• December 18, 2014

Going Green

Tuesday, July 1, at 12 noon, U.S. Eastern time

Many charities are getting serious about taking steps to become more environmentally friendly in their operations -- to both protect the planet and save money.

Some are taking steps to reduce waste in their operations and cut down on their energy use. Others are taking more aggressive steps by undertaking "green" building projects.

For many groups, such moves dovetail with their social agendas -- and have the added benefit of building good will with grant makers and other donors.

What approaches can charities take to become more environmentally friendly? What are the costs of these efforts and how can your charity get access to funding? How should they publicize them to donors and the public? What should they consider before adopting "green" policies? A panel of experts will be available to answer these and other questions.

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The Guests

Cynthia L. Bailie is the director of the Foundation Center's Cleveland office and of the organization's special online initiatives. Ms. Bailie has held leadership positions in libraries and nonprofit organizations since 1991 and serves on the boards of directors for Greater Cleveland Community Shares, the greater Cleveland chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and the Village Foundation, a community foundation in Bay Village, Ohio.

Sarah S. Brophy is a consultant who helps museums, historic houses, and other cultural institutions in New England and the Mid-Atlantic become environmentally and financially sustainable through grants and green performance. She is co-author of the book The Green Museum: A Primer on Environmental Practice.

Kimberly Austin is a program associate at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. As part of her role, Ms. Austin is involved in Grants to Green, a new program that provides environmentally focused knowledge and financing to nonprofit groups in metro Atlanta. The program is a collaboration between the Community Foundation, Southface, and Enterprise Community Partners.

A transcript of the chat follows.

Cassie Moore (Moderator):
    Welcome to today's live discussion about how nonprofit groups can "go green." What approaches can charities take to become more environmentally friendly? What are the costs of these efforts and how can your charity get access to funding? How should they publicize them to donors and the public? What should they consider before adopting "green" policies? We have three excellent guests on hand today to answer these and other important questions.

Cassie Moore (Moderator):
     Ok, let's get started. To ask a question of one of our guests, please click on the "ask a question" link on this page and fire away.

Cynthia L. Bailie:
    I am delighted to join you this afternoon from the Foundation Center (www.foundationcenter.org) to discuss fundraising for going green. The Foundation Center just concluded its Funding for the Environment Month (http://foundationcenter.org/media/news/pr_0805b.html) and I can tell you that understanding how to ‚Äúgreen‚Äù your organization is a hot topic! In fact we created a resource list that contains links and citations to useful resources for getting started (http://foundationcenter.org/getstarted/topical/environment.html#02).

Question from Peter Panepento -- The Chronicle of Philanthropy:
    What are some low-cost steps that every charity can take to go green?

Kimberly Austin:
    A low cost step is to change the culture within your own organization.

Do an analysis on your office's energy use (if you access to utility bills, review them, observe staff habits- do they shut down computers before going home, are lights on in offices when no one is in the room?), procurement, recycling, staff modes or transportation, etc. Have the staff research green products and operations. Arrange for green experts to discuss ways of reducing your organization's carbon footprint.

Some helpful websites: Perkins and Will Green Operation Plan http://www.perkinswill.com/sustainability/ourplan.aspx

Pollution Prevention Assistance Division- The Sustainable Office Toolkit http://www.p2ad.org/documents/offices_home.html

Comment from Rich Tarrant - Vermilion (Ohio) Food Pantry:
    This is not so much a question as it a comment on a way in which our agency is "going green". Instead of using either paper or plastic bags to pack the groceries we distribute to those in need we are now planning to use fabric bags that will be re-used by each family. They will get 2 full bags (initially). And when they return for the next distribution they need to exchange the first (empty) set of bags for newly packed bags. I realise that this is elemental - but it certainly saves money for our agency (in the long run). That's money we can use to acquire more food

Question from Diane Kirschner:
    Our nonprofit resides in a landmark building in Brooklyn and would like to put a solar panel on our roof, which is steeped and tiled. Any advice of the type of panel to use, etc., and how to make it work with Landmark restrictions?

