Recognized as a top Bay Area Climate Change nonprofit in the following years:
Headquarters Location: San Francisco, CA
Mission: Sierra Club's mission is to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth's ecosystems and resources; To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.
As two long-term volunteers with the Sierra Club, Joan and I spend much of our time with the Club’s Trade and Workers’ Rights Team, a national committee. Our introduction to Sierra Club’s trade campaign occurred in the late ‘90’s when a group of volunteers gathered near San Francisco for a training on globalization. This experience was a real eye opener for all of us. Back in those days, the terms “WTO” and “NAFTA” had a ring of respectability. Even our Democratic president whole-heartedly supported these trade policies. But we learned about what we could really expect to see happen, and, unfortunately, it all came true: jobs leaving our country as corporations seek cheaper and cheaper labor markets, deforestation, species extinction at a rate never before seen, and poverty and human rights violations.
The Sierra Club played an important role protesting the WTO in Seattle and at other demonstrations against an undemocratic global economic system. Our Trade and Workers’ Rights Team has the daunting task of keeping abreast of current trade policy and educating others on the resulting environmental and social impacts. We work closely with impressive and dedicated Club staff and trade and environment issues. Together we have accomplished a lot by pointing out the inequities caused by flawed trade policies to our fellow Sierra Club members, congressional offices, and those interested in learning more on these issues.
Just a few highlights of our work over the years include: organizing a weekend campout on the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation in Arizona to highlight the attempts of a gold-mining company to destroy native lands, and bringing several Mayans from Guatemala who testified what that mining company had done to their lands; coordinating two international “Border Tours” in Tijuana, Mexico to highlight the effects of NAFTA on Mexican workers; organizing speakers to address issues of environmental degradation and trade (such as the impact of illegal logging in Indonesia); and producing materials making the connections between trade, climate, and the need for green jobs and clean energy.
The Sierra Club is unique among environmental organizations. We are involved in a myriad of issues which we must tie together to show that all of our many campaigns are really interconnected. (Source: http://greatnonprofits.org/reviews/sierra-club)
Expert Reviews of Sierra Club
Evidence of Impact Summary:Through Sierra Club's Cool Cities Program, over 20 cities and counties have signed the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement (many in California), setting specific climate protection goals for their cities. Sierra Club has also played a huge role in stopping new coal plants throughout the country. They have done significant work around clean cars, and their programs engage citizens to take action against climate change easily.
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Organization Strengths Summary:Sierra Club is well know for their effective grassroots campaigns. They have been around for a while, have a strong brand, and can really mobilize the masses to action. Their strong local leadership is a key to their success.
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Areas for Improvement Summary:Because the Sierra Club engages so many volunteers, there are problems with staffing quality and responsiveness. Additionally, the SC should do more to publicize their impact, leverage social media to engage a younger audience, and collaborate more with other regional organizations.
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Expert Comments: Evidence of Impact
|Sierra Club helped stop coal plants.|
|Sierra Club has numerous active programs in its Global Warming Campaign including the Cool Cities program to help cities address climate change. As well, their Climate Action Team program helps individuals take action.|
|The Sierra Club has played the primary leadership role in stopping new coal plants throughout the country. Its aggressive efforts have ensured that over 100 coal plants will no longer generate extraordinary quantities of CO2 well into the future.|
|Since the founding of their Cool Cities program in late 2006, over 20 cities and counties have signed the Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement, setting specific climate protection goals for their cities.|
|Sierra Club has a close collaboration on the steering committee of the Local Clean Energy Alliance.|
|Sierra Club has done significant work on clean cars and their renewable energy portfolio standard.|
|Sierra Club took out coal by stopping new plants, and is the most effective environmental grassroots organization in the country.|
|What the Sierra Club brings to the table is its membership. The Cool Cities program, particularly as run by the Loma Prieta Chapter (Santa Clara and San Mateo counties), has created a mechanism by which engaged citizens can be brought to bear on climate campaigns, including campaigns being run by other organizations.|
Expert Comments: Organization Strengths
Strong Brand Recognition
|They have strong brand recognition, great staff, and a solid grassroots base.|
