Our Impact: Sustainable Communities (Environmental Resilience)


$15,000 or $20,000

Application Deadline

April 19, 2021

Impact Area Update | Environmental Resilience Background | Grantmaking | Eligibility | Evaluation Criteria | Information Sessions | Frequently Asked Questions | Important Dates |

Impact Area Update

The Sustainable Communities Impact Area combines what was formerly our “Environmental Conservation” and “Community Development” programs. Through the Sustainable Communities Program, we hope to support economically and environmentally resilient communities.

This shift to Sustainable Communities reflects a natural evolution of our grantmaking activities. Last year, informed by program evaluations and shifting environmental priorities in the Triangle, we added a climate change lens to our Environmental Conservation program. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to think more deeply about our grantmaking programs and what we hope our funding can help achieve in communities across the Triangle. We realized that it was shortsighted to treat environmental outcomes as separate from economic outcomes since they often influence one another. So, we decided to consider them under one Impact Area: Sustainable Communities.

This spring cycle of the Sustainable Communities program, Environmental Resilience, will focus on funding organizations doing work at the intersection of environmental conservation and climate change. Read more about the program goals below.

The fall Sustainable Communities program grant cycle will focus Economic Resilience. The goals for this cycle are still being determined. The fall grant cycle will replace what was formerly the Community Development program. We anticipate that the call for proposals for this cycle will open in late spring / early summer 2021.

Visit this page to learn about future calls for proposals.

Environmental Resilience Background

There is a growing consensus that climate change poses a threat to the environment and the people and assets in communities across the globe. Locally, the Triangle is experiencing an increasing number of climate-related threats including more frequent flooding; increasing temperatures; increasing drought conditions; and population growth which leads to more development and demand for resources.

Conservation plays an important role in mitigating future effects of climate change. Across the globe, attention is being paid to nature-based solutions, “actions that work with and enhance nature so as to help people adapt to change and disasters”.  These can range from protecting natural areas (conservation) to planting new ecosystems to make cities greener. Studies suggest that, at scale, nature-based solutions can provide around one-third of the of the climate mitigation needed to stabilize warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius. Additionally, investing in activities that build or strengthen a community’s ability to prevent, respond to, and recover from climate stressors makes for stronger, more resilient communities in the face of a changing climate.

We know that certain communities that have endured chronic stressors such as poverty and racial segregation are more vulnerable to impacts of climate change. So, a portion of the organizations funded will include those whose work explicitly benefits communities who experience disproportionate, complex impacts of climate change, including communities of color, low-income groups, people with limited English proficiency (LEP), and immigrant groups.

We look forward to continuing to fund work that will help conserve the Triangle’s land and natural resources and make our communities, particularly our most vulnerable ones, more resilient as climate-related events impact our region.


Grants will be available in the amount of $15,000 – 20,000. Funding will be for one year’s duration and will provide unrestricted support. We anticipate making +/- 15 grants through this grant cycle to organizations whose work has historically and continues to be in alignment with our program goals.

The goals and funding strategies for this Environmental Resilience cycle of the Sustainable Communities Program are outlined below.  Program goals:

  • Increase awareness of and education around conservation and/or climate issues
  • Increase climate resiliency, particularly of low-income communities

Funding strategies:

  • Fund organizations implementing nature-based strategies that allow communities to adapt to climate change threats (with priority on low-income communities)
  • Fund organizations providing education & communications around conservation and/or climate issues
  • Fund organizations that are engaging in local advocacy efforts related to conservation and/or climate issues

See the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for more details and examples of the type of work we hope to support through this program. Please note that the shift to Sustainable Communities marks the end of what were historically the “Awareness” and “Public Benefit” programs.


  • The Foundation invites 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations based in Chatham, Durham, Orange and Wake counties to apply. Religious congregations, governmental agencies, and organizations operating under fiscal sponsorship of a tax-exempt nonprofit are eligible to apply.
  • Organizations must meet the Foundation’s non-discrimination policy (outlined in the grant application).
  • One application per organization will be considered.
  • Note – If your organization was previously eligible for the Awareness and/or Public Benefit programs of the Environmental Conservation grant cycle in years past, you are likely eligible for this cycle, too!

Evaluation Criteria

Foundation staff work with volunteer advisory committee members to review proposals and reach grantmaking decisions. In reviewing grant proposals, the Foundation will use the following evaluation criteria. See the Frequently Asked Questions to see how these evaluation criteria overlap with the application questions.

  1. Organizational alignment with program goals:
    1. How strong is the organization’s historical track record of delivering programming that aligns with the program goals?
    2. How well do the organization’s current programs address the goal(s) of the grant program?
    3. How strong an impact is this organization likely to have on the program goals?
  2. Commitment to equity and community engagement: 
    1. To what degree is the organization committed to staff and board reflecting communities they serve?
    2. To what degree are the organization’s programs benefiting communities most impacted by climate change including communities of color, low-income groups, people with limited English proficiency (LEP), and immigrant groups?
  3. Organization financial health
    1. Are there any organizational financial red flags (e.g. surplus or deficit greater than 10% of the overall budget?)
  4. Overall recommendation
    1. How strong is your recommendation that this application be funded?

Information Sessions

A virtual information session was held on Tuesday, March 23rd. You can access the recording here.

Frequently Asked Questions

We have compiled frequently asked questions that we have received about this program. We will update this as we have more conversations with nonprofit organizations. If you have a question not outlined here, please reach out directly to program staff at the contact information below.

Important Dates

Call for proposals opens                     Monday, March 15, 2021 at 12:01am
Application Deadline                            Monday, April 19, 2020, at 11:45 pm
Grantees Announced                           Expected by June 30, 2021
Grant Period                                          July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022
Final Grant Report                                August 15, 2022

Please reach out to us if you have questions PRIOR to the deadline!