Sarah S. Brophy:
    Landmark issues most often concern visibility. Take their guidelines to talk to a solar installer, for advice on tricks to maintain orientation but limit street visibility. Solar panel types depend upon installation expectations - solar hot water, or solar electric, and you'll need to discuss the options and your site demands with your solar installer. Hot water is the easiest to implement and has the fastest payback.

Question from Mona, public library:
    Where can I locate available grant funding to offset administrative costs associated with obtaining silver or gold LEED certification if my state does not have its own program.

Sarah S. Brophy:
    The value of certification is 1. Third-party evidence of your energy efficiency and environmental sustainability 2. Institutional accountability for performance levels (antidote for suggestions of "greenwashing") 3. Modeling good behavior for the field and the public.

I would look to any funder, who already supports your mission, your service style, and your geography. If that funder is intersted in general or operating support because of the credibility, performance and mission of your organization, then supporting the certification costs is an appropriate request.

For funders more interested in direct-effect, make the case that the certification process requires such in-depth testing and monitoring that it generates continued efficiencies that save money for the library ... which is actually a gift that keeps on giving.

Question from Peter Panepento -- The Chronicle of Philanthropy:
    Anecdotally, we hear a lot of stories about how charities are becoming more green. Is there any data out there to back up this claim?

Cynthia L. Bailie:
    I think that most of the information we have about "going green" is anecdotal at this point! From the perspective of foundation and corporate giving for green activities, I can tell you that the Foundation Center presented Funding for the Environment Month throughout June and "going green" is a very hot topic. The Chronicle of Philanthropy did its own article about this just last week! http://philanthropy.com/premium/articles/v20/i18/18003301.htm Searching through our database (Foundation Directory Online) I have observed that these terms are popping up to describe grantmaker interests and grants that are being made: "green building," "green economy," "green jobs," "green marketing," and "green printing." While it's never safe to assume (!) one might perhaps draw from this that grants are being made towards these efforts and as a result organizations are getting greener!

Question from Rev. Isabelle Stone:
    I am organizing the Colorado Peace Ride, a four day fund raiser cycling tour in southwest Colorado. I would like to get funding that would support this being a "zero waste" event. It is scheduled for August of 2009.

Sarah S. Brophy:
    It sounds as if local-organizing groups will be your best partners in this. http://www.zerowasteamerica.org and http://www.zerowaste.com and grassroots recycling network http://www.grrn.org seem like your best bets.

Two are nonprofits who can ally with you - possibly - to find support, and one is a recycling information provider.

They are the best bet for finding sponsorhips.

I believe that approach, rather than grants, holds the most promise.

Question from Cheryl D'Mello, parent, Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School:
    My daughter and I have been exploring ways in which her high school can adopt more "green" policies with regard to recycling options etc. without taking the operating costs higher. Please give us some suggestions. At the moment they have the ABITIBI bins.

Kimberly Austin:
    The ABITIBI program brings in income, correct? If so, you could implement a recycling campaign to encourage increased recycling that would create more income to pay for private recycling services that would allow the school to expand recycling to materials other than paper.

Another idea would be to organize students to collect recyclables and organize concerned parents to pick up recyclables for recycling drop off.

Sarah S. Brophy:
    Rich - I think your bag swapping idea is a great plan. It saves resources, models responsible behavior, and changes others' habits at the same time.

Every step like this matters. Thank you.

Question from Rinchen Tsering, The Tibetan Women's Academy:
    Hi, We, the Tibetan Women's Academy as an educational institution, are very concerned about environment friendly project such as yours. Our question is, being an Institution here in Asia, specifically in North India, if there are financial aids for us to keep these kind of programs going? Thanks. Rinchen Tsering

Cynthia L. Bailie:
    Hi Rinchen. This is a good question. While most U.S. foundations fund domestically, some do make grants to NGOs operating in other countries, like India. You might start by reading through our FAQ "Where can I find information on grants to non-US organizations?" http://foundationcenter.org/getstarted/faqs/html/foreign.html

We typically recommend the Foundation Directory Online (http://foundationcenter.org/findfunders/fundingsources/fdo.html) as the premiere tool for locating US foundations that may want to fund your programs. You can subscribe to it online or use it for free at any of our locations in the U.S (http://foundationcenter.org/about/locations.html). Do you have friends or family members in the U.S who might be able to search it for you?

