Apply for Great Lakes Drinking Water Campaign Development Support

The application deadline has passed.

Roughly 13.8 million U.S. households face unaffordable water bills while water utilities struggle to fund maintenance or replacement of aging pipes. Communities across the Great Lakes face drinking water challenges including PFAS contamination, harmful algal outbreaks and elevated lead levels. River Network is committed to using the power of our network to expand understanding of the causes and circumstances of today’s crisis, develop and disseminate new tools, and help identify a common agenda that unifies and focuses our collective actions. River Network works to strengthen and expand the network of groups focused on drinking water and use new and existing tools to enhance the capacity of organizations to advocate for equitable access to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water at all levels, including protecting our source water, ensuring effective water treatment, and providing reliable and affordable delivery.

River Network’s Drinking Water Campaign Planning and Leadership Development Program

In partnership with the C.S. Mott Foundation, River Network is launching this initiative to build the capacity of local leaders and organizations to directly affect change in their own community in the Great Lakes region. Local groups are uniquely positioned to influence their community’s relationship to water and work with water authorities, utilities and local decision-makers to address drinking water issues. The goal of this program is to increase the ability of local leaders and organizations to advocate for clean and affordable drinking water for their community. 

Through this program, we will select four organizations to receive direct financial and consulting support from River Network’s experienced team of advocacy, organizing and leadership development experts. Length and scope of support will be determined on a case-by-case basis and tailored to the individual/organization’s specific need(s). This program aims to equip participants with the tools necessary to lead successful advocacy campaigns for clean and affordable drinking water in their communities. River Network will tailor campaign development training and support to the specific needs of each participant. Consulting support may include civic engagement training, facilitation of community dialogues, assistance engaging community leaders for collective action on water issues, and/or coaching on coalition building and storytelling initiatives. Other support services may be provided based on the needs and status of projects chosen.

Chosen candidates will receive the following support:

  • $5,000 in funding to support direct expenses and/or staff time associated with the development and implementation of a drinking water advocacy campaign
  • Campaign and organizational development support, including:
    • Initial meeting and goal identification
    • Work plan development
    • Support in working through targeted tools and practices related to campaign planning and advocacy
    • Review of and feedback on campaign plan
  • Connection to our national network and other grantees
  • Opportunities to be featured in River Network’s monthly newsletter, River Voices, and our blog

Program Expectations

Selected organizations are expected to:

  • Participate in an organizational and training needs assessment that will guide the process moving forward
  • Participate in all planning meetings and check ins with River Network staff for length of contract (estimated 6-9 month commitment)
  • Participate in up to 2 web-based trainings on a related topic (see River Network’s youtube page for examples)
  • Contribute or participate in 1-2 activities to share lessons learned and any results of work on drinking water with a national audience (e.g. writing a blog post, presenting at a webinar or national conference, etc.)

Selection Criteria

Applicants must be based in community-based, environmental justice and/or water organizations that:

  • Are based in the Great Lakes region;
  • Have a specific drinking water issue affecting their community (e.g., affordability, contamination, etc.);
  • Have built credible relationships with other relevant community-focused organizations (e.g., environmental justice or watershed orgs; public health and housing orgs, etc.);
  • Have relevant experience working directly with communities on other environmental, public health and social justice issues;
  • Identify equity as important to their work and can articulate desired outcomes of their work in terms of improved quality of life, social and environmental benefit.

Application Process

  • RFP posted: February 3, 2020  
  • Application of Interest submission deadline: March 1, 2020 at 11:59PM CST
  • Grantees selected: March 16, 2020

Organizations will be selected based on their readiness to use this opportunity to make real gains in their ability to catalyze civic engagement on local drinking water issues and on River Network’s ability to create a geographically diverse cohort that promotes learning across organizations.

Please direct any questions about the application process to Sheyda Esnaashari at

Drinking Water Campaign Development Support Application

  • Organization Information

  • Community Background

  • Program Background

  • Select up to 3 responses.