Insights from the Research Team

Maximise your climate impact through the Founders Pledge Climate Fund

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Written by
Johannes Ackva
Anu Khan
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Double your climate impact

We’re delighted that a group of game company founders are generously matching donations to the Founders Pledge Climate Fund! They will be matching donations up to a total of $500,000, with 80 percent of the money raised going to our Climate Fund and 20 percent going to climate nonprofit SilverLining. Give today to maximise your impact in the fight against climate change. Click here to donate. If you have any questions about the match or would like to learn more about the Climate Fund, please get in touch with us at

This blog gives an introduction to the Fund and outlines our successes to date. If you are already familiar with the Fund or want to learn more, a follow-up focuses on some of the ideas we want to explore more going forward and explains why we continue to raise money despite currently having some reserves.

About the Fund

The Founders Pledge Climate Fund is an unprecedented opportunity to pool charitable dollars to create an outsized impact for climate, providing an easy way for individuals to act as strategically as a large philanthropist.

Our strategy is solution-agnostic, with a singular focus on maximising the global emissions reduced by the philanthropic capital we are entrusted with. Based on extensive research into a range of interventions that have the potential to have global leverage, including climate finance (e.g. Coalition for Rainforest Nations, focused on building regimes to avoid deforestation) and climate leadership (e.g. the Climate Leadership Council’s plan to develop catalytic momentum around the concept of “carbon fee and dividend”), we currently believe policy advocacy for accelerating neglected technologies is the best option for impact-focused donors.

This is so mainly for three reasons: (1) energy innovation is very cost-effective yet neglected leaving how-hanging fruit, (2) the situation can be strongly improved by the kind of targeted advocacy we can fund, and (3) it is absolutely critical that this happens because we are not on track technologically and, if innovation is not accelerated, this poses serious risks in our ability to decarbonise globally, vastly increasing the risk of a high-emissions future that presents most climate risks.

(1) Estimates suggest1 that every dollar invested into the innovation ecosystem leads to more than 1 ton of reduced carbon dioxide emissions, and this is without accounting for the fact that investments into neglected solutions are likely more effective, as they are more likely to be truly additional2 and pick “low-hanging fruits”. At the same time, energy innovation spending remains notoriously low, compared to the enormity of the climate challenge and compared to innovation in other sectors (see here for all kinds of comparisons). As Bill Gates put it in his recent book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, governments around the world are spending less on energy innovation in a year than Americans spend on gas in a month.

(2) But it can be affected and this is how policy advocacy has a huge multiplier effect: because attention to climate is so large, millions of dollars in donations can unlock billions in government and private funding (and, indeed, we cannot solve this problem without mobilising government and private sector resources). This will drive down learning curves, leading to more clean energy adoption and helping us avert gigatons of carbon emissions. We have seen this story repeat itself multiple times, with wind, solar, and electric cars -- active involvement of a couple of key jurisdictions drove change on a global scale. We have also documented that even on very conservative assumptions with regards to multipliers from advocacy, this work looks extremely cost-effective to fund.

(3) We now need to make this happen for the three-fourths or so of the decarbonisation puzzle that has not been solved yet, where solutions are -- at best -- in the early adoption stage. As the International Energy Agency and other expert bodies remind us, this is absolutely necessary to achieve net-zero emissions on any reasonable timescale (note that the IEA scenario only achieves net-zero by 2070, an accelerated timeline as often suggested -- e.g net-zero by 2050 -- will require an even stronger innovation acceleration).

IEA Special Report on Clean Energy Innovation (interactive version here)

Making sure we are able to decarbonise fully globally, rather than focusing on short-term emissions targets in our own jurisdictions, is also critical from a climate risk perspective.
This is so because most climate risk is concentrated in high-temperature futures and the risk of landing in those futures is greatly accelerated when there is lots of economic growth, weak climate policy and no convincing low-carbon solutions for those areas of the economy -- industry, heavy-duty transport, reliable electricity -- that are currently furthest from cost competitiveness (what the IPPC would describe as something close to SSP 5, a future of continued fossil-driven high growth).

