Roll up your sleeves and get ready to get to work — the WILD ELEMENTS Foundation has arrived! Just in time for Earth Day, this planet-focused grantmaking organization is leading the conservation conversation with a three-pronged “kindness” approach. And what’s more, WILD ELEMENTS is helmed by two incredible women: Nikki Eslami and Heidi Nel.
WILD ELEMENTS is Eslami’s brainchild: as the CEO and Founder of the organization, Eslami is also a Board Member of the WILD ELEMENTS Foundation, alongside the Foundation’s President and fellow board member Heidi Nel.
WILD ELEMENTS is a purpose-first platform, which consists of three unique organizations – a nonprofit corporation (the WILD ELEMENTS Foundation), a storytelling studio, and mindfully made brands. Beginning with a $3 million investment, the WILD ELEMENTS Foundation will support the stories and innovations of leaders around the world through grantmaking, advocacy, network building, and other charitable activities.
“We aim to restore the symbioses between animalkind, humankind, and plantkind–what we refer to as the Power of Three–so that all kind can thrive,” says Founder & CEO Nikki Eslami. “Ultimately, our goal is that the Foundation becomes a larger catalyst for reducing barriers to capital for women driving sustainable environmental solutions.”
Eslami created WILD ELEMENTS in response to the lack of progress the world has made toward the 2030 sustainable development goals.
According to recent studies, many of these goals are still far from being met, particularly the goals related to climate and environment. With this crucial threshold in mind, the WILD ELEMENTS Foundation is bringing together a unique coalition of innovators, advocates and partners to identify solutions and bring them to scale globally.
The Foundation utilizes three groups of activists and organizers to further their mission: WILD Innovators, premier science and conservation experts driving cutting-edge work in the field around the world; WILD Advocates, celebrities and influencers who value and promote the importance and vital interdependence of our shared environment; and leading organizations including MIT Solve, Wildlife Conservation Network, and many more to propel efforts in sustainability.
The new initiatives are led by President Heidi Nel, who has spent her career as a social impact strategist dedicated to uplifting underrepresented communities. Under Nel’s leadership, the Foundation aims to “amplify the voices of women, indigenous communities and people of color pioneering global sustainability and conservation efforts.”
Much of this mission is built on the basis of democratized philanthropy. Eschewing traditional program-based funding, WILD ELEMENTS Foundation aims to offer unique funding opportunities and possibilities for organizations, activists, and individuals who may not be able to find support through traditional philanthropic avenues.
“We’re just getting started,” says Nel. “But what we’ve heard so far from our grantees is that what we’re doing is refreshing and unlike anything they have previously experienced because their voices have been so centered in the process.”
The majority of WILD ELEMENTS Foundation grants are unrestricted, offering flexible funding to organizations that are typically limited to programmatic grants.
“We also implemented longer term grants because the constant cycle of reports and grant applications is exhausting for organizations, and what they shared is that they need longer term investments to be able to have time to do the work and do it well,” Nel explained.
While the Foundation’s mission is mainly focused on conservation efforts, Eslami and Nel have found creative ways to support women and girls around the world — the same women and girls who are often on the front lines of environmental efforts.
“It was deeply important to me through this foundation to truly invest in women-led solutions and provide access to resources so that women leading the work on the frontlines could further scale their change,” says Eslami. “I’ve been endlessly inspired by women leading the charge and addressing our planet’s environmental health in ways that are rooted in local but scalable initiatives. The reality is that women leading movements do not have access to capital in the same way as their male counterparts, especially in the environmental space which has historically been very pale and very male. And, if we want to scale innovation in conservation and transform how we address environmental challenges, women need to be at the helm. Less than 1% of international philanthropy goes to women’s environmental initiatives, and according to the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, less than 0.2% of all foundation funding goes to women’s environmental action.“
In particular, the WILD ELEMENTS Foundation aims to democratize their philanthropy not only by providing resources for women and indigenous communities but by ensuring that these people have a seat at the table and true leadership in the fight for environmental justice.
“The women that we are working with understand that change does not happen in a vacuum, and that our planet’s health and the wellbeing of the natural world is inextricably tied to people issues — social justice, economic empowerment and employment, education for women and girls, and access to healthy food,” Eslami explains. “They see the whole picture and see the role that people must play in making our environment a place where all kind can thrive — animalkind, humankind, and plantkind.”
“We hope that the Foundation will continue to grow and evolve in a way that better meets the needs of those who are on the frontlines of this movement,” Eslami adds. “We hope that it jumpstarts a larger conversation among the donor community about what democratizing philanthropy means and how it can better serve scaling innovation and change.”
To learn more about the WILD ELEMENTS Foundation, the WILD Advocates program, and more, visit WILD ELEMENTS online at wildelements.com.
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