A Roadmap to Climate Change Grants

Applying for grants can seem intimidating, especially when navigating the different types of funding (e.g., federal vs. state), eligibility requirements, and determining which grants are most suitable to support your organization’s work. It can sometimes feel like an endless rabbit hole. While the grant application process seems daunting, it’s not all doom and gloom. 

As a part of our mission to create positive change and to honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s work, SGA conducted research to help make information and tools about the grant application process more accessible to community-based organizations. This blog lists out considerations to get you started, where to search for applicable grants, and how to begin planning for the actual application process. We’ve also included a list of 22 grants that you could apply for as a climate-related organization!

Get Ready! Here’s Your Checklist to Get the Grant

The first important step when searching for funding is to determine the scope of your project and what specific activities need to be funded. Once you’ve figured out what your project will entail and how much funding you would need, then you can determine the type of grant that would be most appropriate for your organization’s efforts. 

Eligibility is another important consideration when beginning the grant identification process. When searching for grants, it’s important to keep in mind who can receive the funding. Sometimes your organization can apply to receive direct funding and other times, you can apply by association with larger organizations that are eligible.

Key Tips
  • Determine the scope of your project
  • Determine the appropriate grant type
  • Determine avenues for collaboration/partnership –
    • If you’re not eligible to apply directly, you can often apply with another agency. 
Training Resources

Databases to Explore, Key Tips and More

As you determine the type of funding that would best fit your project, you’ll likely find that grants are organized into state versus federal funding. There are various types of search portals, websites, and databases that you can explore based on whether you need state or federal funding.

Here are some grant search portals to get you started.

Key Tips
  • Take advantage of powerful keyword tools on various databases
    • Use filters to further narrow your search (e.g., grant amount)
    • Use keyword searches (e.g., air pollution )
  • Sign up for newsletters to get the most up-to-date information about specific grant opportunities

From Grant Preparation to Grant Application

Once you’ve found the appropriate grant to apply to, you’ll need to prepare action items and a general timeline to keep your organization on track for grant deadlines. Take a look at your grant’s application requirements to understand what materials are needed and when they are due. Some grants require pre-application concept letters and early deadlines.

Here are some grant application resources to get you started.

To make the grant process even easier, we’ve also compiled a list of grants available for climate-focused non-profits.

Key Tips
  • Before applying, thoroughly read the grant application requirements
  • Create a timeline for deadlines
    • List the materials and steps of action that need to happen leading up to the final submission of the grant application.

The grant application process can be overwhelming, but always remember that other organizations are working towards the same goals who you can apply with. Once you get started, there is only more that you can learn from there, helping you get closer to fulfilling your organization’s goals and mission of making a difference in your community.

SGA’s ‘Whistle While You Work’ Vol. 1

Every week the Economist magazine (one of my favorite reads) puts together a music playlist to go along with their insightful, often cutting and highly influential articles about the world and economics (their most recent cover story on China’s President Xi Jinping, resulted in their website being blocked).

Well, at SGA, we love our music and while we might not make it onto China’s blacklist, we thought, why not create a playlist to help influence some positive change here at home.

So here goes, some music to do a little social marketing by. Tap your toes as we help build a better world.

SGA’s “Whistle While You Work” Vol. 1

STAFF Songs in Playlist (Title/Artist)
Adam Quinn The Temptation of Adam” by Josh Ritter
Andy Luo Knock You Down” by Keri Hilson
Carolina Gonzalez “Don’t Want to Fight” by Alabama Shakes
Chris Koenig Hold on, Hold on” by Neko Case
Dani Schmulevich Beautiful Life” by James Morrison
Erin Rode Ragged Wood” by Fleet Foxes
Basil Mangra “Stella”  by Jam and Spoon
Jackie Ayala “Spottieottiedopaliscious” by Outkast
Judy Seitelman Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Sara Bareilles
Rachel Dowd “Who You Are” by Jessie J
Rose Solis “Work” by Rihanna
Sarah Catallo “Worry” by Jack Garratt
Stephen Groner “So What” by Miles Davis
Thomas Kim “If I’m Unworthy” by Blake Mills
Whitney Schmucker “Hurricane” by Halsey

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The Secret Weapon to Motivating Change

In a sunny Southern California subdivision just outside of San Diego in 2003, a bunch of graduate students slipped into a quiet neighborhood and started reading electric meters. They were looking for an almost invisible force that was getting people to use less energy in their homes. And while they had a hypothesis, they needed hard facts, and what they were finding was surprising.

