The Southeast Sustainable Communities Fund (SSCF) is a new funding opportunity for local communities in the southeastern United States. Grants will be awarded to local partnerships to advance local government policy, plans, or programs that will create equitable and sustainable energy and/or water initiatives. The 2017 RFP will result in five to seven grants of approximately $75,000 to $150,000 per year for two years. 

Fund Purpose:

Innovation toward sustainable and equitable outcomes often looks different in the Southeast than it does in other parts of the country. All too often, the greatest challenges are not determining what communities should do to be more sustainable, but navigating the uncharted path for how to implement strategies in a way that aligns with local values. SSDN members identified two drivers to advance sustainable practices:

  1. Demonstrating proof-of-concept within the Southeast context: simply put, people on the ground need success stories from within the region to make the case for leadership support.  
  2. Providing access to implementation funding: Southeast communities are historically and chronically under-resourced. Local sustainability efforts need access to funding sources that acknowledge regional context.

The purpose of the Southeast Sustainable Communities Fund is to accelerate the adoption of sustainable best practices in Southeast communities by funding projects that implement local sustainability solutions, while leveraging the SSDN network to help others learn from grantee experiences and widely sharing success stories about sustainability in the Southeast.

Intent:

The intent of this RFP is to fund five to seven projects that will support sustainable and equitable communities working in the following five areas:

  1. Mitigating and/ or adapting to climate change through sustainable energy and/or water initiatives
  2. Fostering equity and inclusiveness
  3. Leveraging community partnerships
  4. Strengthening local government policy
  5. Demonstrating scalable solutions

Applicants should focus on these areas in their project design and application materials.

Fund Background :

The Southeast Sustainable Communities Fund (SSCF) is a partnership between The Kendeda Fund and the Southeast Sustainability Directors Network (SSDN). The Kendeda Fund supports the dignity of individuals and the sustainability of communities through investments in transformative leaders and ideas. SSDN is a membership network of sustainability officials representing more than 50 local government officials in the Southeastern U.S. SSDN members share ideas and collaborate to accelerate the adoption of sustainable best practices across the region. SSDN’s mission is to build capacity for community sustainability in the Southeast.

Applicants

Southeast U.S. Community: This funding opportunity is open to any Southeast community, including SSDN and non-SSDN members. For the purpose of this RFP, the Southeast includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Statewide or Southeast region-wide efforts are not eligible.  

City or County Lead Applicant: Projects must be led by a municipal Equity or Sustainability Director or someone who performs a cross-departmental equity or sustainability function in a local government. A lead applicant is expected to be highly involved in project leadership although they are not required to be the project manager or the funds recipient. In fact, applicants are encouraged to have a non-municipal partner perform fiscal responsibilities for the project. Although regional planning organizations, councils of governments, municipal utilities, and/or school districts are encouraged to be partners in a proposed project, they cannot serve as the lead applicant.

Non Eligible Projects

Projects that do not meet the eligibility requirements will not be considered for funding. The Southeast Sustainable Communities Fund is not intended to fund traditional environmental programming such as recycling or solid waste management, brownfield remediation, or upgrades or maintenance of transportation infrastructure. Projects that seek funding solely for the design, purchase, or installation of sustainability measures on local government or nonprofit buildings are not eligible for grant funding. Examples of non-eligible projects include: lighting retrofits in municipal buildings or solar photovoltaics on municipal land.

SSCF will not reimburse any expenses for the preparation and submittal of a proposal. Our intent is to streamline the RFP process to minimize the time and resources required for submittal. SSCF discourages proposals that have elaborate graphics, videos, or other extraneous materials. A lead agency may only submit one proposal. An organization may be a partner in multiple proposals, however, matching resources, whether in-kind or cash, must be unique to each proposal submitted.

Projects

Project Timeline and Budget: Projects have two years to complete all stated milestones, deliver results, and spend all grant funds. Project costs associated with this grant are not to exceed $150,000 in either grant project year. Two-year funding will not exceed $300,000.

Climate Change Mitigation or Adaptation through Sustainable Energy and/or Water Initiatives: Projects must support local climate change mitigation or adaptation efforts. Proposals should detail the aspect of climate change mitigation and/or adaptation they intend to address (e.g. energy efficiency, renewable energy, water efficiency, green stormwater, etc.). Projects that seek funding solely for the design, purchase, or installation of sustainability measures are not eligible for grant funding. Design, purchase, or installation of individual sustainability measures may be funded when integrated into a larger project that meets all of the eligibility requirements (see examples of eligible projects below).    

