Seed Grants

The Seed grant program is geared towards groups launching new projects or starting to significantly change the direction of an existing project. Most often, groups have been working on the project less than a year and usually don't yet have much direct experience with implementing the idea.

Seed grants prioritize support for community groups who represent a broad range of voices in their community and who are not being reached by other funders. The Grassroots Fund interprets the word 'environment' broadly and provides funding for a wide range of activities. 

Deadline: rolling - you can apply for a Seed grant any time of year. A final decision generally takes 4 to 6 weeks and you can expect to hear from staff to schedule a follow-up call in about 2 weeks from the date you submit an application.

Grant size: $500 - $1,000 

Direct questions to: Tess Beem at [email protected] if you cannot find the answers to your questions on this page.

Eligibility criteria

The Seed grant program is focused on community-based, local initiatives. For the Grassroot Fund that means that:

  • The group is doing local, grassroots work in CT, ME, MA, NH, RI or VT.
  • The group is volunteer-driven or has no more than 2 full-time paid staff.
  • The group has an annual operating budget of under $100,000.
  • Note that the group does not need to have formal tax status or a fiscal sponsor.

The Grassroots Fund does not fund the following: 

  • Individuals
  • Statewide, regional, national or international work
  • Lobbying or partisan political activity
  • Acquisition of land and/or buildings
  • Studies with no follow-up action
  • Publication of books or reports
  • Micro-, mini-, re-granting programs
  • Retroactive (pre-dating application submission) expenses
  • For profits, LLCs

Please note that the Grassroots Fund does not accept multiple applications from the same project for the same grant level on one calendar year. In other words, a group can't receive multiple Seed grants for the same project in the same calendar year.  However, a group can apply for a Seed grant, a Grow grant and a Young Leader grant in the same year and is welcome to re-apply for Seed funding the next calendar year. 

Review process

Seed applications are currently reviewed by staff. After an initial review, a staff member will reach out to set up a phone call as an opportunity to learn more about the work and ask any clarifying questions. Staff uses a rubric to gauge how well a project aligns with the Grassroots Fund's Guiding Practices. We are especially interested in learning more about how a group makes decisions and determines priorities. At the Seed level, we also look to hear more about how a group has been able to determine how/if work aligns with other efforts within the community. Funding decisions and grant amounts are guided by the final rubric score. 

All applicants are notified of the final decision via email. When you are approved for funding, you will be asked to sign a grant agreement letter ahead of receiving the funding.  

Grant reporting

After receiving a grant, a report is due either when all funds are expended or one year from the date of the grant agreement letter. You can download a copy of the grant report form, by clicking the button below. When finished, please submit a PDF version of your report to [email protected] 

Download the Seed grant report form 

How to submit an application

The Grassroots Fund application is online. You can start your group's application by clicking the button below. Each application has three sections: contact information, group information & project information. All required fields have to be complete before you are able to submit your group's application. The application form does not auto-save and we recommend you regularly hit the Save button to make sure your work is not lost (technology isn't always our friend). 

You can return to an open application by clicking the Show Action Center button in the top-right (make sure you are logged in). Additional members of your group are able to register with the website and can join your group to get access to an application. 

Once you submit an application, you will receive an automated confirmation that we have received the application. Don't hesitate to contact us with any questions along the way. 

Start a new Seed grant application

(to return to an existing application, click the Show Action Center button top-right and find saved applications under the Your Applications header)

Frequently asked questions

Does a group have to have a 501(c)3, incorporated status or a fiscal sponsor to receive funding? (spoiler alert: NO!)

No, the Grassroots Fund does not require that a group has a formal tax exempt status. We fund both informal (unincorporated) groups - we call them “ad hoc” - and formal (incorporated or 501c3 status) groups. The only requirement is that a group must have a checking account in the group’s name or have a fiscal sponsor. This is to ensure that the grant isn't considered personal income for the recipient. Note that a group is allowed to submit an application before having a checking account or a fiscal agent in place.

How can an unincorporated community volunteer group open a bank account in the group's name?

In order to open a bank account to deposit funds, the bank may request an Employee Identification Number (EIN) be assigned for identification purposes.  A Community Volunteer Group can request an EIN number online by following these steps:

  • Go to this IRS Website
  • Click on Apply Online Now (near the bottom of the page)
  • Click on Begin Application (near the bottom of the page)
  • When you get to the list of the type of group, check the View Additional Types box at the bottom of the list, then hit Continue
  • Choose Community or Volunteer Group, then Continue
  • Click on the Continue button
  • Fill out all of the applicable information for the group

What kind of projects does the Grassroots Fund support?

The Grassroots Fund's Guiding Practices highlight some of the process elements we aim to prioritize in our funding. The Guiding Practices focus on centering just transition, shifting power, equity in participation, accessing resources and connecting across the community. We understand no single project will be able to excel in all areas, but we seek to engage in conversations about who makes decisions, how priorities are set and who is able to participate. Those are questions we ask ourselves about our own programs & projects as well. 
The Fund interprets the word ‘environment’ broadly and will provide funding for a wide range of activities. Please don't hesitate to contact us if you want to discuss a project idea or if you are looking for feedback on an application 
Grassroots Fund grants cannot be used for retroactive expenses, lobbying purposes, micro-/re-grant programs, or large capital acquisitions. Grassroots Fund grants are not available for individuals or for-profits.

What is the difference between a Seed, a Grow and a Young Leader grant?

If you are working to launch a newly evolving project (generally active less than 2 years), go with Seed. If you are an established group with some experience with the project and are looking for support to deepen or broaden the work, then Grow is more appropriate. The Young Leader grant program is designed to support efforts that give meaningful leadership roles to people under the age of 25. Don't hesitate to contact us for help deciding betweent the grant programs.

What should a group do about the grant report if a grant hasn't been spent after one year?

The group should fill out an interim report one year after the original deadline. Complete the regular Grant Report form, note that it is an interim report, and include whatever budget information is appropriate. Then, once the grant is fully expended, submit the final Grant Report. This report should include a complete budget breakdown on the use of the grant funds.

What should a group do if it doesn't need the full grant to complete the work (or disbands before the funds are spent)? 

The group should fill out a final Grant Report and return the remaining money to the Grassroots Fund by check. We will use the funds to support other grassroots groups across the region!

How many times can a group receive funding from the Grassroots Fund?

That depends. There is no set limit. Factors that go into a funding decision include: whether or not the group is changing and growing, or if it is applying for the same project; whether or not the Grassroots Fund is the only source of funding or if there is a (growing) number of sources; and the specific use/need for funding. If you are unsure whether or not your group should apply again, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Why are there demographic questions in the application process?

In Grassroots Fund’s commitment to environmental justice, we are focusing our efforts in making sure that grant funds are reaching community organizers and organizations whose voices and identities are most often underfunded. This most strongly shows up as we think about what it means to Shift Power. Grantees who have scored high in this particular guiding practice emphasize needing to understand who is in their community and who is in their organization’s leadership. They do so by seeking to understand their leadership’s lived experiences. As our application is built to provide reflection points for groups to think about how they are organizing, we have added additional questions to think about who is present in your group. We also will use this information to better understand who is receiving funding and how we can better focus our efforts to ensure our funding dollars are leading towards greater environmental justice.

We similarly ask these questions in our volunteer sign ups to better ensure that the lived experiences of folks who are traditionally left out of decision making spaces are centered in our participatory review process, including our community reader program and grantmaking committee.