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Theory of change

Theory of change

Taking effective action

We believe that without a sustainable planet free from the worst effects of climate change, the systems that underpin a healthy life for people and animals with fail. As such, The Foundation’s focus is to fight climate change as effectively as possible.

With less than three per cent of global philanthropy being utilised towards climate and nature work, it is imperative the funding directed to these causes goes to the most effective charities in the space. That’s why we’re applying effective altruism principles to help inform part of our strategy and grant-making.


Led by research

Paul Hawken’s ‘Project Drawdown’ provides an accumulation of leading global research that highlights the most effective solutions to address climate change.

By using this information, along with other research, The Foundation is able to specifically target initiatives across people, planet and animals that all directly and practically address climate change. Funding for these initiatives is targeted at both systemic and advocacy efforts, as well as grassroot projects. Outlined below are The Foundation’s key focus areas for funding:

Focus areas

Using our 'Visionary Grants' to fund innovative new projects, and our 'Strategic Grants' to fund proven and scalable projects, we seek to create grassroots and systemic impact in line with these three themes.

focus area
Stopping sources of carbon
Australia is a global leader in the export of fossil fuels and livestock agriculture, so it’s important we shift domestic energy policies, energy creation and food supply towards cleaner solutions - while ensuring this process is equitable and empowering for all.
Supporting carbon sinks
Temperate and tropical forests (green carbon) and seagrass meadows, tidal marshes and mangrove forests (blue carbon) sequester large amounts of atmospheric carbon
Empowering women and girls
Securing gender equality and advancing women’s wellbeing is one of the leading solutions to addressing climate change.

How we assess our grants

The Australian Ethical Foundation utilises an impact measurement framework to assess and award all its funding. Within it there are 4 main components that are assessed and scored:


Theory of Change

How well has a project considered the change it is seeking to create.


Outcomes measurement

How well an organisation measures the impact it is generating and how they are learning from it.


Organisation and team

How experienced and capable a team and their governance structures are.



How effectively a charity utilises its funding to generate the impact it is seeking to have

Effective Altruism

The Foundation utilises effective altruism principles in how it assesses grants, and also how it aims to progress the climate philanthropy sector as a whole.

Effective altruism is about doing the most good for every dollar donated, by using evidence and analysis to determine the best issues to work on, and which interventions have the greatest potential for impact. Effective altruism research is guided by three questions:

  1. Is the issue large in scale? How many people are affected, and to what extent?
  2. Is the issue highly tractable? How much progress can we make with additional resources?
  3. Is the issue neglected? How many resources are already being directed toward the problem?

Giving Green

Beyond incorporating effective altruism ideas into part of our assessment framework, The Foundation is also funding leading Australian research, utilising effective altruism principles to unearth Australia’s most effective charities fighting climate change.

The findings of that research and the recommended charities can be found here.