Sierra Club

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Recognized as a top National Climate Change nonprofit in the following years:
Medal-big-2009
Medal-big-2012
59 Thumbsup 4 Thumbsdown   Info-sm
"Up" is the number of experts who agree that the nonprofit has had the most impact in the field. "Down" is the number of experts who disagree that the nonprofit has had the most impact in field.
Sierra-club
Headquarters Location: San Francisco, CA 
Founded: 1892


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.


Tags: 2012, national, climate change, policy, direct action, aternative energy, democratic


Sierra-club
Story: When the BP Disaster hit, the Sierra Club hit back, ensuring that the nation’s biggest environmental disaster would not be forgotten. As hard as BP tried to make the catastrophe a “non-event,” the Club elicited more media coverage in the… Read the full story.

Expert Reviews: Evidence of Impact
Sierra Club is one of the largest environmental organizations in the U.S. Their activism has helped change Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, improve car emissions, and much more. The organization’s most significant accomplishment in climate change is the Beyond Coal campaign. Through lawsuits, target media education, grassroots action, and other strategies, Sierra Club has helped stop over 100 proposed coal plants and retired many others. While Beyond Coal is a collaborative effort among many organizations and coalitions, Sierra Club is seen by many as the leader and prominent strategist of this effort. Had these coal plants continued as planned, this could have resulted in expanded coal-based electricity production for another 50-70 years.
See the complete expert review.

Leadership
Sierra-club Michael  Brune. Title: Executive Director of the Sierra Club, America's oldest, biggest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization.
Age: 40
Family: Michael's wife, Mary, is a mother, technical writer, and cofounder of the group MOMS -- Making Our Milk Safe. The couple lives in Alameda, California with their two children, Olivia, five, and Sebastian, one.
Brune grew up in Chadwick Beach, New… See full bio.


Transparency Information
Silver-big
This organization has earned the GuideStar Participation Level Silver, demonstrating its commitment to transparency (learn more)


Financial Data
Total Revenue:
$86,868,726


From the Nonprofit
The nonprofit has not added any comments yet. If you are a representative of this nonprofit and would like to leave a comment, please email us at feedback@myphilanthropedia.org with your request.


Contact Info
E-Mail:
 information AT sierraclub.org
Phone:
415-977-5500 
Facebook:
Follow_fb
Address:
85 Second Street, 2nd Floor 
 
San Francisco, CA  94105, USA
Twitter:
Follow_twitter


Sierra-club Story: When the BP Disaster hit, the Sierra Club hit back, ensuring that the nation’s biggest environmental disaster would not be forgotten. As hard as BP tried to make the catastrophe a “non-event,” the Club elicited more media coverage in the fi rst 30 days than all other environmental organizations combined. In the following weeks, the Club called for a global day of action to protest BP’s negligence; more than 800 Hands Across the Sand events sprang up in all 50 states plus 35 other countries.

While the massive, months-long tragedy in the Gulf held the nation’s attention throughout the summer, two more 2010 spills in Michigan and Alaska underscored the need to address our ongoing energy needs in a comprehensive way. Today, evidence is mounting that the disaster will cost far more than originally estimated. Even as marine scientists report that oil residues have not broken down, but remain on the ocean fl oor, Louisiana offi cials reveal that BP has reneged on commitments it made to help restore oyster beds and fi sheries.

Not only does our oil addiction cause huge harm to our environment through spills and greenhouse gas pollution, it also puts a sizable dent in our economy: In 2010, Americans sent half a billion dollars overseas each day to import foreign oil. Transportation accounts for 70 percent of our country’s oil use—much of it fueling cars, SUVs, and light trucks. The good news is that investing in smarter, sustainable choices—such as walking, biking, and public transit—not only reduces our dependence on oil and protects the environment, but can also improve our economy. Several recent studies—including an analysis of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—have shown that spending on public transit infrastructure creates more jobs per dollar invested than does spending on road construction.

Expert Reviews of Sierra Club

Evidence of Impact Summary:

Sierra Club is one of the largest environmental organizations in the U.S. Their activism has helped change Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, improve car emissions, and much more. The organization’s most significant accomplishment in climate change is the Beyond Coal campaign. Through lawsuits, target media education, grassroots action, and other strategies, Sierra Club has helped stop over 100 proposed coal plants and retired many others. While Beyond Coal is a collaborative effort among many organizations and coalitions, Sierra Club is seen by many as the leader and prominent strategist of this effort. Had these coal plants continued as planned, this could have resulted in expanded coal-based electricity production for another 50-70 years.
See expert comments.