|This is a renowned, trusted organization that is able to generate support for policy proposals.|
|They have a long established reputation -- whether one loves or hates the Sierra Club they are seen as a bell weather organization within the environmental movement and have credibility. As noted, the Sierra Club brings a grassroots base that few other organizations have.|
|This chapter has had strong Executive Directors moving these programs forward and has a dedicated Global Warming Program Coordinator position which is currently held by a knowledgeable expert. Also, there are strong connections between allied committees, especially the wetlands committee.|
|The Sierra Club's executive leadership provides some of the most strategic thinking available in the movement. In addition, it's grassroots structure ensures national visibility to activists throughout the country.|
|They hold power in every part of the country. They have a strong legal team and great, experienced leadership.|
|I have been a member of Sierra Club for many years, and their new Executive Director, Mike Brune, is someone I know quite well, and I am very confident in his leadership skills.|
Outstanding Grassroots Mobilizer
|This group has a ton of grassroots participation and a lot of very skilled, seasoned staff who are highly effective in their work.|
|The Sierra Club as a grassroots organization has the potential to organize and mobilize thousands of residents. In addition, the Sierra Club's name and reputation has enormous clout in the Bay Area.|
|Their grassroots reach is huge and their capacity is large as well.|
|The Sierra Club, having both a 501c3 and a 501c4 organization, can endorse candidates and contribute to political campaigns, to make sure our elected leadership is accountable to the environmental community. For this reason they play a unique and invaluable role as partners in the Climate Change movement. I encourage individual donors to make donations to the Sierra Club Bay Chapter's 501c4 organization even though these donations are not tax deductible.|
Strength at Local Level
|The Sierra Club's local chapters are often on the forefront of climate change issues.|
Run Effective Campaigns
|Sierra Club's coal campaign is gaining a lot of notice; they're doing great work shutting down new coal plants. When it comes to climate policy, I think they also make some of the mistakes NRDC does, but all in all, the Club seems to be moving the discussion forward in Washington.|
Expert Comments: Areas for Improvement
|As profiled in a recent article in The Nation, Sierra Club staff's efforts to undercut the use of the Clean Air Act to address greenhouse gas is incredibly counterproductive and irresponsible.|
|The Sierra Club and other large national organizations continue to support federal climate legislation that provides emissions reductions far below what the science requires and that actually moves us in the wrong direction by exempting greenhouse gas from most Clean Air Act programs. The Sierra Club's advocacy would be greatly improved if they demanded policies that are in line with what the science requires, and focused more on changing the existing "political reality" rather than advocating for what is "realistic" given current politics.|
Better Marketing and Publicity about their Impact
|They need to publicize their work more and the impact they are having.|
|Their web site is very bare and not visually stimulating. They have not been effective at demonizing coal with the general public, only with affected communities.|
Amplify their Efforts
|While the Sierra Club has extensive grassroots strength, their efforts could be more focused and amplified.|
|I think the Sierra Club has great potential to step up its climate change advocacy, if it would put more priority on it internally and at the grassroots levels.|
|They should be taking a much stronger stance on what is needed to address climate change. They should organize in precincts on climate change and make it 'the' issue for election of candidates.|
|The chapter's board is made up of very well-meaning volunteers who don't always have a strong background in either nonprofit management or campaign work.|
|A problem with Sierra Club is inconsistency -- the fact that the Club is so volunteer based means that they cannot always be counted on to deliver messages/products that are consistent both in terms of content and quality. Since the Sierra Club is actually made up of several chapters in the Bay Area their region and ability to engage across the whole region may be limited.|
|The Club is so large as to be slow-moving, and in my own dealings with them, have found their staff to be often unwilling to collaborate.|
Collaborate More with Others
|They should have a greater emphasis on regional collaboration with other organizations.|
|Sierra Club seems too focused on their vision on how to work on Climate Change. There is too much emphasis on process, steps, etc. and they are a bit too strident when commenting on the actions of local communities working in the Climate Change arena. They would be more effective offering support and praise to these efforts as opposed to criticizing those who do not follow the Sierra Club model in lock step. They have been a disappointment to date.|
|The national SC is not quite the impediment that the NRDC is, but if there is money to support climate change activities, it should go to the local chapters.|