The California Academy of Sciences' mission is to regenerate the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration. First established in 1853, the Academy is an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, and natural history museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The Academy is a powerful voice for biodiversity research and exploration, environmental education, and sustainability across the globe.

The Academy’s revenue is multi-faceted, generated from admissions, memberships, commissions, government entities, investments, and endowment draws, with over 30% derived from contributions. The Academy is committed to transparency in recording and use of all revenue.

General giving guidelines

  1. The principal basis for making a gift should be the desire on the part of the donor to support the mission, programs, and objectives of the California Academy of Sciences.
  2. The Academy and its Board of Trustees determine the organization’s priorities and oversee our programs. Donors do not direct our programmatic work or make critical organizational decisions.
  3. The Academy reserves the right to refuse or return any gift that is not consistent with our mission and values, which could introduce a conflict of interest, that is prohibitively restrictive, or that may expose the Academy to liability or adverse publicity.
  4. Accepting a gift is not necessarily a sign that the Academy aligns with a donor, organization, or viewpoint. The Academy has processes to ensure that gifts to support the organization’s goals would not otherwise violate gift acceptance policies.
  5. All potential donors shall be advised to use their own legal and tax counsel in matters relating to their gift. No gift shall be knowingly urged upon any prospective donor that would benefit the Academy at the expense of the donor’s interest and welfare.
  6. The Academy will honor all requests by donors for anonymity, where anonymity would not violate any legal requirements for disclosure.
  7. The Academy especially appreciates unrestricted gifts, which can provide the flexibility to allocate the gift where it is needed most. In drafting instruments for restricted gifts, donors and their advisors are encouraged to use language that would permit the application of the gift to a more general purpose if the designated purpose is no longer feasible.

Types of funding the Academy accepts

General operating support
General operating donations support core expenses, day-to-day operations, and the organization’s mission. Unrestricted gift use is at the discretion of the Academy.

Specific operating areas/restricted gifts
The Academy may accept gifts for specific programs and purposes, provided such gifts are consistent with the Academy’s stated mission and values. To give a restricted gift, please contact the Development department at

The Academy maintains a general endowment where earnings support the general operations of the Academy as well as a purpose endowment where donors specify programs where the earnings are to be used. For more information on giving to the Academy’s endowment, please contact


Ways to give

All donors and grantmakers should address questions or concerns regarding giving options to the Development Department. Please reference this Ways to Give PDF for more information.



The Academy is dedicated to transparency around giving. Individuals and organizations are recognized on our website as well as our digital donor wall at the Academy. For more information on the Academy’s finances and to view our Annual Report, please visit our Financials page.


Donor rights

The California Academy of Sciences observes the Donor Bill of Rights, established by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), and the Giving Institute: Leading Consultants to Nonprofits.

The Academy may revise these Guidelines at any time and from time to time without advance notice, by posting an updated and revised version of these Guidelines on its Website. The revisions are effective immediately upon posting and we encourage you to check these Guidelines often so you are aware of the most current directions that may apply to you.