Equity and Inclusiveness: Projects must benefit and engage people of color, people with low incomes, and/or people of immigrant and refugee communities. Proposals must identify the project’s priority stakeholders, how they will be impacted by the project, and how they will be involved in shaping project design and implementation.

Community Partnership: Projects must leverage community support through partnerships. Proposals must have at least one project partner in addition to the lead applicant. All partners must demonstrate their commitment to the partnership by detailing the role they will play and how the partnership will improve outcomes of the proposed project. Solidifying a project with partners takes time. This RFP provides three months to solidify the project partnership. The strength of the partnership and the leverage the partnership provides will be evaluated through the scoring criteria.

Local Government Policy, Plans, or Programs: Projects must advance local government policies, plans, or programs, and proposals must clearly articulate how the project will go about advancing and supporting that local government policy, plan, or program. (This needs to be demonstrated by linking to or attaching documentation of the policy, plan, or program information). Examples include a climate action plan or neighborhood crime prevention program.  

Project Match: While a dollar match is not required, successful applicants will demonstrate significant in-kind and/or cash support. In-kind support can include personnel time donated to the project, as well as donated services, equipment, and materials. For example, if a utility offers cash rebates for installed measures, the value of the cash rebates are a cash match. If an organization will host a series of workshops in a low-income neighborhood, the value of the personnel time to organize and lead the workshops is an in-kind match. Applicants must document the value of their matching in-kind and/or cash resources.

2017 Application Period

Thursday, April 20, 2017 Issue RFP
Thursday, April 27, 2017 at 11:00 am EST RFP Informational Webinar 1 – Register here
Friday, May 5, 2017 SSDN Annual Meeting Informational Session
Thursday, June 22, 2017 at 11:00 am EST RFP Informational Webinar 2 – Register here
Thursday, July 6, 2017
at 5:00 pm EST
REQUIRED DEADLINE to submit a Letter of Intent
July –  September 2017 Optional Technical Assistance to applicants
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
at 5:00 pm EST
REQUIRED DEADLINE to submit a grant application

2017 Grant Selection Period

Friday, October 13, 2017 Successful applicants notified
Thursday, November 30, 2017 Deadline to sign grant contracts
Monday, December 11, 2017 Public grant award announcement

Letter of Intent (LOI):

The required LOI template can be downloaded below. A Letter of Intent is required to be considered for a grant award. The LOI should describe the proposed project (who, what, when, where, why, how, and how much) and include a list of participating partners. The purpose of the LOI is to improve the quality of the final applications, which will be due two months after the LOI. LOIs are to be no longer than two pages, and should be uploaded electronically through the link below in Microsoft Word format (11-point Times New Roman font, 1” margins). Carefully read the RFP before writing and submitting an application.

 The deadline to submit an LOI has passed. Please check back for updates.

Grant Application:

The required Grant Application Template can be downloaded below. The template enables applicants to be concise and specific with their responses. Please do not submit proposals with elaborate graphics and videos or with generic letters of support. Key partners may provide letters of support that clearly state their role and the in-kind or cash match they will be contributing. Grant applications are to be no more than six pages in Microsoft Word format (11-point Times New Roman font, 1” margins). Letters of support and budget documentation are considered attachments, and are not included in six page maximum. Upload the grant application electronically through the link below. Supporting documentation may be submitted through the link below as well.  

The required Grant Budget Template can be downloaded below. The budget needs to clearly delineate the major expenses and matching funds for each funding year. Typical major expense categories include personnel (by person), fringe, materials, supplies, communication, transportation, equipment, and indirect (overhead). Add or remove expense categories as needed. Grant Budgets need to be in Microsoft Excel format. Upload the grant application electronically through the link below. Carefully read the RFP before writing and submitting an application.

 

The deadline to submit a grant application has passed. Please check back for updates.

Informational Webinars

There are no upcoming webinars at this time. Two FAQ documents and audio recordings of both webinars have been posted here for your reference.

Proposal Development Technical Assistance

The Program Manager is available at any time during the application period to respond to written questions, to review draft materials, and/or to schedule one-on-one calls with a proposal team. Given this is a new funding opportunity with no examples to draw from, applicants are highly encouraged to seek one-on-one technical assistance.

Click here to email the SSCF Program Manager, Maggie Ullman. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Have a question about the Southeast Sustainable Communities Fund? Check our two Frequently Asked Questions documents first!

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Contact the Program Manager, Maggie Ullman, at maggie@southeastsdn.org

Storytelling

Grantees will be required to capture and share with SSDN aspects of their project in ways that are relatable/instructive to the general public. Examples include written feature stories and participant profiles, photo essays, sound recordings, videos, and/or local media coverage. Storytelling submissions are required once each year of the project. These submissions do not need to be technical or expensive — using a phone to capture photos or video could suffice. Capturing the first day of a program launch or filming 30-second interviews from a stakeholder focus group may be all it takes to translate the impact of your project to others in a more accessible way than a written grant report.

