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Multi-School Fossil Free Divestment Fund

To put pressure on our universities to divest from fossil fuels, a group of students, faculty, alumni, and parents have joined together to create the donor-advised Multi-School Fossil Free Divestment Fund. The fund leverages the greatest power alumni hold: our annual giving capability. Show your school that you want to donate but need them to do the right thing and divest from fossil fuels first. You can see the list of participating schools here. The 350 Madison Divestment Team added the University of Wisconsin–Madison to the fund in February 2015.

How It Works

Donations to the fund are tax-deductible, and when your school divests, it will receive your donation and the earnings it has accrued from being invested fossil-free. The fund will hold and invest donations until an institution’s endowment:

  1. Immediately freezes any new investment in fossil fuel companies, and
  2. Divests within five years from current holdings in fossil fuel companies.

If the institution fails to divest by the end of 2017, donors’ funds will go to other participating schools that have divested. Why 2017? According to the International Energy Agency, that’s the outside cutoff for building new fossil fuel infrastructure if we’re to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Since donations will go to other universities if a college or university does not divest, the fund creates an incentive for an institution to take action. Money donated acts as a financial carrot—but if universities continue to support the rogue fossil fuel industry, those donations turn into a stick.

While the size of alumni contributions is important to universities, it is the number of donors that’s essential to their reputations. National rankings are partially determined by the percentage of alumni giving, regardless of the size of their gifts. For example, 5% of the U.S. World News & World Report college rankings score is derived from the average percentage of undergraduate alumni of record who donated money to the college or university. If a substantial percentage of alumni divert their donations to the Multi-School Fossil Free Divestment Fund, the message will be heard in presidents’ offices across the country.


The Multi-School Fossil Free Divestment Fund will increase pressure on UW–Madison, through the UW Foundation, to divest from fossil fuels and invest in sustainable energy. The UW Foundation manages the university’s $2.2 billion endowment. The fund allows UW–Madison alumni and community members with a deep concern about climate change to contribute to the university in ways that are morally acceptable to them. We urge the UW Foundation to “guarantee ethical stewardship of gifts received,” as stated in its mission, by stopping investment in companies that threaten the future. Join us by downloading and mailing a letter telling the UW-Madison it’s time to divest from fossil fuels.

Help Us Keep the Pressure On!

To be informed about future developments and opportunities to take action, sign up for the 350 Madison email list for regular updates. You can find out more about the Multi-School Fossil Free Divestment Fund here; you can learn about its investments here. In this interview from February 2015, 350 Madison’s Julia Isaacs explains more about the Multi-School Fossil Free Divestment Fund.