Organization Strengths Summary:

Many of Sierra Club’s strengths come from its organizational model. For example, the organization’s chapter system allows them to be responsive to policy needs at a state and local level. It also allows them to have a presence in all 50 states. The organization has an extensive membership and is one of few truly democratic organizations. This means that the Sierra Club's political positions are driven by its members, and leadership is ultimately accountable for their decisions. In addition to their structural strengths, the organization is well financed. The dedicated staff members are experienced, capable, and visionary. The organization's new leader, Mike Brune, is a strong asset. Sierra Club has a strong emphasis on collaboration and partnerships with complementary organizations.
See expert comments.

Areas for Improvement Summary:

Sierra Club could improve on their relationships with other organizations by becoming more transparent about their strategy and being more intentional about sharing the spotlight for collaborative accomplishments. At times, Sierra Club’s organizational model can be cumbersome. Work in local chapters can vary quite a bit. The local chapters can sometimes be inefficient and at other times be out of sync from the national organization. The democratic model has many positive aspects, but it can sometimes politicize their internal operations. The organization may want to examine its strategy to ensure that it does not lose ground by pushing too hard, and that they do not damage their credibility.
See expert comments.

Expert Comments: Evidence of Impact

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Show:
X
Foundation Professionals (F)
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Researchers and Faculty (R)
X
Nonprofit Senior Staff (N)
X
Other (consultants, journalists, policy makers) (O)

Beyond Coal

F
Outcomes as determined by proposed plan; for example, the closure of coal plants as targeted, grassroots organizing necessary to accomplish the closure, the organization used litigation as one tactic to pressure the permitting processes.
N
Sierra Club is working at the state level to target specific coal plants, existing or proposed, for opposition.
N
The Beyond Coal campaign has probably had the biggest single impact on climate change in the last decade of any campaign, by any national organization.
N
All I can say is: Coal coal coal!
N
The Sierra Club is the premier organization working in the U.S. to shift from coal to clean energy.
N
They ensured the closure of over 100 coal-fired power plants.
O
The Sierra Club has demonstrated results in their Beyond Coal campaign of using a variety of strategies (lawsuits, target media education, and grassroots action) to stop the building of new power plants. Although the downturn in the economy was a contributing factor, this campaign has definitely helped create economic uncertainty, which helped defeat these plants. Coal is the most carbon-intensive of the fossil fuels.
R
The Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign has had great success in preventing the construction of many new proposed coal plants and in securing early closures of several others. The focus on coal has been particularly important because without the campaign, it is likely that at least 50, and maybe up to 100, new plants would have come on line. This would have resulted in expanded coal-based electricity production for another 50-70 years. I think the Sierra Club has done more than any other organization to bend the coal-based production curve down.
N
The Sierra Club is probably the most effective of the very large U.S. organizations at confronting climate issues at both the national and local level. This is most evident in their anti-coal campaign where they have been involved in battles in virtually every state.
N
Their Beyond Coal campaign is gutsy, and is achieving success in states that are often considered hostile to any environmental group. It has also turned heads, as many people would expect an environmental group to support the installation of new emissions controls. By making the case that such controls are expensive and would unnecessarily prolong the lives of old plants, the Sierra Club has been able to focus on economic arguments as well.
N
The Sierra Club has a proven track record of slowing coal use in the United States.
N
The Sierra Club has been responsible for stopping over 100 proposed coal plants and have retired scores of others. It has done more to reduce global warming pollution than nearly any other organization. The impact is second only to the passage of the Clean Air Act.
F
The Sierra Club led the effort to prevent more than 100 coal-fired power plants from being constructed, a herculean effort that no one thought was possible. This effort involved organizations and coalitions beyond the Sierra Club nationwide, but their team (Bruce Nilles, Mary Ann Hitt and Aaron Isherwood) worked to create winning strategies, share expertise and resources, and make an incredible difference in the field of climate change. They have risen to the occasion to oppose new coal mines, export projects, retire existing coal plants, and address the pollution associated with coal ash, a by-product of combustion. I turn to this team regularly for information and expertise.
O
Their impact is shutting down coal projects.