Keep in mind that there are foundations and funding sources all over the world. You can search through international directories at these web sites: WINGS - http://www.wingsweb.org/index.cfm. Look through the Profiles to find agencies working in India. The Grantsmanship Center - http://www.tgci.com/fundingasia.shtml Funders Online, a program of the European Foundation Centre - http://www.fundersonline.org/

Question from Larry Williams, Agrimissions:
    I am involved in sustainable agriculture in South America & Central Asis/SE Asia. Our primary aim is to work towards environmentally friendly approaches to agriculture among the poor & small land owners. Are there grant agencies interested in this type work?

Cynthia L. Bailie:
    Hi Larry: I am assuming your organization is based in the U.S.? The short answer to your question is yes. It's very likely that there are funders interested in your programs, but you need to locate them. I did a quick search using the Foundation Directory Online (http://foundationcenter.org/findfunders/fundingsources/fdo.html) and found 64 U.S. foundations interested in South America. Searching on the Field of Interest "agriculture" and Geographic Focus "international" I found 39 grantmakers. I'd recommend that you connect with one of our locations and use this resource free of charge as a way to get started (http://foundationcenter.org/about/locations.html).

Aside from foundations, there may be other agencies that might be interested in this work. Have you tried www.grants.gov? Grants.gov is a portal for finding and applying for federal government grants. I did a quick search in Find Grant Opportunities on keywords "South America" then "Asia" and got some results. I hope this helps!

Question from Jennifer Leech, Hospice:
    Are there any green features in particular that you have found appeal to donors?

Cynthia L. Bailie:
    I think the recent article in the June 26 Chronicle of Philantrhopy, "Going Green," does a good job af addressing this question. (See the article here: http://philanthropy.com/premium/articles/v20/i18/18003301.htm). Foundations are showing interest in green building, greening up operations aimed at reducing global warming, and addressing climate change at a variety of levels.

Question from Jennifer Leech, Hospice :
    We're planning on building a new facility, and would like to make it LEED certified. What funding sources would you recommend looking into for new building projects?

Kimberly Austin:
    Your eligibility for funding depends on where you are in the process of LEED certification. Are you in the planning phase, have you chosen a level of certification, have you started a captal campaign, etc? I suggest that you review the Kresge Foundation's Environment Program as well as the Funders' Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities Directory of Funders that Support Green Building and Green Neighborhoods list.

Question from Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties:
    What are some non-capital grant strategies for encouraging nonprofits to go green?

Sarah S. Brophy:
    Thank you - what a terrific question and idea.

An indirect strategy is to ask applicants to describe their green practices as part of the "about your organization" questions. This causes them to actually look for what they already do green, to consider what else they can do, and to realize that others value it as well. You can also consider implementing green expectations in the next few years.

Directly, you can suggest new practices or assessments in your "eligible activities" categories: energy audits, building commissioning (for new and existing buildings) recycling implementation programs, public demonstration projects based on institutional practices, and salary support for green-team coordinators/sustainability officers.

Question from Jody Menerey, entertainment industry:
    How can I personally get involved - either at a local level or global level? At a time that both non-profit and for profit businesses are getting involved in the green movement, how can someone without a specific background in science or engineering devote their career to environmental issues? Which are the best places to become educated and develop a viable career?

Kimberly Austin:
    Because environmental issues vary you need to identify what is your passion. Is it in environmental justice, is it conservation, is it environmental education, etc? A way to help identify your passion is to volunteer your time with a nonprofit that supports the cause of your choice. You do not have to have a science or engineering background and I think by working with some nonprofit organizations, you would see that.

Question from Dahla Louis:
    Are there any consultants in nonprofit management that offer free guidance to an organization in the process of going green?

Cynthia L. Bailie:
    There are free resources out there to help guide you, like GreenNonprofits http://www.greennonprofits.org and the George Gund Foundation's resource list http://www.gundfdn.org/ASSETS/7DCBEBCB998D4D2ABCEFF8813C49111B/online%20resources%20FINAL.doc. Here in Cleveland, an organization called Entrepreneurs for Sustainability http://e4s.org/content/index.asp is doing work around going green. There may be similar organizations and resources in your area that offer free services or pro bono consulting.

