In recent years, market forces—including low natural gas prices, the increasing cost competitiveness of renewable energy, and tighter environmental regulations—have caused significant numbers of coal plant and mine closures around the United States. 

In April 2015, the Rockefeller Family Fund (RFF) and the Appalachian Funders Network (AFN) created the Just Transition Fund in conjunction with six other national and regional foundation partners: blue moon fund, Chorus Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, The JPB Foundation, The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, and the Mertz Gilmore Foundation.

The Fund was initially created in response to President Obama’s POWER Initiative, which provided the first-ever federal funding to help communities impacted by the changing coal economy and power sector. In a span of eight weeks, RFF and AFN created the Fund to quickly help coal-affected communities take advantage of this opportunity. The launch of the Fund also jump-started the engagement of national philanthropy and showcased the innovative, bottom-up ways that local communities are working to reframe and redefine their local economies. 

Photo credit to Bill Bamberger and the Natural Capital Investment Fund

In the last few years, based on input from partners and stakeholders, the Fund expanded its mission and scope to more broadly address the coal community transition movement. The complex, multifaceted nature of the transition problem required a new philanthropic approach. To address the problem, we’ve created an innovative philanthropic hybrid—part grantmaker, part catalyst—that has already demonstrated impressive results. Our direct investments are improving the effectiveness of individuals and organizations involved in the coal transition movement and accelerating communities’ ability to respond to the energy transition. 

To date, Just Transition Fund grants have helped inject nearly $120 million in federal funds to support and scale community-driven transition projects.