Guide to the Community Responsive Grants (RFP 3)

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PCEF's Community Responsive Grant program (RFP 3) supports planning and implementation projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve climate resiliency in ways that advance economic, social, and climate justice for our under-resourced communities.
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Thank you for your interest in the Portland Clean Energy Fund’s (PCEF) Community Responsive Grant program, Request for Proposals #3 (RFP 3). This funding cycle is part of the inaugural Climate Investment Plan (CIP) and is aimed at supporting planning and implementation projects that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve climate resilience in ways that advance racial and social justice. The CIP includes 16 Strategic Programs (SP) and this Community Responsive Grant (CRG) program. In most circumstances organizations may apply to both the CRG and one or more SPs. For example, an affordable housing provider that is building a new regulated multi-family building can access funds through SP 1. If that same provider wants to retrofit an existing building, they can apply through the CRG program. 

These pages provide important details about the funding levels, eligibility, review process, and scoring criteria for RFP 3. Application questions can be accessed through the PCEF online application portal, WebGrants. The PCEF program also holds weekly office hours and provides technical assistance sessions during the open application period.

Sign up for technical assistance

Please note: because it will take 1-2 business days for your WebGrants account registration to be approved, the deadline to register for an account is January 25. The deadline to apply for a grant is February 1.

Language access

The Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund (PCEF) is committed to providing meaningful access to our information and materials to all Portlanders. We recognize that people interested in PCEF may have different interests and needs. If you would like support with interpretation, translation, alternative formats, or other accessibility services, please click the relevant link below and fill out a brief survey:

Before you apply

Please read the following information on this page before you apply for a grant. 

Who can apply

You must be a qualified nonprofit organization and meet each of the following requirements:

  1. Designated by the Federal government as a 501(c) or 521(a) nonprofit entity.
  2. Registered and certified with the Oregon Secretary of State as a nonprofit organization.
  3. NOT on the Oregon Department of Justice list of Disqualified Charities.

Qualified nonprofit organizations do not need to be located within the city of Portland but all projects with physical improvements must be located within the city of Portland and workforce and contractor development projects must be located within the Portland Metropolitan Area.

If you are a new organization and do not meet the 501(c) or 521(a) designation requirement, or are seeking additional administrative capacity, you may apply for a PCEF grant with a fiscal sponsor. A fiscal sponsor is an eligible nonprofit organization that provides support for managing a grant.

PCEF priority populations

PCEF focuses investments in climate action by giving priority to people that have been historically under-resourced by sustainability, climate action, and clean energy programs. These groups are known as priority populations and include, but are not limited to:

  • People with low incomes
  • People of color
  • People living with disabilities

Priority populations are referenced in application questions and considered in scoring applications. It is important that grant applicants specify the priority populations that relate to their projects. For example, women, transgender people, and others facing gender or sex-based discrimination in the workplace are considered priority populations for workforce development projects because they’ve historically been excluded from workforce opportunities.

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Types of grants

Planning grants. These grants support organizations in conducting assessments or planning needed to develop a full project proposal. Eligible activities may include:

  • Research and learning
  • Feasibility/technical evaluation and consultation
  • Community outreach and education
  • Collaboration and partnership building

Planning grants cannot be used for costs associated with project implementation activities, like training community members on how to reduce their energy usage. Receiving a planning grant does not guarantee future project funding. Planning grants should be completed within two years.

PCEF expects to award $400,000 - $700,000 in planning grants with the following thresholds: 

  • Up to $100,000 for project planning and development of known physical improvement that will reduce GHGs and advance climate justice.  
  • Up to $50,000 for planning, community engagement, and education to identify opportunities for specific communities to benefit from/participate in climate action. 

Implementation grants. These grants can be used for projects that advance economic, social, and climate justice. Projects can include physical improvements (e.g., weatherization, solar installations, tree planting, or regenerative agriculture) and/or non-physical activities (e.g., workforce training). Ways that grant funds can be used include:

  • Pay for staff time
  • Contracted work
  • Purchasing equipment
  • Purchasing materials and supplies
  • Costs associated with fulfilling program requirements (e.g., additional insurance or reporting)
  • Other items needed to complete the project

Some planning can be a part of an implementation grant application, but implementation must be the primary focus of the application. Implementation grants should be completed within five years.

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Categories and availability of funding

RFP 3 offers $40-$60 million in grant funds. About 30 grants will be awarded in RFP 3.