Comment from Luis Davila, Environmental Grantmakers Association:
    I would like to participate in this... The Environmental Grantmakers Association have tools/publications to help foundations go green. Some of your attendees might be interested in reading:

http://www.gundfdn.org/ASSETS/7DCBEBCB998D4D2ABCEFF8813C49111B/online%20resources%20FINAL.doc- Green Beyond Grants Guide, Volume II: The Carbon Story: Green Beyond Grants Guide, Volume II: The Carbon Story. This second edition of the series provides specific steps and resources to help your organization reduce the carbon footprint of its daily operations. http://www.ega.org/news/docs/EGA_GBGII_CuttingCarbon3.pdf

http://www.gundfdn.org/ASSETS/7DCBEBCB998D4D2ABCEFF8813C49111B/online%20resources%20FINAL.doc- Green Beyond Grants: A Toolkit for Greening Foundation Operations. Grantmaking isn’t the only way to support the environment! There are easy ways to go “green” through your organizational practices. EGA’s "Green Beyond Grants" guide offers simple advice and specific steps to start your foundation on the road to practicing environmental sustainability. http://www.ega.org/news/docs/GreenOffice.final3.pdf

Please let me know if there is any way that I could help.

Best regards,

Luis Davila Enhancing the Field Director Environmental Grantmakers Association

Cassie Moore (Moderator):
    Thanks very much for the information, Luis!

Question from Janet Milkman, ERTHNXT:
    Are funders starting to explore how organizations can help their grantees become green? Is there a role for an intermediary here and is this already happening? What are some examples? Thank you.

Kimberly Austin:
    Yes, funders are begining to explore that possiblilty. The Community Foundation for Grearer Atlanta's Grants to Green program is focused on greening nonprofits. Because programs like this may require a formal plan of action there is the opportunity for engineering firms and similar organizations to provide the technical assistance needed in order for nonprofits to produce this plan for greening their building(s).

Question from David Gansz, Foundation Center Cooperating Collection, Piqua, Ohio:
    Hi, Cynthia-- Many thanks for the list of resources. A couple of public libraries in our service area that occupy older structures are interested in green renovations. What kinds of possibilities exist for them?

Cynthia L. Bailie:
    Hi David. I would recommend to those libraries that they search for funding resources like they would for their other programs and services. Using the Foundation Directory Online, they can search for building/renovation grants or for funders interested in capital campaigns. They might also talk to their vendors to find out what green products are being offered to make some immediate but meaningful changes. All of this assumes that they have a plan in place for making those renovations. Planning allows them to think beyond foundations and understand the potential for support offered by individual donors, government sources of support, or even how they might allocate some earned income (fees for service) towards their green renovations.

Question from heather archut, norton museum of art:
    We are doing a "green" event here at the Museum. What are some ideas of how we can stay "green" yet trendy at the same time? Ideas for decor and displaying the event as "green" so that guests see the importance of being environmental. Thanks.

Sarah S. Brophy:
    Heather - this is a great opportunity for educating staff, vendors and your guests.

Label or explain in person everything you do that is green: a notecard (on high-content recycled paper) can explain that reusable dinnerware, washable linens, local food and flowers, are all green efforts.

A sign at the bars can highlight reusable glassware, identify recycling receptacles (for beer bottles), and brag about local wine and beer sources.

Decorators in the area who are going green may be willing to cut you a deal on green decorations (with educational information).

If you choose to use fewer decorations and leave out the details - ribbons on napkins, goodies to take away - point out how less is more - for the environment, and for the fundraiser.

And since green is trendy, you've already addressed that issue!

Question from Andy, mental health mentoring agency:
    What is LEED certification and how difficult is it to obtain?

Cynthia L. Bailie:
    LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Perhaps Sarah Brophy can address certification issues?