Like many of us who work with behavior change, the graduate students knew that figuring out how to get people to change is hard. It’s even harder when it comes to environmental issues. Why? Because the people who most need to change (i.e., non-environmentalists) are the ones least interested in making sacrifices for the planet.

In my previous blog Not All Motivators are Created Equal, I discussed the reasons environmental issues like climate change, water pollution and water conservation are such tough sells. Here, I’ll talk about a secret weapon to make those hard sells a bit easier.

Back to the graduate students lurking around people’s homes. The experiment actually began weeks earlier, when the grad students showed residents four versions of a brochure, each with a different motivation for saving energy and asked which one would motivate them most to use less electricity:

  1. Energy conservation helps protect the environment
  2. Saving energy saves you money
  3. Energy conservation is the socially responsible thing to do
  4. Your neighbors are already conserving energy

The most motivating message turned out to be protecting the environment, followed social responsibility, money and the neighbors. Great news, right?

Not so fast. The grad students then randomly placed door hangers with one of the four motivational messages at houses in a different part of the community. Every week for the next month, they returned to read the electric meters at each house to see how the door hanger may have influenced each resident’s energy consumption.

When the researchers tabulated the results, something strange happened. The results were almost exactly the opposite of what the residents had said in the first part of the experiment. Environmental protection and social responsibility had the least impact on energy use, and cost savings did only slightly better. The message about what their neighbors were doing (i.e., the social norm) had by far the best results. In fact, the households that had received the social norm message showed nearly a 10 percent reduction in energy use over the other three. Even more impressively, these savings continued after a month.

So what’s the moral of the story? First, we aren’t so great at predicting what actually influences our behavior. This is important to remember when conducting focus groups or market research. Second, while we like to think of ourselves as high minded and independent (especially in a culture where free-spiritedness is celebrated), much of what we actually do is influenced by the actions of those around us.

When putting together a program to motivate people about environmental issues, it is best to highlight the positive actions other people are already taking. Create materials that provide social proof or show an overall social norm. For most of us, real change isn’t about big ideas. It’s about the simple actions we are all taking. And as individuals, we don’t normally stray too far from the herd.

Not All Motivators are Created Equal [Guide]

In the late 1960s, Stanford University professor Walter Michel began his now classic “Marshmallow Experiments.” He offered four and five year olds a choice: they could have one marshmallow now (he put it in front of them) or, if they could wait 15 minutes, he would give them a second marshmallow.

Not surprisingly, most of the kids couldn’t wait and gobbled down their one marshmallow. But a few did show restraint. What Michel observed was that the ones that waited had found ways to distract themselves and focus on something else for the 15 minutes.

Michel followed these kids throughout school, college and into early adult life and found that those few kids that could delay gratification on average did much better in school, at work, and even in their marriage than those who gobbled down that first marshmallow.

Delayed gratification pays off. But it’s also hard, which is why we struggle to save money for retirement, exercise for long-term health and balance modern life with environmental impact. Smart behavior change campaigns have to overcome this difficulty all the time. Most people can understand the long-term benefit of change. It’s just that the far-away benefit is not as compelling a motivation as the small and immediate barriers and motivators.

For example, let’s take clean water. Many people will say that they are motivated to keep our creeks, rivers and oceans clean. That’s a big motivator. But when faced with the choice to pick up after their dog to keep the water clean, personal barriers (I don’t have a bag, other people leave theirs) and motivators (I want to be a good neighbor, this protects my kids) become far more powerful.

The fact is, we can’t focus on the big long-term motivators all the time. There’s too much uncertainty attached to them and the seductive gratification of our current behaviors is very compelling.

So how do we get around this seeming paradox? We shift our thinking about what makes a motivator effective. Most behavior change campaigns focus on the ultimate goal–the big environmental change or societal improvement that will occur if we just stay determined. To change behavior in a lasting way, we need to focus on short-term wins and immediate gains.

My next blog will show you the secret motivator to bringing about change in a meaningful way!

Public Education Isn’t About Education [Guide]

At first glance, public education seems pretty easy. You educate the public with all of the reasons they should or shouldn’t do something; the public embraces the logic you’ve so simply laid out and changes their behavior. Well done.

Here’s the problem. Education does not equal behavior change. Increasing knowledge removes an information barrier, but it doesn’t necessarily morph into a motivation to change.

