Great Lakes Protection Fund Grant

Great Lakes Protection Fund

Grant amount: US $20,000 - US $1,600,000

Next deadline: Oct 31, 2018 (Pre proposal)

Later deadlines: Jan 31, 2019 (Pre proposal), Apr 30, 2019 (Pre proposal), Jul 31, 2019 (Pre proposal)

Applicant type: Nonprofit For-Profit Business Government Entity College / University Individuals

Funding uses: Research, Applied Project / Program

Location of project: Canada, Michigan, Lake County, Illinois, Counties in Indiana: Adams County, Allen County Expand all

Location of residency: United States

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NOTE: We strongly encourage you to contact our program staff to discuss an idea, whether fully formed or not, to begin the application process.

The Great Lakes Protection Fund is looking for new ideas, new projects and new cohorts of people to catalyze a transition to a new era of water systems. Water systems are the built infrastructure, the natural landscapes, and the operating rules that govern how water moves, what moves in water and what moves on water. Improved water systems will better solve a range of problems that vex our current systems, including: reducing nutrient-driven harmful algae blooms, better handling of large rainstorms, being adaptable to changing economic and demographic conditions, and providing better value for the money we will invest in them.

  • In this new era, we envision water systems that will increasingly:
  • employ natural design principles, coupling built and natural systems seamlessly,
  • be valued as community assets by the people that pay for and benefit from them,
  • be smarter, enabled by technology to be integrated and interoperable, and
  • be future proof, attracting creative ideas and entrepreneurial talent to meet the needs of changing demographics, new uses, new users and new stresses.

The Fund has already invested in teams working to pilot strategies to drive some of these changes. We want to expand that portfolio, adding efforts that, for example, test new solutions to urban storm water and rural drainage, integrate water management, test watershed approaches, prototype new ways to manage coastal processes, and demonstrate other strategies to create the building blocks for the next generation of water systems in the basin. We want to find, and fund, people to lead the way. The Fund is interested in your best ideas, even if you feel they may not be preproposal ready.

We are looking for project teams that will try a new approach to managing water that, when successful, will cause others to change how they manage their water. Teams are encouraged to try something new, by people who have never teamed up before, to rework the system in a way that makes better sense to everyone. Showing how these strategies can be implemented, in real places, is more powerful than desktop research, policy analysis, or planning activities alone.

Funding Guidelines

The Fund is a mission-based investor. The ultimate criterion used to select projects is the anticipated benefit to the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

To that end, projects must meet several criteria.

Meaningful Ecological Outcomes

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

Here is what we mean:

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.

Significant improvements target physical, chemical and/or biological impairment issues that currently are unaddressed. This is achieved through strategies that reframe a key issue or behavior and that often 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 a path to 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 not only the designers, implementers, experts and advisors, but also the naysayers and the end users who are most likely to take the results and make a difference.

Solution Focus and Action Orientation

The Fund supports projects that take concrete actions to prototype new approaches to Great Lakes problems. Actions taken at a specific 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.

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:

  • Actions can be a modification of a current approach or a unique application of a technique to a different setting;
  • Actions can test approaches in an area where no one has yet acted; or
  • Actions can be 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.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • The Great Lakes Protection Fund can support a wide variety of applicants based in the United States or internationally.
    • non-profit organizations
    • universities
    • governmental agencies
    • individuals
    • for-profit businesses
  • The applicant does not need to be located within the Great Lakes region to be eligible. However, the proposed project concept must identify positive environmental impact to the Great Lakes basin ecosystem.
  • Government agencies must show that Fund support is not being used to replace or duplicate public funds.
  • The Fund is able to employ a variety of funding instruments including cash grants, convertible grants, debt, equity or some combination. 


  • The governors of the Great Lakes states have asked the Fund’s board to keep innovations in sustainable water management as a top Fund priority.
  • Our funding guidelines help bridge the governors’ nine priority areas (presented to Congress) to the ongoing discovery of catalytic solutions for the Great Lakes. Those priorities are:
    • Ensure the sustainable use of our water resources while confirming that the States retain authority over water use and diversions of Great Lakes waters.
    • Promote programs to protect human health against adverse effects of pollution in the Great Lakes ecosystem.
    • Continue to reduce the introduction of persistent bioaccumulative toxics into the Great Lakes ecosystem.
    • Stop the introduction and spread of non-native aquatic invasive species.
    • Enhance fish and wildlife by restoring and protecting coastal wetlands, fish and wildlife habitats.
    • Restore to environmental health the Areas of Concern identified by the International Joint Commission as needing remediation.
    • Control pollution from diffuse sources into water, land and air.
    • Standardize and enhance the methods by which information is collected, recorded and shared within the region.
    • Adopt sustainable use practices that protect environmental resources and may enhance the recreational and commercial value of our Great Lakes.
  • The Fund supports the governors’ shared vision to test new ways to improve the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the region’s waters, making the Great Lakes more valuable and the states more prosperous.


  • The Fund does not provide support for the following categories of activities:
    • general operating support
    • advocacy
    • lobbying
    • litigation
    • compliance obligations
    • land acquisition
    • public works projects