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IP Funder Spotlights provide quick rundowns of the grantmakers that are on our radar, including a few key details on how they operate and what they’re up to right now. Today, we look at the Betsy and Jesse Fink Family Foundation’s environmental funding, including a unique focus on food waste and food systems.

What this funder cares about

The Betsy and Jesse Fink Family Foundation makes investments in social entrepreneurs and future generations of leaders focused on the environment. Grantmaking mainly focuses on sustainable food systems, biodiversity and climate resiliency. Fink seeks to provide seed and venture funding for initiatives that could scale or are replicable.

Its food systems and waste funding area aims “to actively support organizations and individuals working on solutions to food waste as well as on sustainable and inclusive food systems in general.” Its biodiversity and stewardship area, meanwhile, supports education and outreach initiatives, ecological management and restoration, and work to “improve coordination and more explicit consensus among organizations and key individuals.”

Why you should care

Fink makes place-based environmental grants, and an important part of the foundation’s model is supporting local initiatives that can be replicated elsewhere. This work is currently focused on local communities in Colorado and Martha’s Vineyard, as well as in the border town of Nogales, Arizona. In the Martha’s Vineyard region, the foundation has supported Martha’s Vineyard Food Waste Recovery Initiative, which aims to reduce food waste on the island by 50% by 2030.

On that note, Fink has an interesting program that funds at the intersection of food systems, food justice and food security, motivated by concerns about the health of communities, sustainability and climate. In particular, it has become a leading funder on the often overlooked issue of food waste, which has a surprisingly huge carbon footprint.

Where the money comes from

Jesse Fink was the founding COO at Priceline, running operations from its inception through its 1999 IPO—during the height of the dot-com boom. At the end of April 1999, the stock price had more than a 1,000% return, trading at $974.37 a share, and had a market value of $23.1 billion, according to CBS News. Richard Braddock, CEO of Priceline, sold 202,313 shares. Jesse Fink sold the same amount.

When he left Priceline that same year, Jesse and Betsy Fink got involved in the world of impact investing, providing funding and strategic advice to mission-driven entrepreneurs. In 2006, Jesse Fink co-founded MissionPoint Capital Partners, a private investment firm focused on financing the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Both Jesse and Betsy Fink have a passion for the environment. The couple met in forestry school in Upstate New York. They acquired a vineyard on Long Island, then a peach orchard in Colorado, and eventually launched Millstone Farm in Connecticut.

Where the money goes

The Fink Foundation tends to provide ongoing support to a corps of organizations working in its interest areas. In the realm of food systems and waste, it has supported organizations including the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, Harlem Grown, the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust, and ReFed, a national organization that develops and implements data-driven solutions for the elimination of food waste. In biodiversity and ecosystem stewardship, the foundation has supported Earthjustice, the Nature Conservancy, Colorado’s Walking Mountains Science Center and the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund, among others.

Open door or barbed wire?

The foundation has an accessible website, including program descriptions, bios, a list of grantees and a handful of case studies in each program area. Funding amounts are not listed. It doesn’t provide much detail on its application process, although grantseekers can reach out via the foundation’s contact page.

One cool thing to know

Two of the foundation’s niche interests are leadership development and storytelling. The foundation’s flagship Fink Fellows program provides opportunities to develop and mentor the next generation of environmental leaders. The foundation has supported fellowships and internships at organizations including the Student Conservation Association and Yale University.

The foundation also believes in the power of narrative and has funded several environmental documentaries in concert with Impact Partners including “Racing Extinction,” “The Eagle Huntress,” and “Chasing Coral.”

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