOF works towards increasing the capacity of conservation organizations, hosting projects and funds, and supporting those working to improve the health of ocean species globally.

Ruling year info

2002

President

Mr. Mark J. Spalding

Vice President, Operations

Mrs. Karen Muir

Main address

1320 19th Street, NW 5th Floor

Washington, DC 20036 USA

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Formerly known as

The Coral Reef Foundation

EIN

71-0863908

Cause area (NTEE code) info

Community Foundations (T31)

Water Resource, Wetlands Conservation and Management (C32)

Marine Science and Oceanography (U21)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Our world ocean supports life on earth. 71% of our planet is covered with water; 1 in 7 people depend on the ocean for the protein it supplies and more than half of the world's population lives within 50 miles of its coast. Yet, the ocean continues to face numerous threats - many human-caused - including climate change, ocean acidification, coastal over-development; plastics and marine debris; overfishing and unregulated fishing just to name a few. These threats are well documented and rapidly changing yet, less than 5% of environmental funding goes to support the protections of 71% of the planet on which 100% of us depend on. As the only community foundation for the ocean, The Ocean Foundation is stepping up to meet this need by working to enhance the human relationship with our world ocean so that the ocean can continue to play its vital role as the foundation for healthy human communities.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Protecting Species of Concern

For many of us, our first interest in the ocean began with an interest in the large animals that call it home. Whether it be the awe inspired by a gentle humpback whale, the undeniable charisma of a curious dolphin, or the ferocious gaping maw of a great white shark, these animals are more than just the ambassadors of the sea. These apex predators and keystone species keep the ocean ecosystem in balance, and the health of their populations often serve as an indicator for the health of the oceans as a whole.

Population(s) Served
General/Unspecified
Budget
$1,684,685

One of the most significant barriers to progress in the marine conservation sector is a lack of real understanding about the vulnerability and connectivity of ocean systems. It is easy to think of the oceans as vast, almost unlimited sources of food and recreation with abundant animals,
plants, and protected spaces. It can be difficult to see the destructive consequences of human activities along the coast and below the surface. This lack of awareness creates significant need for programs and that effectively communicate how the health of our ocean relates to climate change, the global economy, biodiversity, human health, and our quality of life.

Population(s) Served
General/Unspecified
Budget
$797,973

Our ocean is a mosaic of special places, from the bustling vibrancy of coral reefs to the tidal pools of the rocky coasts to the stark, glistening beauty of the frozen Arctic. These habitats and ecosystems are more than just picturesque; they all provide vital benefits to the health of the ocean, the plants and animals that live in them, and the human communities that depend on them.

Population(s) Served
General/Unspecified
Budget
$1,598,339

There are many outstanding conservation organizations dedicated to protecting and preserving our ocean. The Ocean Foundation provides assistance to these entities, which have a need to develop certain skills or competence, or for general upgrading of performance ability. The ocean Foundation was created in part to bring new financial and technical resources to the table so that we can increase the capacity of these organizations to pursue their missions.

Population(s) Served
General/Unspecified
Budget
$1,282,060

Where we work

Awards

Ocean Tribute Award 2018

boot Düsseldorf

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of organizations accessing payroll and/or accounting services

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

General/Unspecified

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

These numbers indicate the sponsored projects and donor advised funds for whom TOF provides these services

Number of fiscal sponsor applicants

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

General/Unspecified

Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Total Includes all new applicants that fiscal year, including those who had applied, but were not accepted as a TOF fiscal sponsored project

Number of fiscal sponsor applicants sponsored

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

This number indicates the total number of fiscal sponsored projects in that fiscal year. In 2016 we accepted 6 new applicants

Number of fiscal sponsorship dollars distributed

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

This figure reflects the total revenue raised by our fiscal sponsored projects during each fiscal year.

Number of external speaking requests for members of the organization

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

This total reflects only the speaking engagements attended by the President of the organization in that fiscal year

Number of policymakers or candidates reached

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

This data reflects the number of elected officials recruited to support legislation in a particular issue each fiscal year

Number of released animals

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

This number is taken from those projects that specifically work to protect sea turtles