Question from Gloria, nonprofit banker:
    What other options are there for entities looking to construct a green building that can't afford to meet all LEED requirements? Other than energy savings and PR opportunities, what are the benefits of a LEED certification? Thanks

Sarah S. Brophy:
    It's very possible that anyone building a building these days can meet Certified or Silver levels of LEED without any additional costs. Depending upon the building's age, and any remodeling, this may be true for existing buildings, as well.

A trip through the LEED prerequisites and credits in the planning process can give the building owner/renter a sense of where they are.

I the building process LEED is a tool for keeping planners, designers, users, contractors and installers all headed in the same green direction, albeit with different assignments. So 'process' may be the major benefit.

Retaining LEED status requires continued monitoring which provides great value in continuing the energy efficiency achieved in the original plan, and the green aspects laid out for cleaning, upkeep, property use, recycling and waste management, renovation, etc.

LEED is a guide for starting and continuing, so it doesn't end with certification. For that I value it as a way to keep an institution on the green path.

And, it's a benchmark for funders, buyers, users, renters, and anyone else who wants to assess how truly green a building and its occupants are.

    We are a dance company. We have a small outdoor garden. We would like to find funding for a greenhouse. What are some avenues to look at?

Sarah S. Brophy:
    First, can you tell me about the connections you'd like to make with the garden and the greenhouse?

I find that funders who support your core values and practices will see value in many green practices because the green practices support your institution in some physical, financial, or programmatic manner. 'Why' and 'how' the project is green is often of less importance to them.

Question from Kelly Letostak, Big Brothers Big Sisters:
    How can we get our staff to embrace the idea of "going green?"

Cynthia L. Bailie:
    I would think that getting your staff to embrace going green is like getting them to embrace any kind of change. You might start with some basic education and get staff involved in making simple but meaningful changes that aren't too drastic. The George Gund Foundation has a list of suggested changes that you might find useful, http://www.gundfdn.org/ASSETS/BCC9B657BA0D4DDF89CA4E3DD54AA1BC/suggestions.

Question from Jovita Tolbert, National Association for State Community Services Programs:
    Where might our organization find examples of successful green building projects?

Cynthia L. Bailie:
    To find successfully funded green building projects I used the Foundation Directory Online, http://foundationcenter.org/findfunders/fundingsources/fdo.html.

Among many others, I found green building grants that had been awarded to these organizations: Green Roundtable in Boston http://greenroundtable.org/programs/greenbuild.html US Green Building Council, http://www.usgbc.org/

Question from Mary Wagner, Project USE Trustee:
    We are planning our first board-initiated fund raising event coinciding with the grand opening of our new facility in Newark, NJ and would like the event to be as green as possible. Apart from recycling, green printing, and use of glass/ceramic dishware are there any other suggestions you might have for us? Also, we are leasing the building and hope to partner with our landlord on broader green initiatives like green roofing and alt. energy. Would you have some suggestions on organizations that could advise us on implementing and funding these future steps? Thank you! Mary

Sarah S. Brophy:
    Mary, you'll see an earlier similar question, so this gives me an opportunity to go outside the first steps of recycling, etc. Now you can consider transportation of people and food, packaging of food and service-related goods, and energy for the event.

Energy - speak with your utility about green energy purchases.

Packaging - caterers will package the heck out of glassware, etc. Ask them to consider which practices are not hygenically necessary and to eliminate as much of those as possible. Ask them to reuse as much packaging as they can, and to consider forgoing linens or using a 'green' cleaner.

Transportation - of people by ride-sharing, train instead of plane, and public transportation is easier than you'd think. A website for ride sharing is one example, asking a donor to fund free rail or public transport passes is an option. Of course - there's always carbon-offset purchasing...you could put it in the ticket prices...optional, or not!

Food - this can be hard to make local if you want to have the traditionally-varied and impressive meal...but you'd be surprised how well you can do with local cheeses and meats, and vegetables in season - just be sure to explain the food choices to the attendees.

Vendors - ask them to tell you their green practices in advance, and use that as a part of your selection process.

Question from Steve Kreider, Earthjustice:
    What suggestions do you have for "going green" in an Information Technology context and are there any resources available specific to Information Technology?

