Funding: It’s one of the greatest hurdles most communities face in realizing their vision of creating a neighborhood green space—a topic near and dear to our mission here at Nature Sacred.
While you’re probably hoping we’ll share a list of grants to which you can apply (and we will!)—we’ll actually do much more in this post. We hope to expand your thinking when it comes to your search for funding. We’ll offer some ideas for how to begin your search by looking inward—empowering you to think more broadly about your hoped-for green space, which can reveal a much more valuable list than any we could have compiled here.
Funding your Sacred Place: Eligibility & 501C3 status
Oftentimes, grants are only available to registered 501C3s, the most common type of non-profit organization. This is typically a prerequisite for eligibility for funding from foundations—and can open a lot of opportunities for your future green space.
Your neighborhood or your community might already have 501C3 status—if so, great! If not, depending on your community, doing the work to achieve nonprofit status as could be a path forward—but certainly can be time consuming to file with the IRS.
A great route to go here is to “team up” with a local institution. Most nonprofits are 501C3 organizations—so think of accessible, nearby community organizations; schools; hospitals; cultural arts institutions; churches, mosques, synagogues or other places of worship. Most of our Sacred Places reside on the grounds of these kinds of organizations. By remaining open and welcoming to all community members and passers-by, these spaces work hard to uplift and engage community members of all walks of life.
Key questions to consider before you begin your search.
Consider the circumstances of your green space and the community it will serve—this will open a lot of possibilities:
- Is it purely residential? Demographically, will the garden serve a population that skews older, for example?
- Is it in a neighborhood that has experienced any kind of environmental disaster (think hurricane, tornado, flood or other plight.)
- Is the community the site of any noteworthy historical event/s?
- Will the space commemorate a historical figure or cause?
- Is the motivation for creating the space linked to an effort to address a very specific community need (beyond a basic need for green space)?
These types of questions can potentially help you uncover funding that is not specifically earmarked for community green spaces or nature-related projects. Take, for instance, the above-mentioned question related to whether or not the space would serve an elderly population. If you dig a little deeper, you might uncover the growing body of research that touts the many specific benefits of nature to the elderly. Drawing this connection between the health of the elderly, the importance of the social connection to their health and wellbeing and the role community greenspaces can play—and leaning on this narrative for the “why” you are embarking on your project, you would be able to apply for a broader range of funding. Aging Grants and Grants for Senior Citizens comprises an entire category with the online grant search service Grant Watch.
This is simply one example of a path that could be taken when tapping into your community needs. Many other opportunities may spring to life when thinking on nature / health connections for other populations as well, such as veterans, underserved youth or people with disabilities, for example.
Structuring your search
First, think local.
Many local and regional companies and organizations invest in their local communities; likewise, many national companies invest in small-scale community-building initiatives as well. Think of the companies with a presence in your city or town. Examples might include retail stores like Target, Home Depot and Walmart. Consider, too, service companies like State Farm; or the local bank in your search. Most of these provide various kinds of community grants and funding support; some via specific categories or themes like “neighborhood revitalization”; or “community engagement” for veterans; or conservation efforts—for examples.
Also, contact your local community foundation. Community foundations are integral parts of pulling different neighborhoods and communities together; they often have extensive networks and large amounts of funding for projects that will improve and support the community that they serve. They can also serve as conduits of knowledge about what your community needs, and can provide information about what programs and funds are needed to support your community. Here’s a handy community foundation locator to help you find the closest one to you.
Partnering with community foundations really does work. In Alabama, the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama was awarded $180,000 in funding for two Sacred Places in each of the nine counties it serves. This is just one example of how a community foundation can transform the lives and land of the people who live within their community.
Then, cast the net wider.
While we suggest beginning your funding search locally, the next step should be looking at national sources of support.
Hint: know the terminology
It’s important to be aware of the vernacular used in this space. The world of grants and funding can sometimes use specific language, and knowing which words and phrases to look for in finding funding can reveal a goldmine of opportunities.
So, when rolling up your sleeves to mine for funding—via web search or other—here are some keywords to consider leveraging, depending on your community needs and green space vision. A lot of forward-looking funders are recognizing the importance of “place” today, and how important it is to celebrate heritage, unique culture and community history. This is called “placemaking”—which, done successfully, stars the community as the drivers of the creative placemaking process. To this end, you may want to integrate search terms around: “community building”, “community development”, “placemaking” “therapeutic” “community partnerships” or “community revitalization”, for example.
Now – for the list.
We’ve done a little leg work for you, searching specifically for grants directed at green spaces. This is just a sampling of what’s out there.
The EPA offers a wide breadth of funding opportunities around green infrastructure—we’ve culled a few that are relevant to community green spaces below:
- EPA Environmental Justice Small Grants Program
- EPA Office of Sustainable Communities Building Blocks Program
- DOI Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) Program
- For US applicants, you must be in a low to moderate income area, and be in either Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Vermont, New Jersey, Massachustes, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Maine, Rhode Island, or D.C.
- Applicants are also encouraged to apply with community partners such as “a municipality, nonprofit organizations, schools, businesses”.
- You need to be a 501C3 for this one
- Three rounds: Feb. 1, June 1, Oct. 1
- This is for a shade structure but would well for parks and recreational areas.
- Must be a 501C3 that serves children 18 years old and younger
- Must be 501C3 or charity that is equivalent
- Encouraging public art and community spaces.
With some creative thinking and search-elbow-grease, funding may be closer than you might think. The list above represents only a portion of the opportunities that exist. To delve deeper, these organizations have aggregated some potential green space funding bodies that may be worth exploring:
- The American Public Gardens Association’s Public Garden Funding Resources
- Fundraiser Help’s List of Corporate Grants
- Funder’s Network list of members
Let us know if we can help you get started with the creation of your community green space—we’ve got a model to share, a network of inspired community leaders (what we call Firesouls) to tap into, and a lot of case studies to share. Don’t hesitate to contact us for (real in-person) guidance as you go!