What We Do






Small Grants

Each year the New Jersey Highlands Coalition awards a number of grants to assist grassroots organizations working on projects located within the New Jersey Highlands or associated with protecting New Jersey Highlands resources. (See a list of 88 Highlands municipalities.)

Press Release 2024 Small Grants Applications

Eligibility and Guidelines
Grants will be awarded to “grassroots organizations,” defined as non-governmental organizations with a total annual operating budget of less than $200,000. It is not necessary that an organization be incorporated, but to be eligible to apply for a grant, an organization must be a current member of the Coalition. (Instructions to join are available on our website. Click on “Join” in the banner at the top of the page.)

Grants will be awarded up to a maximum of $5,000. Applicants are encouraged to think carefully about their request, and make sure they fully justify the amount requested.

Grants are intended to fund projects that meet at least one of the following criteria, which are described in order of priority:

  1. Projects that focus on developing a stronger Highlands Regional Master Plan, and/or implementation of the Regional Master Plan. For example, projects that identify, map, or verify mapped Highlands natural or cultural resources or monitor the implementation of RMP standards at the local level; projects that advocate for and result in municipal conformance with the RMP;
  2. Projects that would establish a precedent advancing strong environmental or cultural protection in the Highlands. For example, hiring a consultant to help achieve the most environmentally protective decision by NJDEP, the Highlands Council, the Office of Planning Advocacy/State Planning Commission, the NJ Department of Agriculture on a Highlands matter, or for meeting local affordable housing needs;
  3. Projects that may not help set a precedent, but would assist an organization to fight against a development in the Highlands Region – such as residential, commercial, agribusiness projects, etc. – that seriously threatens or damages natural or cultural resources in the Region;
  4. Environmental restoration projects, environmental education programs, and outdoor
    recreation programs in or from highlands water receiving areas, that educate about,
    explore, or maintain the water quality of the water in or from the NJ Highlands;
  5. Projects that support capacity building of Highlands Region grassroots organizations, for example, a membership mailing, a strategic planning exercise, a workshop, conference or public educational event, etc.;
  6. Projects that educate about Highlands water and resources, and/or increase public awareness of the use and conservation of Highlands water.

Small Grants to protect cultural resources
Grants may also be awarded for projects related to cultural resources in the Highlands Region. A grant may address issues with both natural and cultural resource components. As referenced above, projects with both natural and cultural components will be reviewed under all aspects of the guidelines.

Cultural resources reflect the process of human settlement and its interconnection with the natural environment. The types of resources include industrial, commercial, and below-ground archaeology as well as historic architectural sites. These sample project descriptions are not in priority order:

– Projects that emphasize or establish the mutuality of the natural and the built environments.

– Applications to provide a match for grants from other funding sources which require conformity to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. (http://www.nps.gov/history/local-law/arch_stnds_0.htm)

– Applications covering “bricks-and-mortar” projects or planning documents (but not general operating expenses) for specific historic sites or districts. To qualify for grants, these sites must be designated by federal, state, or local process, or declared eligible for recognition where such formal status is available. The name and credentials of a professional consultant who will supervise the project must be provided.

– Projects that focus on cultural landscapes, or that lead to their inclusion in resource protection planning. Cultural landscapes are sites that illustrate the story of significant historic development in an area and the integration of the natural and built environments there.

– Projects that recognize significant scenic vistas, or that provide planning for their recognition and protection. Scenic vistas are viewsheds that could be designated for their beauty or their contribution to the cultural context.

– Projects designed to prepare a community for an improved level of cultural resource protection, for example, a public educational event involving historic preservation professionals, or a presentation, to the public or to the municipal land use boards, explaining the function and implications of a historic preservation commission.

– Projects leading to the Register nomination or formal designation of a single site or a district, for example, a public information meeting, or the expenses (such as travel and copying, but not volunteer hours) of preliminary background research for a professional municipality-wide resource survey.

– Projects contributing to the formal education of public officials whose work is related to cultural resource protection, for example the zoning officer, the construction official, HPC members, or municipal elected officials. (Proposed courses should be described specifically.)

Application Requirements
Applicants should submit a short narrative (one page or less if possible) describing the project, how it meets at least one of the criteria above, and how grant monies will be spent. Applications should also include the grant amount requested and evidence that the organization’s annual operating budget is less than $200,000. Include name and contact information (phone and email) for the organization’s contact person. 

Please note: Grant awards may be used only for the applicant’s activities that support their stated project description. While the New Jersey Highlands Coalition understands that this may involve the applicant’s participation in the public policy process, an applicant may not use any New Jersey Highlands Coalition grant funds to lobby or otherwise attempt to influence the outcome of any public election, to carry on any voter registration drive or to conduct any other political activities that would be inconsistent with the tax-exempt status of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition. 

The awarded grant monies must be used for the project identified in the approved grant, as described in the applicant’s proposal and related correspondence, and may not be expended for any other purposes without the New Jersey Highlands Coalition’s prior written approval. 

Applicant accepts responsibility for complying with this agreement’s terms and conditions and will exercise full control over the grant and the expenditure of grant funds. The New Jersey Highlands Coalition may request that the applicant return any unexpended grant funds remaining at the end of the project period. The applicant agrees to send a completion/impact report at the end of the project period. Reports must be received before the applicant organization is eligible to be considered for an additional Small Grant.

Please send applications via email to:

Julia Somers, Executive Director (julia@njhighlandscoalition.org) and Brielle Olshan, Director of Strategy and Operations (brielle@njhighlandscoalition.org) in word or PDF format only.

When to Apply
The Small Grants Committee of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition considers grant applications at its late summer meetings each year. Applicants who wish to have grant requests considered should ensure that their applications are received in the Coalition’s office before the published June deadline of that year. (For 2024, the submission deadline is June 3rd.) Early submissions are encouraged. The Coalition’s Board of Trustees will approve the final award recipients in September and awards will be presented in October at the Coalition’s Annual Meeting.

Grants meeting at least one of the criteria above may be considered and granted on an emergency basis at any other time during the year. Application requirements are the same. A strong and persuasive case must be made for a grant being made outside the usual cycle.

For more information, please contact Julia Somers at 973-588-7190 or julia@njhighlandscoalition.org