  • 5 to 10 planning grants
  • 10 to 20 small implementation grants
  • 10 to 20 large implementation grants

A combination of planning grants, and both small and large implementation grants will be awarded from this RFP. The application, review process and grant terms for small and large implementation grants is identical. The reason for setting target numbers by grant size is to ensure a mix of small and large projects and to ensure space for smaller organizations. Planning grants have a similar application and review process but a shorter grant term.

Organizations can apply for multiple grants in the funding cycle and within any, or multiple, funding category(ies). Projects must fall under one or more of the following categories: energy efficiency and renewable energy, transportation decarbonization, regenerative agriculture, green infrastructure, workforce and contractor development, and other projects that reduce GHG emissions.

Energy efficiency and renewable energy. Includes renewable energy, storage, and energy efficiency projects on/in residential buildings, nonprofit occupied commercial buildings (can be privately owned), and community solar that benefits low-income Portland residents. All energy efficiency and renewable energy projects must reduce GHG emissions.

Total expected funding is $20 to $30 million.

  • Large grant cap: $10 million
  • Small grant cap: $2 million

Green infrastructure. Includes planting, establishment, and maintenance of trees; restoration, depaving, planting, and establishing native plants and shrubs; and green roofs. All green infrastructure projects must reduce GHGs.

Total expected funding is $1 to $3 million.

  • Large grant cap: $1 million
  • Small grant cap: $200,000

Regenerative agriculture. Includes projects that improve access to local food, fibers, and materials using practices that sequester carbon in the soil and support a healthier urban environment.

Total expected funding is $5 to $9 million.

  • Large grant cap: $1 million
  • Small grant cap: $200,000

Workforce and contractor development (WCD). There are three general areas of work within the workforce and contractor development funding area:

  • Workforce training includes pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship, and other job training programs that help to diversify the green workforce with a focus on programs with direct job placement and workers in the construction trades involved in building energy efficiency and renewable energy.
  • Contractor development includes technical assistance and other support such as business grants to help develop, build, and grow diverse contractors and businesses that provide climate-focused goods and services.
  • Youth education and exposure includes youth education and engagement that increases knowledge of, and interest in, careers in climate work.

Total expected funding is $5 to $7 million.

  • Workforce training or contractor development
    • Large grant cap: $2 million
    • Small grant cap: $500,000
  • Youth education and exposure
    • Grant cap: $400,000

Transportation decarbonization. Includes projects that support transportation electrification, and those that support mode shifting to active transportation. All transportation decarbonization projects must reduce GHGs.

Total expected funding is $10 to $20 million.

  • Large grant cap: $4 million
  • Small grant cap: $500,000

Other. Includes projects that do not fall into one of the above categories but supports program goals of reducing GHG emissions and advancing racial and social justice.

Total expected funding is $400,000.

Planning grants (all areas of work)

Total expected funding is $400,000 to $700,000.

  • Up to $100,000 for project planning and development of known physical improvement that will reduce GHGs and advance racial and social justice within one of PCEF funding categories.
  • Up to $50,000 for planning, community engagement, and education to identify opportunities for specific communities to benefit from/participate in climate action. Eligible expenses include staff time, technical, planning, and facilitation consulting services.
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Use of funds

It is important to thoroughly review and understand how grant funds can be used before applying. Please see the Uses of funds page and review each funding category's page for additional detail. Uses of funds provides information about common questions, including information on allowable expenses that often are not allowed by other funders but may be critical to addressing climate justice as well as activities that are not eligible for funding. We encourage applicants to think creatively when designing projects that meet climate justice goals. 

View uses of funds 

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How to apply

Grant applications will be submitted using an online portal.

Apply for a Community Responsive Grant

In certain circumstances, based on need, applications may be submitted by emailing materials or by mailing in hard copies. All applicants will need to provide detailed project information and budget along with organization financials and references.

Video supplements. In addition to the required application information, applicants may choose to include a video of up to seven minutes to help tell their story. The video is not a requirement. If you do choose to include a video, please remember:

  • Videos should be 5 to 7 minutes long.
  • Limit background and/or ambient noise to ensure we can hear you clearly.
  • Limit camera shake and movement.
  • Upload your video to a file sharing site, such as YouTube or Vimeo and paste the link into your PCEF grant application.
  • Include any information (such as a password) needed to access the video.
  • Your video link must be live and accessible for 90 days after the application due date.
  • Please do not create a highly produced video; your application will not be judged on the quality or production value of your video.
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