Charting impact

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

The mission of The Ocean Foundation (TOF) is to support, strengthen, and promote global organizations dedicated to reversing the trend of destruction of ocean environments. We aim to promote healthy ocean ecosystems while benefitting human communities that depend on them. TOF steers human interaction with oceans and coasts toward a sustainable future by working with a well-connected community of donors, grantees, and projects to address conservation issues. Our work, currently spanning 40 countries and 6 continents, serves donors, nurtures implementers, and generates new ideas through philanthropy, capacity building, and leadership. With projects and grantees in over 40 countries on 6 continents, our programs are working on the front lines around the world to preserve, conserve and protect marine and coastal habitats. TOF has 3 major goals to accomplish our mission over the next five years: - Grow as a host and incubator for conservation projects - Secure new funding to critical areas of ocean conservation - Provide leadership and educate a growing population on the value of the ocean and its interactions with human life TOF is a community foundation with a primary goal to provide incubation services to over 50 fiscally sponsored ocean conservation projects. Our goal in the next 5 years is to continue to nurture those projects, graduate those that are ready to move on to be their own organizations, and bring new projects in to help them grow into sustainable conservation initiatives. We have the capacity to bring on 30 new projects in the next 5 years. Adding these projects will also increase revenue, allowing our fiscal sponsorship to operate independently of outside grants and donations for other activities that would otherwise require the use of unrestricted funds. Access to funding is key to the success of any conservation project. TOF has created field of interest funds which pool money from individual donors interested in supporting focus areas such as coasts & beaches, the world ocean, marine mammals, sea turtles, coral reefs, polar seas, and international sustainable aquaculture. These accounts are a source of critical money for marine conservation projects and tools to generate awareness and engagement outside of the marine community. In the next 5 years, TOF plans to increase the funding available in these accounts by 15%. Awareness about the need for ocean conservation is an important component in the overall success of the efforts of TOF and the conservation community. TOF is positioning itself as a leader in conservation information by focusing on various outreach efforts including creating a stronger web presence, increasing social media outreach, expanding blogs, and creating new information tools. We are also expanding our collaboration with the private sector to identify common areas of concern and share tools for additional public awareness of critical marine issues.

Hosting marine conservation projects is one of the most valuable ways that TOF can serve the community of donors. To ensure that our projects are addressing the most critical needs, using the most innovative methods and achieving the greatest impacts, TOF will be launching a new “effectiveness" matrix. This matrix will allow TOF to identify projects with best practices, measure their impact, and better determine their relative value in the community as a whole. Through this results oriented focus, TOF will be well positioned as a “charity finder" for those seeking to match their marine conservation giving with projects that have achieved measurable results. Along with the effectiveness rubric, in the next five years TOF will continue to expand on its current systems for managing projects to continue to be an industry leader in efficient and effective fiscal sponsorship services using tools like Salesforce.com, Evernote and other information management technologies. <br/><br/>Our issue based “field of interest" funds, which pool donations from individuals with like-minded interests, are a proven approach to build the resources needed to effectively provide grant money to successful conservation organizations. Building these funds through social media and other web-based strategies is a core strategy of TOF, which will be expanded in the coming five years. One of the tools to achieve this goal is TOF's recently launched “themed months." Each month TOF focuses on one area of interest with social media content and outreach educates the public to increase readership and engagement and ultimately giving to these important grantmaking funds. <br/><br/>The Ocean Foundation is a leader in marine conservation, and is thus constantly generating new ideas about emerging issues and working with professional advisors, project managers, grantees, donors and others to identify effective solutions to conservation issues. Through the Ocean Leadership Fund, TOF provides consultancies, reports, white papers, and advice to the conservation community. TOF's Board of Directors, Board of Advisors, new SeaScape Council, Youth Advisory Board, staff and others are available for events, meetings and other efforts to continually provide the most up to date information and education on marine issues. In the coming five years, TOF will expand its Ocean Leadership Fund activities by working with the private sector to create new corporate partnerships as well as engage in more research based consultancies to actively address some of the most pressing marine issues.

The Ocean Foundation is known by its reputation within the marine conservation community, dedicated staff and quality of our Boards of Directors and Advisors as well as the effectiveness of our projects and grantees who deliver conservation initiatives to address the most pressing marine issues. Because of the dynamic nature of our business we have a brought together a variety of powerful resources that we can bring to bear on any ocean conservation project. Our staff, professional advisors and boards bring expertise and leadership on all levels to help us implement our strategies. The marine conservation community is comprised of donors, grantees, projects, partners, professional advisors, and others. TOF has been a resource to bring together these stakeholders in a way that has been valued by the community as a whole. As an honest broker and neutral facilitator, TOF engages this community to identify the most pressing issues and provide innovative solutions. TOF has found that solutions are more effective and sustainable when including the public and private sectors, individuals, and organizations in addressing marine issues. TOF has experienced staff that together as a team offers decades of specific skills and insight to the marine community. Our staff has strong leadership and management skills, and is capable of handling a diversity of relationships, projects, grants, and programs. The staff is deeply experienced in capacity building, fiscal sponsorship, operations, administration, and finance as well as content knowledge on vast marine issues. The Board of Directors is comprised of individuals with significant experience in marine conservation philanthropy, complemented by a growing international advisory board of scientists, policy makers, educational specialists, and other top experts. Our Board of Advisors members are recruited to be available to respond to staff regarding substantive issues, as well as being culturally sensitive at the international and regional level. As such they enhance our leadership in the field and our own knowledge base by providing lunchtime briefings and other assistance. Future plans include adding two councils, the Seascape Council and Youth Advisory Board. These groups will increase our responsiveness to new issues and solutions as well as increase our connections, attract new donors, and expand awareness of ocean conservation. Partnerships with JetBlue and Rockefeller & Company were announced in 2013 while we continue to receive grant money from Pacific Life and NOAA. We have partnerships with Columbia Sportswear and 11th Hour Racing, among others, which support our projects and their own directed grantmaking or projects.

