Liz Storer, President and CEO, George B. Storer Foundation

    "The existential threats we face - like climate change - require an environmentally literate citizenry that recognizes the importance of healthy ecosystems and is motivated to protect them."

    1. How did you become involved in philanthropy?

    My grandfather was a pioneer in the communications industry and decided to start the George B. Storer Foundation as a way to give back to the communities his business served. My grandmother, Mary Wakeman, was a strong conservationist and generous philanthropist in her own right, and my dad, Peter Storer, taught me the love of the outdoors and the value of charitable giving. Their passion for strengthening communities and investing in leadership informs and inspires my efforts as I now have the great privilege of serving the family foundation whose work follows in their footsteps. 

    2. What is your grantmaking strategy and what kind of projects do you fund?

    Over the years, the George B. Storer Foundation has evolved from a personal philanthropy to a professional foundation with nine trustees and three program areas. During the evolution, the foundation began focusing on developing leadership, building capacity in the field, and moving policy in the areas of education and conservation. Our education grantmaking strategy focuses on early childhood environmental education. We helped to start a backbone organization to connect hundreds of nature preschools and forest kindergartens, we fund several graduate and undergraduate teacher education programs for preschool teachers that include nature-based learning, and we are supporting organizations that advocate for high quality outdoor learning environments at childcare centers to ensure that every child has regular experiences in nature.

    3. Why is it so important to connect people to nature?

    The existential threats we face - like climate change - require an environmentally literate citizenry that recognizes the importance of healthy ecosystems and is motivated to protect them. Ironically, populations most affected by environmental justice issues are also least likely to have access to environmental education. We also believe that environmental education can greatly improve the quality of education and can contribute to a more equitable education system. Every child deserves the opportunity to connect with nature, and forging that connection is good for them as well as the future of the planet.

    4. How do you think Blue Sky can make these essential learning opportunities more accessible in all communities?

    Funding for environmental education tends to be place-based, but funders can improve their grantmaking by learning from one another and thinking strategically about how we can invest in policies that can improve programs across geographies. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to discuss our work with our colleagues working across the country and we are excited to collaborate on national efforts. 

    5. What topics and questions are you most interested in engaging with other funders about?

    We are focused on early childhood environmental education but we are also very interested in how P-12 schools can incorporate environmental education into curriculum throughout a child’s academic career.

    6. What is your favorite outdoor activity?

    I love to mountain bike, ski, packraft, and hike but for me, there is no better way to connect with my ecosystem than to wade into a river and fish for native cutthroat trout. Fishing forces me to focus on the little things – the structure of the stream, the insect life, the angle of my cast and with so much to think about, I don’t have time to think about emails, meetings, and my to-do list. At least for a little while.

    Elizabeth Storer is the President and CEO of the George B. Storer Foundation, a foundation established in 1955 by her grandfather, a pioneer in radio and television broadcasting. For the past seven years, she has led the Foundation through a process that has engaged two new generations, restructured its governance, revamped its investment policy, hired staff, and adopted its first strategic plan. The Foundation’s mission is to promote an ecologically rich and economically prosperous future. It focuses its work in a few strategic areas: building support for nature-based early childhood education throughout the US; protecting public lands through the intermountain west; reforming rural electric cooperatives through greater transparency, democracy and support for renewable energy, and conserving Wyoming’s landscapes and wildlife through an engaged citizenry and economic diversification.