Sustainable Funding

Sustainable funding graphic

Securing funding for sustainability projects can be a daunting task. Local government too often must devote the bulk of its resources to projects that are long overdue, leaving little or nothing for proactive projects. This creates a culture of putting out fires instead of preventing them. Because sustainability projects are often focused on longer-term goals and can have higher initial cost, it can be difficult to compete for funding against projects that require immediate attention. So how should you go about securing funding for your program’s projects? Developing green Capital Improvement Plans and operating budgets that outline the savings produced by efficient upgrades can create a strong case for the value of your work. The following steps will help to strengthen your funding proposals.

  1. Develop green Capital Improvement Plans (CIP). Work with the Mayor and the Finance Department to add a sustainability focus to annual CIP process. Evaluating the city’s Climate Action Plan goals and determine which areas best apply to the CIP. Add value points to projects that incorporate sustainable elements.
  2. Show your value before you ask. Use a capital project core criteria matrix to assess the value of potential projects. Viability can be determined by ranking project impacts against target areas. Narrowing the field of projects on the front end will strengthen your proposal. The City of Ann Arbor, MI developed a matrix to score capital improvement projects. The matrix can be found in the Capital Improvements Programming document,
  3. Outline long term cost saving potential. Sustainable upgrades to capital projects can be costly, but can produce substantial savings over time. Develop an operating budget that uses the cost savings of efficient upgrades to pay back initial cost and fund future upgrades.
  4. Seek outside funding to offset the extra cost. There are many grant opportunities from organizations to help local government sustainably update infrastructure and develop programs to increase overall efficiency. The U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit is an excellent resource to search for funding opportunities. Bringing a matching grant or other outside funding to the table with your proposal will increase its attractiveness.
  5. Do your homework. Relevant examples can enhance the validity of your project. Identifying case studies of similar projects in neighboring communities will show the potential value and viability of your project to the funding committee. Asheville, NC has a green CIP program, for instance.

Develop an advocacy base in the community. Local government’s main purpose is to serve its community. With a strong community voice backing your program and projects that advance its goals, your proposal will likely carry more weight


Projects that focus on efficiency and sustainability are often not as competitive for funding as essential services like Fire or Police. Quantifying the economic, social, and environmental benefits of projects (in that order) may help. By taking the above steps, you can show that these projects are valuable and align with both local government and community goals.