Targeted Advocacy

N
The Sierra Club has excellent litigators and has been effective in challenging coal plants on a large scale. Coal plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S., and Sierra Club's aggressive campaign and litigation efforts has contributed significantly to dozens of coal plant proposals being canceled.
O
The Sierra Club has been instrumental in the shut down of dozens of coal plants, leading to a reduction in carbon emissions. It has also played a lead role in advancing EPA regulation that will lead to additional reductions in CO2 emissions. This group deserves our applause and gratitude. The fight against coal has been impressive, though periodically the claims get inflated when we all know that natural gas and the role of local groups have been part of the big blow to coal. I'm a big fan of this outfit.
N
Their impact is their work on clean cars. They also did good work on coal plants

Powerful Reputation

N
The Sierra Club is the largest grassroots and democratic organization in the country, and as such is important and influential.
N
They are the most well-known environmental organization on the national stage. Their reach is second to none.


Expert Comments: Organization Strengths

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X
Foundation Professionals (F)
X
Researchers and Faculty (R)
X
Nonprofit Senior Staff (N)
X
Other (consultants, journalists, policy makers) (O)

Collaboration & Partnerships

F
Their leadership is strong and their strategy is solid. Another element of their success is their emphasis on partnership and collaboration.
N
The Sierra Club is very good at grassroots organizing. They also were a founding partner of the Blue Green Alliance, which has become a critical ally in the fight for climate policies.

State Chapters

N
The organization has an extensive state chapter system, and a new leader with experience at grassroots organizing.
N
My interaction with the state affiliate in Illinois makes me think that the state-level organizations are run extremely well, and have deep and widespread support at the grassroots level.
O
The Sierra Club has a presence in all 50 states and is one of the few nonprofits that still has a strong grassroots component. They also have a PAC which helps elect leaders to public service on environmental issues.
N
The Sierra Club has national focus with many offices regionally. They also have excellent leadership.

Strong Grassroots Organizing

N
The Sierra Club's strength is its grassroots engagement.
N
The Sierra Club has admirable legal resources to challenge new coal plants. They also have strong grassroots operations.
N
The Sierra Club has effectively amassed a large membership and engages it in advocacy activities.
O
They have a strong membership and a great grass roots capacity.
N
The Sierra Club has been around a long time and is a household name for activism and raising awareness.

Well Resourced

N
The Sierra Club has strong leadership, and one of the largest budgets in the environmental community.
N
They have extensive finances and a strong communications strategy.

Democratic Membership Model

N
The greatest strength I see for the Sierra Club is the sheer number of grassroots activists around the country, as well as the ability of membership to influence the political positions of the organization. The Sierra Club has done a great job of campaigning against coal.
N
The democratic structure of the Sierra Club has made it difficult for national staff to get captured by the D.C. scene or industry. The new Executive Director is by all accounts quite good. The geographical breadth of their involvement is unparalleled.

Strong Leadership & Staff

R
The Sierra Club's new leadership, Michael Brune, and the legal staff, are outstanding. They do really fabulous work. They also do a good job of teaming up with expert lawyers around the country to get their cases staffed.
O
Their new leader, Mike Brune, is visionary, capable, and willing to break from the herd. They have a very strong senior management team that is able to execute at a high level. Mike Brune is one of our greatest movement assets. He sees clearly and brings vision, humility, and smarts to this movement. The decision to hire Michael Marx was brilliant - the new emerging campaign on oil will be critical. The top team at Sierra Club is the best of any group in the country, bar none - Sarah, Jessie, Mary Anne, Bruce, Kate, and of course Mike, among others. Sierra Club has a unique ability to help people stay connected to nature while doing advocacy - critical for our success.
F
They have strong leadership.
N
They have strong, experienced staff working on the issue of clean cars.

Targeted Campaigns

N
Their Beyond Coal campaign was incredibly effective. They've since announced their new Beyond Gas campaign to tackle the explosion of natural gas sites. These branded campaigns can be extremely effective, and the Beyond Coal campaign was exactly that.


Expert Comments: Areas for Improvement

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X
Foundation Professionals (F)
X
Researchers and Faculty (R)
X
Nonprofit Senior Staff (N)
X
Other (consultants, journalists, policy makers) (O)

Improve Collaboration

F
The Sierra Club still appreciates being the "headliner". They could be better at sharing credit.
N
The Sierra Club has taken positions that are at times far outside the mainstream of public opinion - sometimes leading to political backlash or disregard. At times they have also taken credit for local power plant work that was often a shared activity or that can be attributed more to the lower price of natural gas.
N
There is always room for improvement among environmental organizations in cooperation with each other, and transparency and inclusion in planning campaigns.
N
They could be better collaborators with regional groups.
N
Their budget is up and down. Also, collaboration with other groups and sharing credit is a place for growth.
N
They could improve their work with grassroots organizations, and work on developing shared branding with partners for successes.