Cynthia L. Bailie:
    I found some information about greening IT: From Case Western Reserve University's VP for IT, http://blog.case.edu/lev.gonick/2008/06/10/greening_it_in_neohio. From the Brookings Institute, "Shrinking Carbon Footprint of Metropolitan America," http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2008/05_carbon_footprint_sarzynski.aspx. From EduCause, http://connect.educause.edu/wiki/Greening+of+IT?time=1214931339

Question from Evan Langhorst, Cleveland State University:
    I am interested in what charities should consider before adopting "green policies"? Is there pitfalls to avoid or possibly bad press from sustainability? And then also, how should they publicize these policies? Is sustainability a practical policy for charities or more of a feel good story?

Sarah S. Brophy:
    Consider that green is a journey. No one can be 'all green' or go all green in a hurry. It takes time and research to learn to change habits and practices. First do an institutional assessment of how green you are and you green you want to be. Somewhere in the 'gap' is the beginning of your plan. I'd recommend choosing an area or two to begin your green practice, and use what you learn from there to help you develop policies associated with those. That policy is an evolutionary document...like any other institutional document.

Being clear about where you are now and what your first changes will be is the best way to deal with possiblities of bad press. Green folks can be wicked with each other on degrees of 'green-ness', so be honest and open to continued learning..and let folks know that you know this is a process.

Publicize the policies as you do a mission statement and through background information on your programs and offerings.

I think environmental sustainability directly contributes to institutional sustainability and community roles of nonprofits - it's way more than 'feel good'.

Question from Dahla Louis, NYU:
    How can a nonprofit organization implement green effects in a rental space?

How can nonprofits obtain discounts from green vendors? Any particular websites?

Sarah S. Brophy:
    Green expectations of vendors and users is the best way. Pre-qualify vendors based on their green-ness.

Vendors are usually overwhelmed with nonprofits asking for discounts, so I think the best bet is to work with vendors as a group, and your colleagues in rental spaces, to get discounts for you and them together based on volume requests.

Question from Gloria, nonprofit banker, YOU board member:
    With all of the conversation around the "green economy" and climate change,are there multiple funding sources for green collar job training programs and community environmental education programming?

Kimberly Austin:
    Because green collar job training is a fairly new strategy as is the green movement in general I cannot say that I am aware of many funding sources for these strategies. Government funds have been allocated to green collor initiatives, an example is Oakland, CA, see the Green for All Campaign (www.greenforall.org).

Question from Ted Hart, GreenNonprofits.Org:
    We are thrilled to have this discussion taking place today. We are launching our global organization to promote the efforts of nonprofits and NGOs around the world to become more Green. http://www.GreenNonprofits.org How much of an impact does your panel believe charities can make, as they band together to change business practices and become more environmentally sensitive.

Cynthia L. Bailie:
    Hello Ted. I think it depends on the type of impact you have in mind! I would think that efforts by nonprofits in regards to green activities could impact everything from their own bottom lines through greening their operations to public policy through advocacy efforts aimed at going green more broadly.

Question from Laura Repke, The Arc of San Francisco:
    We are an agency that serves adults with developmental disabilities. We'd be interested in hearing ideas about positioning our clients abilities in terms of creating healthier businesses, communities and planet. They are resources that are often wasted.

Cynthia L. Bailie:
    Have you thought about how your clients fit within the emerging green collar economy? You might want to learn more about that and how it applies to the work of your clients. I found some green collar or green economy job-related projects that have been funded at a few organizations. They are:

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights -http://www.ellabakercenter.org/page.php?pageid=5.

Sustainable South Bronx - http://www.ssbx.org/.

Detroiters Working for Economic Justice - http://www.dwej.org/Green_Jobs.htm.

Cassie Moore (Moderator):
    What a great set of questions and answers! I can see that this is a very hot topic. Thanks so much to our readers who sent questions and to Cynthia, Sarah, and Kimberly for answering them.

Cassie Moore (Moderator):
    Please join us next Tuesday at the same time -- noon Eastern -- to discuss how charities can build effective cause marketing campaigns. In the meantime, please remember that you can find transcripts of all of our free live discussions at http://philanthropy.com/live

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