Funding Opportunities for Sustainability

Sarah Brindle, Sustainability Funding Development Intern

Former IU President Herman B. Wells

One of my favorite aspects of being an IU student is showing off the campus’s natural beauty to visitors.  Some of the inspiration behind IU’s scenic landscape can be traced to Indiana University’s 11th President Herman B. Wells who was a big supporter of the university’s outdoor space. In his last commencement address he stated that

“I hope that our alumni will always insist on retention of our precious islands of green and serenity — our most important physical asset, transcending even classrooms, libraries, and laboratories in their ability to inspire students to dream long dreams of future usefulness and achievement…”

The creation of the IU Office of Sustainability in 2008 and the 20 Goals for 2020 (created by the Campus Sustainability Advisory Board) in 2010 are steps towards ensuring that IU maintains its natural assets.

My internship for this summer is to develop funding sources for the Office of Sustainability in order to fund sustainable initiatives on campus that further President Well’s dream of “retention of our precious islands of green and serenity.” Part of this internship has been research on how other university sustainability programs function in terms of their funding resources.

From what I’ve found, there are four main areas of funding for institutions’ sustainability programs—individual donations, grants, revolving funds, and endowment funds.  Individual donations can be both small and large gifts by alumni, community members, etc. who are interested in the continuation of sustainability on campus. Grants are awards given by institutions, foundations, or organizations that felt that a specific project proposal was worthy of their resources. Individual donations make up the majority of long-term support for nonprofit organizations, while grants are most useful for short-term projects due to their inconstant availability (see Fundraising for Social Change (2011) by Kim Klein).

Harvard University Sustainability Presentation

Many universities have developed revolving and endowment funds through large-scale donations. A revolving fund uses a large sum of money that distributes loans for projects that improve energy efficiency. The savings from these projects pay back the fund for the loan, and then the fund can be used to finance another project (see Green Revolving Funds: An Introductory Guide to Implementation and Management (2013)). Harvard’s Office for Sustainability has one of the largest “green” revolving funds. The fund was established in 1992 and started as a $1.5 million pilot program and grew to a $12 million fund in 2006 (see

An endowment fund, on the other hand, uses the interest accumulated annually on a large sum of money to fund sustainability projects. The principal, or base amount, is never spent and grows over time to keep up with inflation by putting some of the accumulated interest back into the fund. This differs from a revolving fund because the money used is solely the interest accumulated from the fund’s principal, and the money distributed is not paid back to the fund (see

While talking about funding might not be the most exciting topic of sustainability, it is an important one. Sustainability initiatives on IU’s campus are currently funded by the Bloomington Sustainability Fund (donations can be made through the “Give Now” button on IUOS’s webpage) and the Student Sustainability Fund (which is a $5 box students can check to donate when signing up for classes). For further information on this topic or the cited resources, please feel free to comment or email me at


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