Frequently Asked Questions

Updated 2/22/18.

Q: Will the Great Lakes Protection Fund support projects other than those submitted in response to this RFP? 
Yes! This RFP is developed to supplement our general funding guidelines. Other project ideas that are consistent with those guidelines are welcomed at any time. Call our Project Development Manager, Simon Bélisle at (847) 425-8193 to help you determine whether your concept is a good fit for the Fund.

Q: I have a great concept for a project, but it’s not fully formed. Can you help me flesh it out, and maybe even connect me with potential collaborators?
Yes! We welcome the opportunity to talk with people in this position, and encourage you to contact us. Please send an email to or call our Project Development Manager, Simon Bélisle at (847) 425-8193. We can help you determine whether your concept is a good fit for the Fund and develop your project to fit our investment profile. We can suggest the types of collaborators that would be valuable to involve. We have often helped connect potential collaborators.

To support this activity, we curate a talent bank of experts in a variety of fields. We encourage you to add your expertise to help future projects. If you are interested, please complete the form at

We recognize that it may be difficult to secure all team member commitments prior to the preproposal deadline. However, the team must be assembled when a full proposal is submitted in June, if a full proposal is invited.

Q: Will the Fund support significant research needed to develop promising technology?
Possibly, provided that the team plans to test how that technology enables behavior that improves the health of the Lakes and to identify the users/purchasers of the technology. It is unlikely that the Fund will support a research team that is not ready to deploy their technology, test it in a real-world setting, and have a credible case for growing adoption during the project period. The Fund is most interested in testing technology-enabled strategies, not simply building new technologies.

Q: I have a project idea related to the Fund’s Request for Preproposals but it was not included in the illustrative project descriptions. Can I still submit a preproposal?
Yes. We welcome preproposals for any projects that are consistent with our general funding guidelines and that align with the Governors’ priorities. We expect that many teams will propose different and better ideas than those presented as illustrations. The list of projects is meant to be illustrative of the types of project ideas that teams could consider and improve upon. It should not be considered an exhaustive or exclusive list.

Q: My company has created an innovative product/process that benefits the environment. With an award from the Fund, we would install it in multiple locations, monitor its performance and educate people about its effectiveness. Is this a project of interest?
Possibly. When the Fund supports pilot or demonstration projects, we seek to test an innovative behavior (at one or more locations) so that an identified audience will act on the result—adopting or improving that behavior. In other words, our support launches initiatives and puts them on a path to scale.

A key factor for the Fund is the nature of the adopter audience, their involvement in the project, their willingness to act on the results, and whether the pilot removes a barrier to significant action—with the ultimate goal of tangible improvement to the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem. The inability to attract paying customers may be a signal that there is not a match between the product and its intended market, and that the audience is not ready.

One of the consistent pieces of advice we received when consulting experts was that funded projects need to focus on technology-enabled strategies, not simply technology. In other words, technology can help us do fundamentally new things, and the projects should focus on the new actions, with the technology, devices, and software used as a catalyst. We encourage applicants to demonstrate the strategy where technology can be a necessary, but likely not sufficient, element of the project.

Q: How much funding do you plan to award in response to this announcement?
The Fund may invest up to $3 million in new awards in 2018.

Q: How much money should I ask for?
Budget requests should reflect the full amount of funds necessary to complete the proposed work. Past awards have ranged from $20,000 to $1.5 million. Matching funds are not necessary. If the team has acquired additional funds, please indicate that in the budget section of the preproposal.

Q: My project will likely result in the creation of new intellectual property. What is the Fund’s approach in those circumstances?
Teams should familiarize themselves with the Fund’s Intellectual Property Policy. If the project will create products that could be patented or copyrighted, please describe in your preproposal what you expect to create and how you will treat the creation of new Intellectual Property. Applicants selected to receive awards are required to execute an agreement that includes compliance with reporting requirements and the IP Policy.

Q: What is a reasonable timeline for a project?
Projects should last as long as necessary to complete the work. Multi-year support is common.

Q: Are Canadian institutions eligible to apply?
Yes, the Fund can award support to institutions based in the United States or internationally, including Canada.

Q: Does my organization need to be located within the Great Lakes Basin or in a Great Lakes state to qualify for funding?
No. Activities affecting the basin’s ecosystem are becoming increasingly distant in space and time from the Lakes themselves. The solutions will be as well. However, regardless of where the work is taking place, or by whom, the project must have the result of benefiting the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Q: Is this your only funding round this year? When is the next funding opportunity?
The Fund accepts preproposals at any time. Submittals are reviewed upon receipt throughout the year. As a matter of course, the Projects and Grant Making Committee of our Board of Directors meets quarterly to evaluate preproposals, and to decide whether to invite or decline submission of a full proposal. More details about our typical timeline can be found on Submitting an Idea (scroll down for the timeline). The simplest advice is to email or call us before submitting your idea.