Organizational Model

N
At times, Sierra Club's state chapters are not in-sync with their national offices, which can create confusion regarding their position on critical issues. They also can be thin on analysis to back up their positions.
N
The number of chapters and individuals involved can also lead to inefficiency. Lack of knowledge or other challenges can water down or influence organizational positions in an unhelpful manner. Huge amounts of funding going to national organizations can take away from the resources available for the smallest and most nimble grassroots activists.
O
Their governance is a bit messy as it really is democratic. This is a plus and a minus as the membership directly elects the Board. So, there are times that the anti-population growth crowd; for example, makes a push to take over the Board.
R
The local chapters of the Sierra Club have variable effectiveness, and the organization could do much more to increase the performance at the local level. The Sierra Club could also do more to support the lawyers who provide pro bono legal services to them. This can be accomplished by making it clear early on that they will cover costs, etc., and eliminate the considerable stress the lawyers feel when they don't know where the money for costs and expert fees will come from. The Sierra Club has way more money than most nonprofits, and it needs to quit pretending that it operates on the same playing field as smaller (truly local) groups. Finally, the organization has a long way to go to redeem itself for its natural gas advocacy.
O
The Sierra Club needs to build a genuine state-based grassroots chapter base with far more public involvement. They also need to be far more sophisticated in translating their political power into electoral leverage. They need to really build their aging base. I'd say their number one organization priority should be to craft a very creative and public online and offline platform that gives people easy ways to engage to be part of building the clean energy economy. I urge them to blend the nature-based experiential learning, community service, and political advocacy as a way to build their base.
N
Because of their top down approach at the national level, sometimes solutions dealing with timely and local issues can get delayed.

Refine Strategy

N
While their grassroots and leadership is generally quite good, many of their climate policy staff working in D.C., or focused on D.C., are indistinguishable from other groups working inside the beltway. They still have not fully extracted themselves from their previous leaderships embracing of the natural gas industry (e.g. their lead climate lawyer recently went to work as a gas industry lobbyist, but his imprint on the organization remains strong). Their political side is too quick to endorse Democrats, even if they have done very little, if anything, for climate or the environment more generally.
N
The Sierra Club's engagement with the EPA has not been as productive as it could be, and has been shared with many environmental groups. The act of suing the EPA at a time when Congress is hostile, has made many enemies. Sometimes its better to get 80% of what you want and leave the 20% for later.
N
The Sierra Club should avoid endorsing products, such as Clorox Greenworks, because it erodes their credibility. The Sierra Club should work harder to diversify its membership.
F
With coal-fired power plants, the Sierra Club had a stated strategy to challenge every single permit nationwide. This approach should be taken with coal mines and export facilities, which would put the coal mining industry on notice, create more uncertainty in the marketplace, and increase the cost of doing business for coal companies.
N
The organization's acceptance of natural gas industry money has compromised their integrity on climate issues. They are too "in bed" with polluters.

Reputation as Uncompromising

N
They can be perceived as too left, limiting their ability to influence the center. At times, they allow ideology to defeat pragmatism.
N
The Sierra Club is not being helpful in the areas of climate change. Their approach is too black and white and simplistic. This is a complicated problem that requires complicated solutions, not sound bites.
N
They might try to be less radical in order to bring along the skeptics.


Leadership

Sierra-club
Michael  Brune
Executive Director 
Title: Executive Director of the Sierra Club, America's oldest, biggest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization.
Age: 40
Family: Michael's wife, Mary, is a mother, technical writer, and cofounder of the group MOMS -- Making Our Milk Safe. The couple lives in Alameda, California with their two children, Olivia, five, and Sebastian, one.
Brune grew up in Chadwick Beach, New Jersey and went to school in nearby Toms River, where his father ran a construction business and served as mayor. His mother, Patricia, taught special needs children in the public schools. He has three siblings. His sister Susan is a research librarian affiliated with Georgetown University. His sister Cathy is a speech therapist in Seattle, and brother James is the executive director of DCARA -- the Deaf Counseling, Advocacy & Referral Agency.
Previous Experience: Brune's first environmental job was as an organizer for Greenpeace. After four years, he joined the Coastal Rainforest Coalition, an organization since renamed ForestEthics. In 1998, Brune joined Rainforest Action Network, where he has served the last seven years as executive director.
Education: Dual B.A.s in Economics and Finance, West Chester University, Pennsylvania, 1993
Publications: Brune is the author of Coming Clean -- Breaking America's Addiction to Oil and Coal (Sierra Club Books, 2008) and blogs regularly for the Huffington Post, SolveClimate, and Daily Kos.

From the Nonprofit

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