We saw this first hand in the 1990s with teen anti-smoking campaigns. For years, teen smoking had been stubbornly increasing, and conventional wisdom figured young people just didn’t know how bad it was for them. Thanks to a $200 million settlement from the major tobacco, programs suddenly had the funding to blanket high school and college kids with information on the health effects of tobacco.

So Harvard economics professor W. Kip Viscusi began studying the results and found that the programs were definitely educating teens. These young people had become fully fluent in the health risks of smoking. Success! Except that smoking rates didn’t decline—they actually increased! Even more ironic? They teens who had just picked up the habit overestimated the risks to their health by almost 50%!

What’s going on here? In this case, a teen learns that smoking could cause him to die at 75 rather than 81. Well, that may not mean that much at 17. And when compared with the strong motivation to rebel against adult thinking, it may mean even less. What these public education campaigns missed was that behavior change results from removing barriers to change while providing your audience with their motivation to take action.

A lack of knowledge may be a barrier to change, but just putting out information doesn’t change minds or behaviors. It’s still important, of course. Think of your most recent New Year’s resolution. You had to be aware of the problem to even make the resolution to change. But if you have any hope of keeping the resolution alive past February, you’ll likely need personal motivation, community support and a few other tools along the way.


Rule No. 1: Providing quality, truthful information is just the first step in behavior change campaigns.

Next up? Rule No. 2: Not all motivations are equal.

Three Myths of Happiness

In recent years, happiness has become an increasingly popular topic in the field of psychology.  But as many researchers have found, it is a tricky topic to study. Happiness is easily misread, difficult to measure, and often created by counter-intuitive actions.
One researcher at the University of California Riverside, Professor  Sonja Lyubomirsky, has made some significant strides towards understanding what makes us happy.

In her book, “The How of Happiness” she creates an interesting and somewhat counter-intuitive guide to understanding what happiness is – and what it isn’t – based on her cognitive research of thousands of individuals.

To start, her research suggests that 50% of our happiness is set based on our genes, 10% is based on life circumstances and 40% is based on intentional decision we make. So while 60% of our happiness is out of our control, 40% is in our control… and yet many of the decision we make do not align with increasing our happiness. And to compound that problem, many of the expectations of society (i.e., societal social norms) push us towards a path that actually decreases happiness. Continue reading “Three Myths of Happiness”

3 Great Communication Lessons

Last weekend I was down on Belmont Shore eating lunch with my family, when, all of a sudden, throngs of people with baby blue and white stripped soccer jerseys started piling into the bar. Argentina was about to play and the fans were amassing.

Not sure if you have caught it yet, but World Cup fever is spreading.

It’s the excitement of March Madness wrapped up in the feel of the Olympics (but on steroids). Since I grew up playing soccer and am addicted to watching, I find the World Cup an amazing study of human behavior with all kinds of lessons to be gleaned as it applies to communications and marketing. Here are my favorite three:

  1. Play to Group Identity: The World Cup combines the power of patriotism with the addiction of being a sports fan. Jonathan Haidt in his book “The Righteous Mind” talks about humans having a “Hive Switch,” in essence where people naturally move from self-identity to group identity.   It is not only a very seductive and powerful shift, but an important thing to remember when communicating with people. Reaching out to people through their group identity is an extremely powerful way to reach your audience.
  2. The Power of Emotions: I have to admit my Spanish is not very good, but when it comes to watching the World Cup, I always watch it on Univision. The announcers on Univision bring passion, excitement and emotion to the game, which just isn’t matched by the ABC/ESPN announcers who focus on the technical play of the game.  Whether it is the announcer reaching a crescendo when calling out “Peligroso, Peligroso, Peligroso!” as Lionel Messi winds up for a shot or the infamous “Goooooooooooooooooool!!!” as the ball hits the back of the net, emotions are contagious. While we like to think we decide things based on information with our thinking brain, it is our emotional brain that moves us, changes us and powers how we respond to one another. Great communication speaks to those motivations and emotions first.
  3. The Addiction of Suspense: One of the reasons I believe soccer is not so popular in the US is because there is so little scoring. The World Cup has games where the scoring is 2-1, 1-0 or heaven forbid the blasphemy of a 0-0 tie. But that is the drama of soccer. Unlike basketball or football where scoring is happening all the time (and in my opinion, the tension and suspense doesn’t build until the last quarter or more often last two minutes). In soccer a 0-0 game is often the one that is the most suspenseful. Take the Mexico – Brazil game (0-0), every shot on goal had fans on the edge of their seat as Mexican goalie Guillermo Ochoa made save after save. We are naturally drawn to suspense, we want to know what will happen, how things will change. While we always want to be clear in our communications, sometimes holding off on the punchline and building the drama of the outcome is a great way to engage your audience.