Q: What happens after I submit a preproposal? What’s the process I should expect?
Your preproposal will first be evaluated by the Project and Grant Making Committee. They will decide whether to invite the submission of a full proposal, or decline the request. If you are invited to submit a full proposal, the Fund will provide individualized guidance for the content of your full proposal based on the nature of the proposed work. Typically, about five weeks are provided to develop your initial full proposal, during which time we will have several conversations to provide the information and support your team needs in developing your submittal.

Once the Fund receives your full proposal, Fund staff and a panel of outside technical reviewers with relevant expertise will review your submittal. You will then receive additional, customized guidance based on those reviews and will be asked submit a revised proposal. Typically, about two weeks are provided for these revisions, and we are here to support you in the finalization of the submittal.

The Projects and Grant Making Committee then reviews the final, fully compiled information and presents a funding recommendation to the Board of Directors.


Illustrative Projects

The Fund presents the following examples as concepts of projects and idea starters, not as a wish list that must be followed. These illustrations build on expert advice the Fund has received and typically target multiple priorities (both Gubernatorial and from the Fund’s enquiry), and are built around tests of new actions. The Fund encourages creativity and is always looking for good ideas that meet its mission and funding guidelines. For additional information on projects funded by the Fund, please visit:

  • Test operating models to make networked, technology-enabled, autonomous, stormwater management solutions operable, attractive, and cost-effective for municipalities, counties, drain commissions and/or stormwater/wastewater utilities. Teams could explore how to design, deploy, maintain, operate and finance networks of sensors, actuators and other devices to actively manage storm runoff during rainfall events to drive better flow conditions and improve chemical water quality.
  • Reduce the release of plastic fibers into the Great Lakes by deploying filters or other retrofits for home laundries, designing better clothing and laundry equipment, and identifying positive consumer choices for better fabrics. A consortium of apparel manufacturers, appliance manufacturers, water utilities and other experts/stakeholders would lead this work to decrease the load of these contaminants to the Great Lakes.
  • Using networked stormwater management, bundle capacity on commercial spaces (office parks, big box stores) to create improvements for urban rain event management, inform land-use decisions and reduce pressure on stormwater infrastructure. A consortium of engineers, building owners/managers, utility professionals and environmental organizations would undertake the work to solve a specific water quality issue.
  • Design and test underwriting criteria in pay-for-performance systems that contribute to adoption of green infrastructure strategies. These projects would identify methods to connect perceived land use improvements with realized and measurable ecological outcomes, and be specific and reliable enough form the basis of performance contracts. Ideally, these would be tested in a pay-for-performance setting.
  • Design and test financing and project development techniques that entities such as port districts, utilities, and other existing units of government could use to support restoration activities. Such a project might test port-based/driven strategies to reduce runoff/sedimentation, manage sediments differently, and redeploy land assets.
  • Return stream channels, flood plains, and coastal areas to a more natural state, restore connections between surface and ground waters to return a more natural flow regime to basin tributaries, and restore coastal, riparian or upper watershed wetlands, with a demonstrated impact on pollutants entering the Great Lakes basin and the flow regimes of basin tributaries.
  • Launch a series of programs with drain districts/counties to cooperatively manage, monitor and monetize reductions in runoff from severe storms, sediment and nutrient loading. Demonstrate how cover crops, pervasive sensors, new fee structures and adaptive management improve the health of water resources.
  • Finance a restoration project by using tax increment financing techniques—using a portion of the future increased tax revenue to re-pay locally issued bonds. Such a project could scope how to create ecosystem service districts, the mechanisms associated with tax increment financing, and model approaches for various impairments including sewer infrastructure, dredging, and wetland restoration.
  • Design and test one or more financial intermediaries that provide access to capital markets for entities undertaking efforts to restore water quality and flow conditions of biotic integrity. Such entities could be thought of as “restoration-based” community development financial institutions. Such an institution could aggregate funds from the capital markets, political subdivisions with bonding authority, or appropriations, and provide a set of services that might include micro-finance for not-for-profits or landowners to carry out restoration actions, create a portfolio of loans to share risks, or hold revolving loan fund capitalization grants.
  • Create and test financial assurance products that enable better methods of draining agricultural fields that restore a more natural pattern of stream flow, connection within watersheds or subwatersheds, better response to extreme weather events and/or enhanced nutrient runoff control. Such products would offset the risks of late fertilizer application or other delayed field work.

Return to the RFP page.