Progress Reporting

  • Submit Quarterly Progress Updates. These updates will be brief (2-3 paragraphs) and will include: 1. progress on major milestones; 2. results achieved to date (outputs and outcomes); 3. funds spent to date; 4. explanation of any major changes to the project milestones, timeline, or budget.
  • Submit a Year One Progress Report. This report will be no more than three pages and will include 1. progress on major milestones; 2. results achieved to date (outputs and outcomes); 3. funds spent to date; 4. explanation of any major changes to the Year One project milestones, timeline, or budget; and 5. proposed Year Two project budget by milestones and metrics table.
  • Participate in Year Two Planning Call. The lead grantee (and key project partners, if desired) will participate in a Year Two Planning call with the SSCF Program Manager. The purpose of this call will be to review Year One performance,  discuss the proposed Year Two  project budget by milestones and metrics table, and determine if Year One performance merits the Year Two grant payment. Calls will be coordinated by SSCF staff and conducted in December 2018, specific date and time to be determined. Year Two payments will be issued within 30 days of approval from the SSCF Program Manager.
  • Submit a Final Report. This report will be between 5-10 pages and will include three deliverables: 1. a final grant report that describes outcomes, impact, follow on work planned, funds leveraged, and lessons learned ; 2. a detailed record of grant fund expenditures, including a comparison of original budget to actual expenditures; 3. Any materials created for this grant project that demonstrate the project outputs and/or outcomes in a way that could help SSCF share the success of the grant program with other communities and other funders. This report will be emailed to SSCF Coordinator Meg Jamison (meg@southeastsdn.org) by January 4, 2020.

Peer Learning

  • SSDN Webinar or In-Person Meeting on Project Results and Lessons Learned. The lead grantee will be asked to make a presentation about their project during a SSDN webinar or at an in-person meeting. The presentation will include project results, lessons learned, and key takeaways, etc. Travel expenses for this presentation will be covered separately from the grant funding.
  • Quarterly Peer Learning Progress Calls. The lead grantee (and key project partners, if desired) will participate in quarterly grantee cohort calls to share progress and learn from each other. This includes one call after the grant term to discuss grant program lessons learned. Calls will be coordinated by SSCF staff. A full schedule of calls will be posted after Deember 22, 2017.

Southeast Sustainable Communities Fund invests $1.5M across six Southeast communities. Communities will use the grants to implement equitable solutions to local climate change challenges.

December 11, 2017
Contact:
Maggie Ullman
SSCF Program Manager
maggie@southeastsdn.org
Press Release: Download PDF

SSDN-grant-states

The Southeast Sustainable Communities Fund (SSCF) will invest $1,583,244 in six Southeastern U.S. communities. Grantees will implement projects that build equitable local solutions to climate change. In this inaugural year, the SSCF received 35 applications from 9 states. This large applicant pool is a testament to the need for local climate change solutions in the south, and the ambition of local communities to make an impact.

The SSCF is a partnership between The Kendeda Fund and the Southeast Sustainability Directors Network (SSDN). “I am impressed by the breadth of communities interested in the program goals, as well as the range of local approaches to equitably address climate change.” Dennis Creech, Fund Advisor at The Kendeda Fund.

SSCF 2017 grantees include:

1. Environmental Justice Planning to Withstand Impacts of Climate Change in Duck Hill, Mississippi

2. Crowdsourcing Community Donations to Fund Energy Retrofits for People with Low Income in Huntsville, Alabama

3. Saving Energy and Building Wealth Through Energy Retrofits in Chattanooga, Tennessee

4. Reducing Peak Energy Demand in the Winter through Weatherization Retrofits in Buncombe County, North Carolina

5. Community-Led Problem Solving: Market Barriers to Financing Energy Retrofits in Charleston, South Carolina

6. Eyesore to Assets: Community Resilience through Green Infrastructure on Vacant Lots in Savannah, Georgia

2017 SSCF Investment Summaries

Environmental Justice Planning to Withstand Impacts of Climate Change

Community: Duck Hill, MS
Investment: $300,000
Partners: Action Communications and Education Reform (ACER); EcoAdapt; Sustainability Works; Mississippi State School of Architecture, Art and Design
Challenge: The rural town of Duck Hill currently addresses stormwater drainage through a system of ditches that frequently flood during periods of heavy rainfall and take several days for the water to recede. Additionally, these floods close the only community-gathering place and recreation center in the community.
Solution: Community members will create an adaptation and resiliency plan using the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) Model. This plan will become the backbone to the town’s Zoning and Land Use Plan, which hasn’t been updated since 1975. Furthermore, a green infrastructure and water drainage project end the flooding in the cherished community recreation center.