TOF measures progress in terms of our mission statement: to support, promote, and strengthen organizations working in marine conservation. To do this, we track money and new donors coming in as well as the conservation work our projects, grantees, and consulting programs complete.<br/><br/>Tracking new donors/donations is accomplished by setting targets for the number of new contacts entered into our database as well as budgetary goals. Setting a target of 10-20 new contacts per month will help us monitor our outreach to new donors. For our fiscal sponsorship (our projects), we will know we are making progress by reaching an interim target of $4.3M in revenue by FY15. Adding a specific amount of revenue along with a number of projects will help us track success as it is this revenue that allows us to participate in capacity building and extra services provided to our projects. <br/><br/>We conduct internal and external assessments of our goals and progress, working with our projects and our Board to monitor achievements. The Board meets quarterly to review the programs TOF has taken on and how they fit with our overall mission. A yearly questionnaire is provided to our project managers to gauge our effectiveness as fiscal sponsors. This assessment is a qualitative indicator of our success both in our goal to reverse the trend of destruction of the ocean as well as our success as an efficient, responsive organization. With these two tools, TOF can regularly evaluate its progress and respond to any new task, comments, or concerns. Our effectiveness matrix will be a third tool we can use to evaluate our progress in terms of conservation work being done due to our assistance.<br/><br/>TOF staff also draft yearly Priority Goals and Tasks documents to follow each fiscal year. Each staff member regularly meets with the Chief Operating Officer to make sure s/he is on task and accomplishing goals, or responding to other priority tasks that come up. Weekly updates are also sent to the President and COO to monitor interim targets that lead to long-term goals.

To date, we have spent $34M on protecting marine habitats and species of concern, building marine community capacity, and expanding ocean literacy. We added over 1,000 new donors and increased our audiences, with 84,542 unique website visitors and 10,000+ followers on social media. Over a dozen of our projects have fledged to their own 501(c)(3) or finished (books and films). The number of our partner projects has grown to the 57 we host today. Our tools for outreach and management work to propel us towards our goals: gaining new donors to marine conservation and hosting better conservation work in the field.<br/><br/>Our projects are great examples of the achievements TOF has made possible:<br/><br/>World Oceans Day was officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008 through the coordinated efforts of The Ocean Project and the World Ocean Network.<br/><br/>Tag-A-Giant pioneered electronic tagging of marine fish species across the globe. TAG scientists have tagged nearly 1,800 northern bluefin tuna, allowing us to follow their journey across the ocean.<br/><br/>Guanaja Mangrove Restoration planted over 21,000 mangrove trees on Guanaja Island in Honduras, whose mangrove forests were largely destroyed by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Guanaja Mangrove Restoration's goal is to hand plant 100 hectares (247 acres) with approximately 400,000 mangrove propagules.<br/><br/>TOF is the leader in ocean philanthropy, creating the first ever ocean-centric publicly traded stock portfolio with Rockefeller & Company. Such a novel approach to ocean issues attracts new money to businesses that are good for blue. We have created a Blue Carbon credits system, whereby you can offset your carbon by contributing to our SeaGrass Grow! campaign. Blue carbon is more efficient in terms of sequestration, so your dollar goes further. Offsets are voluntary at present but we are working with Verified Carbon Standard and Restore Americas Estuaries to have credits certified.<br/><br/>We have not achieved turning social media fans into donors. This is a long-term goal and we are using every mean to achieve success in this area. We are reaching new audiences to bring awareness to our field; engagement is steadily rising compared to previous years. We have built a relationship with National Geographic and publish blogs regularly on their Ocean Views site, which has greater reach than our own and exposes us to new audiences. We have begun building relationships with various media in order to become a resource for them, including The Washington Post. Our newsletter has been a great tool to attract attention; we were approached by Marine Scientist, a UK publication, to write an article and by a reporter in California for an interview.<br/><br/>From fiscally hosted projects to novel ways of approaching philanthropy, TOF has facilitated successful marine conservation work from its founding in 2003. The next 10 years will build on these successes, drawing from lessons learned and continuing to pioneer ocean conservation giving.

Financials

Ocean Foundation
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Ocean Foundation

Board of directors
as of 3/10/2020
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr. Mark Spalding

The Ocean Foundation

Angelica Braestrup

The Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation

Josh Ginsberg

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Walter Howes

Verdigris Capital, LLC

Nora Pouillon

Restaurant Nora

Bill Eichbaum

World Wildlife Fund

Dawn Martin

Ceres, Inc.

Mark J. Spalding

The Ocean Foundation

Russell Smith

Environmental Law Institute

Lisa Volgenau

The Volgenau Foundation

Elliot Cafritz

The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Keywords

ocean, oceans, ocean conservation, foundation, marine funding, the Gulf, marine, turtles, sharks, marine mammals,