Funding Guidelines

The Fund is a mission-based investor. We fund projects because of their expected benefits to the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem and use several criteria to evaluate project ideas:

Meaningful Ecological Outcomes

Projects must identify ecological improvements that are real, significant and of regional consequence.

Real improvements are results that can be measured and are growing in the ecosystem. This is achieved through actions. Results are measured by outcomes on the ground and in the water.

Improvements are significant if they target physical, chemical, or biological impairment issues that currently are unaddressed. This is achieved through strategies that reframe a key issue and that energetically capitalize on big changes underway in society, the economics of the activity, or the underlying science involved.

Improvements of regional consequence are system-wide environmental outcomes. This is achieved through strategies that employ compelling pilot demonstrations that make achieving regional scale inevitable.

A Collaborative Team

The Fund supports teams that include all of the parties connected with the issue. Collaboration for us means the participation of the designers, implementers, experts, advisors, and the end users who are most likely to take the results and make a difference. It also includes the naysayers; the people who might be opposed to an innovative approach to an issue. Their voices should be heard and their opinions will shape stronger solutions.

Solution Focus and Action Orientation

The Fund supports projects that prototype new approaches to Great Lakes problems. Actions taken at one place in the basin serve as a demonstration, not a result. The most impactful teams learn by doing and adapt based on what they have learned. Being adaptive is key to developing strategies that will scale basin-wide.

Actions are just that—activities that teams try on the land or in the water to solve a regional problem. The Fund is interested in several categories of actions:

  • Modifications of a current approach or application of a technique in a different setting;
  • Testing approaches in an area where no one has yet acted; or
  • Activities that change the economics of a product, market or industry.

A Strategy for System-wide Change

Projects must have a compelling strategy to drive change at the scale necessary to create basin-wide impact. Successful teams empower those who will take the next set of actions by using market forces, new social norms, and systemic change to take their work to scale.

Scientific Rigor

Projects must be based in sound science, utilize the results of existing research and apply the skills of the scientific community. The Fund will only support scientific or policy research that is part of a larger action strategy.

Eligibility and Award Information

The Fund can support team almost anywhere in the world. This includes for-profit businesses, non-profit organizations, universities, governmental agencies, and individuals.

Teams do not need to be located within the Great Lakes region, but all funded projects must have a positive environmental impact on the Great Lakes basin ecosystem. Government agencies must show that Fund support is not being used to replace or duplicate public funds.

Applicants selected to receive a grant will be required to comply with our Intellectual Property Policy.

One last note on our funding guidelines: the Fund does not support advocacy, lobbying, litigation, compliance obligations, land acquisition, public works projects, or general operating expenses.

Please visit our Submitting an Idea section for more information about evaluation criteria and eligibility.