In 2002, only 1% of all environmental philanthropic contributions were dedicated to the ocean.  However, the ocean covers 71% of the planet. That doesn’t add up. The Ocean Foundation (TOF) was founded to help change that calculus. 

Our Premise

We practice philanthropy, to carefully transfer financial support from donors to our grantees, and to put boundaries of reason on our own personal conduct. Foundation officers are the guardians of our donors. As the gatekeepers, we are responsible to safeguard the donors against fraud, but also to act as real stewards of this ocean planet, its creatures, great and small, including humankind who depend on the coasts and ocean. This is not an airy or overly ambitious concept, but is a never-ending task from which we of philanthropy can neither abdicate nor shrink.

We always remember the grantees are the ones doing the work on the water AND at the same time feeding their families and putting a roof over their head.

Person holding baby sea turtle on beach
Photo Credit: Women’s Association of Barra de Santiago (AMBAS)

Our Philosophy

We identify key threats to the coasts and ocean and apply a broad solutions oriented focus to address threats. This framework guides both our own initiatives and our external grantmaking.

We support projects and organizations that advance the field of marine conservation and invest in individuals and organizations with a unique, promising ability to address those threats. To identify potential grantees, we use a combination of objective and subjective evaluation methods.

We support multi-year giving whenever possible. Conserving the ocean is complicated and requires a long-term approach. We invest in individuals and organizations so that they can spend time on implementation, rather than on waiting for the next grant.

We practice “engaged, active philanthropy” to work with grantees as collaborative partners to improve effectiveness. We do not just give away money; we also serve as a resource, giving direction, focus, strategy, research and other advice and services as appropriate.

We foster coalition building and individuals and organizations that pursue their unique work within context of existing and emerging coalitions. For example, as a signatory to the Climate Strong Islands Declaration, we seek to support projects and organizations that increase technical support available to island communities to develop new initiatives, programs, and projects that help them respond effectively to the growing climate crisis and other environmental challenges. 

We recognize the need to promote ocean conservation at the local and regional level in many other parts of the world, and thus, more than 50 percent of our grantmaking is to support projects outside the USA. We strongly support science diplomacy, as well as cross-cultural and international knowledge sharing, capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology.

We strive to build and increase the capacity and effectiveness of the marine conservation community, in particular with those grantees who demonstrate a commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice in their proposals.  We’re incorporating a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice lens into all facets of our conservation work to ensure our work promotes equitable practices, supports those who share similar values, and helps others embed those values in their work and we want to continue this practice through our philanthropy.

Our average grant size is approximately $10,000 and we encourage applicants to demonstrate a diverse funding portfolio if possible. 

We do not support grants to religious organizations or for election campaigns. 

General Grantmaking

The Ocean Foundation offers both direct grants from our own funds and we also provide grantmaking services for individual, corporate and government donors, or for outside organizations seeking institutional support capacity.

As an international community foundation, TOF raises every dollar it spends. Grantmaking funds may come from (1) general unrestricted donations, (2) pooled funds–where donations are grouped together over time for certain ocean passions, (3) funder collaboratives–a related type of pooled fund which has a more structured governance mechanism, and/or (4) Donor Advised Funds. 

Letters of Inquiry are reviewed by our committee once per quarter.  Applicants will be notified of any invitation to submit a full proposal via email.  For each potential grantee, TOF undertakes detailed due diligence services, preliminary vetting, issues grant agreements, and administers all required grant reporting.

Request for proposals

All of our grantmaking is inherently donor-driven, therefore we do not maintain a generic open request for proposals, and instead we only solicit proposals for which we already have an interested donor in mind. While many of the individual funds we host accept solicitations by invitation only, some of them do on occasion have open RFPs. Open RFPs will be publicized on our website and advertised throughout marine and conservation community email newsletters.


While we do not accept unsolicited funding requests, we understand that there are many organizations out there doing great work that might not be in the public eye. We always appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the people and projects working to conserve and protect our planet’s precious oceans. TOF accepts Letters of Inquiry on a rolling basis via email to  Please do not call or mail hard copy Letters of Inquiry to the office. 

Letters are kept on file for reference and are reviewed regularly as funds become available or as we interact with donors who have a specific interest in a topical area.  We are always seeking new revenue streams and engaging in discussions with new potential donors. All inquiries will receive a response on whether funds are available.  If we do come across a funding source that is a good fit for your project, we will contact you to possibly solicit a full proposal at that time.  For budgeting reference, The Ocean Foundation’s policy is to limit indirect costs to no more than 15%.


TOF houses a number of Donor Advised Funds, where an individual or group of donors play a role in selecting grantees aligned with their donor intent.  In addition to working closely with the individual donors, TOF provides due diligence, vetting, grant agreements, and reporting services.

Please contact Jason Donofrio at for more information.


TOF’s institutional support capacity is for outside organizations who may be less able to process outgoing grants in a timely manner, or who may not have the staff expertise in-house.  It allows us to provide detailed due diligence services, preliminary vetting of potential grantees and administer grant agreements and reporting.

TOF also follows accessibility and best practice guidelines for our website and all Request for Proposals, grant application and reporting documentation.

For information on institutional support, capacity services or to submit a Letter of Inquiry, please email

Information on past grantees will be available soon on this webpage.

Shark underwater
Scientific boat in ice

Grantee Spotlight

Emergency Sample Collection to Study the Impact of Xpress Pearl Disaster on Coastal Estuarine Ecosystem

In response to the X-Press Pearl Disaster on the coastal estuarine ecosystem of Sri Lanka, The Ocean Foundation is proud to provide emergency grant funds to Helix Science LLC to sample 10 mangrove sites along the affected coast from Colombo to the tip of the Southern coast. Mangrove and estuarine habitats are particularly sensitive to any impacts of pollutants and their health can be an indicator of the health of the overall coastal ecosystem that would allow a rapid assessment of ecological damage. Sample types will include shallow sediment, estuarine water, dry sediment on beach, plastic pellets on beach and data on beach abundance of microplastics. Samples will also undergo chemical analysis to assess their biological toxicity with model estuarine organisms in the laboratory. As water-soil parameters and the abundance of plastics rapidly change over time, emergency support was warranted.