Figure from "Global warming: Improve economic models of climate change”

However, we are not dogmatic in our focus on neglected technology advocacy. We continuously update our strategy and recommendations based on the best available evidence. This includes closely monitoring the climate philanthropy funding landscape to identify blindspots and bottlenecks to progress. (You can read more about this in our blog on future plans)

Nor are we bureaucratic in our approach to grantmaking. We make it easy for top organisations to receive the funding they need to do their best work. We can and will make:

  • strategic, multi-year grants;
  • unrestricted and project-based grants;
  • catalytic grants to early-stage nonprofits.

This agility is quite distinct from many slower-moving foundations, as it allows your dollars to have a catalytic impact despite the fact that climate philanthropy overall is becoming an increasingly crowded field.

Key benefits of this Fund include:

  • the flexibility to act on time-sensitive opportunities;
  • the ability to contribute to larger, more coordinated grants; and
  • the chance to provide excellent climate charities with the resources to make longer-term plans.

All of these benefits mean that donating to the Fund will allow you to have an impact far beyond what you can easily achieve as an individual philanthropist, even when donating to top recommended charities.

What we have accomplished

1. Raised $4.8m from a coalition of both large and small donors

Our contributors - from young people who donate monthly from their paychecks to experienced philanthropists - are united in their focus on the highest-impact climate interventions. By acting together, we provide donors across the spectrum with a seat at the table, alongside large foundations and major climate philanthropists.

2. Granted $1.5m to promising time-sensitive opportunities based on new research

Our Climate Fund managers Johannes Ackva and Anu Khan bring years of experience and expertise combining deep policy and technical knowledge with rigorous charity evaluation methodology to identify the highest-impact opportunities.

For our first deployment from the Fund, we provided a catalytic grant of $250,000 to TerraPraxis. This was the first major philanthropic grant to TerraPraxis allowing Kirsty Gogan, one of the world’s best communicators and advocates on advanced nuclear power, to dedicate herself and her team more fully to advocacy. This initial grant also helped draw in significant additional funding for TerraPraxis, proving a catalytic investment.

Biden’s election has opened a unique window for climate action and our research has demonstrated that now is the moment for philanthropists to seize that special opportunity to achieve outsized impact. Within a week of finishing our analysis, we put our money where our mouth is and deployed $1.25m to the Clean Air Task Force and Carbon180 to enable their scaling in light of the Biden opportunity.

3. We also influenced millions in additional donations from allied organisations and individuals who rely on our research

In addition to direct grants made by the Fund, Founders Pledge is a thought leader in the effective climate philanthropy ecosystem. We have worked with Effektiv Spenden, the Centre for Effective Altruism, Rethink Charity Forward, Legacies Now, and an anonymous group of influential Silicon Valley cleantech investors, among others. For example, last month, Effektiv Spenden donated over $150,000 to Carbon180 to scale their policy team, based on our recommendation.

We are delighted with the support and recognition our Fund has received so far, including from founders and journalists on Twitter.

We are also building relationships with larger grantmakers to ensure we are complementing rather than duplicating efforts.


  1. As outlined in the linked sheet, these are based on estimates from the Department of Energy (DOE) extended to incorporate global benefits (50% as strong in other geographies beyond the US) and benefits beyond 2040. 
  2. For popular solutions receiving lots of attention, for example solar PV, it is always likely that someone else (another government, another company, etc.) is doing essentially the same work (or is about to do that in a short time), reducing the additionality and thereby the impact of actions. This is why we prioritise important solutions that are neglected, that might not happen otherwise. 

Johannes Ackva


Johannes has dedicated much of his adult life to this topic. From a teenage environmental activist to a climate policy expert advising major EU decision makers, Johannes is committed to solving the problem of global energy poverty, while simultaneously reaching net-zero emissions and protecting our planet.

Prior to joining Founder Pledge, Johannes spent five years working in a think tank advising decision makers on climate policy, and conducting academic research into the intersection between effective and feasible climate policies.

Anu Khan


Anu is our San Francisco-based Research Advisor. Prior to joining Founders Pledge, Anu was a materials science and engineering researcher at Northwestern University and Caltech. Her work focused on high-temperature electrocatalysts for fuel cells and direct solar-to-chemical energy conversion, both clean energy technologies for a hydrogen-friendly energy economy. She transitioned from academic research to Founders Pledge to understand and address the broader challenges in the climate space. She received her MS in chemistry from Caltech and her AB in chemistry from Princeton.