So here’s to the soccer, here’s to engaging communications, and here’s to finding an excuse to join a group of strangers on a summer day to cheer with the emotions and drama of the World Cup.
*Photo Courtesy of Oasis Culture*

Death by PowerPoint

There are plenty of reasons to hate Microsoft. But in my mind, PowerPoint isn’t one of them. Now, don’t get me wrong, it is very easy to make a bad presentation in PowerPoint and yes, Microsoft has designed PowerPoint to facilitate that by defaulting to bullet points. So no, they aren’t completely innocent.

But in general PowerPoint gets a bad rap. To mangle an old adage, PowerPoint doesn’t make bad presentations, people do.

PowerPoint actually has some pretty amazing features to help you tell your story (the essence of a great presentation) and you don’t need to know much. The problem is how people use it. I was once assisting a good sized non-profit organization with the development of a high impact presentation that they wanted to use to tell their story and bring in new members. I worked with them to think about their audience, the main points that would resonant and then stories from their work that would illustrate their points. We then collected interesting visuals to help illustrate their ideas throughout their presentation and scripted out some basic jumping off points for each slide and before we knew it, we had the makings of a pretty good presentation.

But then something curious happened. When I went back to the group and showed them the final version, a clean presentation with graphics and almost no text, the response I got back was shock and dismay. Continue reading “Death by PowerPoint”

The Psychology of Wine Tasting

At their annual conference in Princeton, New Jersey, the American Association of Wine Economists, reenacted a famous wine tasting from 1976. The study was comprised of a blind tasting of the best wines from France versus the relatively unknown but burgeoning wines from Napa Valley. The results back in ‘76, showed the Napa wines famously standing toe to toe with the very best wines from France and in many cases even beating them. This result catapulted Napa onto the oenophiles map as a preeminent region for wines.

Well, at their recent conference they decided to reenact that now famous (at least for Wine Economists) event, however, this time with a twist. This time the wine tasting panel tested the best wines from France versus America’s finest wines from the great vineyards of …New Jersey. On hand were some of the best wine judges from France, Belgium and the US to help with this unexpected tasting. Lo and behold, some of the New Jersey wines ranked second, third and fourth in the whites and third and fifth in the reds…all the while coming in at 5% the cost of their French counterparts (that would be 5% the cost, as in 1/20 the price of French wines)

So why do French wines cost 20 times what their comparable New Jersey counterparts do? Because they’re French, and general society says that French wine is the best. This is our tendency to superimpose our narrative story of the world into our sensory perception. And in honor of this quirk of our mental circuitry and in the spirit of this great research project, SGA annually conducts its own blind wine tasting. Continue reading “The Psychology of Wine Tasting”

In Social Media Age Matters

So is it any longer a surprise to say that my mom is as active on Facebook as my 15 year old son? While everyone knows that the teen and 20-somethings were the first to mark turf in Facebook and other social media platforms, it is now just as understood that the other age groups have rapidly increased their use and are quickly catching up. Now 72% of online adults use social media and those over 65 have tripled their presence in social media in the last four years according to Pew Research Center’s latest findings.

What is less understood is that the different age groups are using social media for very different purposes; but this also shouldn’t be surprising. Developmental psychology has long documented that as individuals age, they have significantly different needs both emotionally and socially. In an insightful article in MIT’s SloanReview by Professor Gerald C. Kane, he nicely outlines how five different age groups use social media and how understanding these groups will lead to better engagement.

Here is a summary of his findings:

Early adolescence (ages 13-18): Peer Pressure: Successfully identifying with a peer group.
In this group, Professor Kane points out that these teens are in the developmental stage and trying to figure out where they fit within social groups. Because of this, they are actually more reluctant than most other groups to independently like things or join groups unless their friends also do and have unsurprisingly gravitated towards mediums like Snapchat, where the messages delete after a few moments, in case they say the wrong thing or would in essence “like” what is unpopular. This lets them socialize within the group with less risk.

College-age adolescence (ages 18-24): Role Experimentation: Exploring personal and professional identities.
This age group has the most Continue reading “In Social Media Age Matters”