Small Grants for Smart Growth

Do you want to survey your community about future development in town?

Do you want to engage your neighbors on improving local housing options?

Do you need to run an ad to demonstrate community support for a project?

Small Grants for Smart Growth, launched in 2018, provides seed money for community-based initiatives related to smart growth.

These include advocacy for better land use through municipal planning, regulations, or advocacy in the permit process, and smart growth initiatives in the following areas: downtown and/or village center development or revitalization; transportation; housing; and conservation, including agriculture, forestry, and historic preservation.

Grants are expected to be in the range of $500-$1,500 per project. A second year of funding may be an option for some projects. There is a simple application process and no deadline; applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

  • Who’s eligible?

    Local or multi-town entities, such as a municipality, municipal commission or committee; non-profit organization; or citizens group that is either working with a non-profit or seeking 501(c)(3) status.

    Applicants must be within the State of Vermont.

    Eligible activities

    Grants are focused on smart growth projects, including (1) advocacy for better land use through municipal planning, regulations, or advocacy in the permit process and (2) initiatives in the following areas provided they relate to Smart Growth: transportation; housing; conservation, including agriculture, forestry, and historic preservation; downtown and/or village center development or revitalization. Projects that integrate several smart growth objectives, such as housing, transportation, and land use, are especially encouraged.

    Eligible activities include citizen engagement (for example, community forum expenses), publicity, technical or consulting assistance, and demonstration projects. 

    The following activities are ineligible for grant funding: Lobbying or partisan activities, land or building acquisition, capital improvements (signs, way-finding, construction projects, bike racks), and equipment (e.g. computers, printers). 

    Eligibility hints

    • PROMOTING SMART GROWTH: Media buys and public forums to support a smart growth neighborhood plan would be eligible, but similar actions to stop smart growth development within an existing neighborhood would not.

    • TRANSPORTATION: Public engagement on a public trails system for the community or design and integration of a commuter lot into a town center would be eligible, but advocating for the Circ Highway or equivalent bypass/new highway construction would not.

    • HOUSING: Developing a strategy to incorporate additional housing, such as accessory units, into existing neighborhoods would be eligible as would the development of options for inclusionary zoning, but developing a plan for a suburban subdivision not compliant with Smart Growth policies would not.

    • EVENTS: Bringing in an expert for analysis or a charrette (a hands-on planning exercise) as part of a community event or conference would be eligible, but general funding support for conferences would not.

    Evaluation criteria

    The project or activities being proposed must:

    • Meet smart growth principles
    • Be inclusive in the engagement of the community
    • Promote a healthy, just, safe, and sustainable community
    • Work towards a lasting solution to an identified problem or opportunity
    • Be able to be completed within a one-year time frame, and
    • Have a clear focus and concrete outcomes
  • How to apply

    Please submit a two page (maximum) statement that includes all of the following:

    • Name and contact information for the applicant
    • Amount requested
    • Overall project timeline.
    • If this funding will be used for a portion of a larger project, clearly identify the portion of the project it will fund.
    • Project description. The project description should include the following:
      • The problem or opportunity that the project is attempting to address
      • The outcomes that will result from your project
      • A brief description of how this funding will catalyze your project
      • How the project complies with the “eligible activities” listed above
      • How the project addresses the six evaluation criteria, including how the project advances smart growth principles

    VNRC determines when the application is complete. As a condition of any grant, all activities are to be completed within the timeline given.  In addition, grant recipients agree to give VNRC permission to feature the project in its printed and electronic materials.  Where appropriate, grantees agree to note that the project is “Paid for with the assistance of the Small Grants for Smart Growth Fund of the Vermont Natural Resources Council.” Upon completion, a paragraph on the accomplishments, with illustrations if available, is to be submitted to VNRC who then forwards this on to the funder.


    Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Applicants will typically receive a response from VNRC within 30 days of the day we receive the application.

    Please send materials to:
    Kate McCarthy
    Sustainable Communities Program Director, Vermont Natural Resources Council


Please contact Kate McCarthy with any questions: / (802) 223-2328, x114

The Small Grants for Smart Growth Program is made possible with assistance from Beth Humstone, co-founder of the Vermont Forum on Sprawl and former VNRC board chair, and her son, Chris Gignoux.

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