Crowdsourcing Community Donations to Fund Energy Retrofits for People with Low Income

Community: Huntsville, AL
Investment: $300,000
Grant Application: Download PDF
Partners: Salvation Army of Huntsville; Huntsville Municipal Utility
Challenge: Last year over 10,000 people applied for one-time utility bill assistance in Huntsville and this number is growing. Most families apply for assistance on their highest bills, often following weather events with extreme heat or cold. Project Share, a bill assistance program of Huntsville Utilities, was designed to support hardship cases from unforeseen circumstances, not necessarily extreme weather events. Project Share needs to expand beyond bill assistance to include energy efficiency and weatherization retrofits.
Solution: Partners will establish an ongoing campaign to crowdsource donations in support of Project Share’s expansion to include home weatherization and energy efficiency retrofits. The crowdsourcing mechanisms to be piloted include on-bill donations from utility customers and on-paycheck employee donations from local employers, including the City of Huntsville, the utility, and large local employers. Additionally, this project will begin providing home energy retrofits for applicants to Project Share.

Saving Energy and Building Wealth Through Energy Retrofits

Community: Chattanooga, TN
Investment: $300,000
Grant Application: Download PDF
Partners: Electric Power Board (EPB); green|spaces; Chattanooga Community Action & Advisory Groups
Challenge: In four Chattanooga neighborhoods, residents with low income are using 43% more energy per square foot than the average home in Chattanooga, equating to $500 – $600 per month.
Solution: 1. Wealth Building: Leverage an existing training and job placement program for young adults who are underemployed by incorporating a focus on energy retrofit skills. 2. Energy Retrofits: The trainees will work with technical experts to provide energy efficiency improvements for 3,000 households with low income to reduce their electric utility bills. 3. Improve Existing Services: Partners will pursue continuous improvement of existing programs. Examples of steps to be taken include translating all materials into Spanish and adding energy efficiency options to the home repair program.

Reducing Peak Energy Demand in the Winter through Weatherization Retrofits

Community: Buncombe County, NC
Investment: $300,000
Grant Application: Download PDF
Partners: City of Asheville, NC; Community Action Opportunities of Buncombe and Madison County; Duke Energy Progress; North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association
Challenge: Peak energy demand in the mountains of Buncombe County is driven by cold winter mornings, which results in sharply peaking demand for electric heating.
Solution: This project will reduce peak electricity demand through weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades in communities with low income. First, project partners will participate in an equity training and apply an equity framework to local energy program design. Then partners will centralize, streamline, and expand access to weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades for households with low income. The retrofits conducted through this project will create a proof of concept to the electric utility for whole-home retrofits.

Community-Led Problem Solving: Market Barriers to Financing Energy Retrofits

Community: Charleston, SC
Investment: $150,000
Partners: The Sustainability Institute; Charleston Promise Neighborhood; Charleston Resiliency Network; Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety; South Carolina Electric and Gas Company; Solarize Charleston; College of Charleston; Heritage Trust Federal Credit Union
Challenge: Many tools to finance energy retrofits are not applicable to the financial circumstances of people with low income.
Solution: Charleston communities of low income will work with project partners to address market barriers to energy efficiency retrofits and solar energy. By conducting energy efficiency and solar pilot projects, this project will implement pilot project retrofits to test new solutions, then create a broad community implementation plan to address the unique market challenges in the city’s communities of low income.

Eyesore to Assets: Community Resilience through Green Infrastructure on Vacant Lots

Community: Savannah, GA
Investment: $233,244
Grant Application: Download PDF
Partners: Savannah Tree FoundationVictory GardensSavannah Impact Program; UGA Marine Extension and GA Sea Grant
Challenge: In 2016, Hurricane Matthew caused significant damage to Savannah’s tree canopy and neighborhoods, costing $13 million in tree debris removal and unknown losses in water storage from mature trees. In addition, neighborhoods with low income contain more than 350 flood-prone FEMA vacant lots that are underutilized assets and contribute to urban blight.
Solution: Project partners will improve the community’s resilience to the effects of major storm events by using flood-prone FEMA lots in Savannah’s neighborhoods with low income for urban tree nurseries and green infrastructure pilot projects. The project will be implemented through a green-job training and job placement program with community partners to support wealth building and climate resiliency via the same project.