AARP Community Challenge FAQs
Start here for answers to questions about the AARP Community Challenge
The AARP Community Challenge grant program is part of the AARP Livable Communities initiative, which works with AARP State Offices and local leaders throughout the nation so communities can be more livable for people of all ages.
The AARP Community Challenge helps local governments and nonprofit organizations make immediate improvements that can jump-start positive change.
Since the program's debut in 2017, AARP has awarded $12.7 million through more than 1,060 grants in nearly 700 communities reaching 100 million people. The projects have been completed across all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. (Find more AARP Community Challenge Facts and Stats.)
See the answers to several Frequently Asked Questions below:
- This information is also available as a PDF document
February 8, 2023 (2 p.m. ET).......... Question & Answer webinar for applicants (not required)
March 15, 2023 (5 p.m. ET)............ Deadline for applications
May 2023..................................... Selected and non-selected applicants will be notified of their status via email
June 14, 2023............................... Deadline for Memorandum of Understanding and Vendor Forms to be completed and returned by grantees to AARP
June 28, 2023 (tentative)............... Announcements of selected grantees to public and projects can start
November 30, 2023....................... Deadline for project completion
December 31, 2023....................... Deadline for After-Action Report
While AARP knows that sometimes unanticipated events happen (like the COVID-19 Pandemic) that requires a shift in the project or timeline, the goal of the Community Challenge is to fund “quick-action” projects. For projects taking place outdoors, completion by the end of November should allow organizations to beat the winter weather that can delay projects.
If the proposed project is a small segment of a larger project, organizations may need to consider if the larger project will be at the right phase to execute the grant. If the project requires lengthy approvals, organizations may need to consider if there will there be delays in executing the project and meeting the November deadline, if any required approvals are not received in a timely manner. Some organizations may need to consider delaying their applications by a year.
No. The AARP Community Challenge supports communities of all sizes and delivers unique support to rural communities. In fact, 40% of the Challenge projects AARP has funded have gone to rural communities with another 20% going to suburban communities. Communities with populations as small as several hundred residents have received grants.
The program is open to the following types of organizations:
- 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) nonprofits (Nonprofit organizations must be recognized by the IRS in order to receive funds.)
- Government entities
- Other types of organizations considered on a case-by-case basis (AARP can NOT provide funds to any for-profit company or individual. AARP does allow for IRS recognized tax-exempt 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) nonprofits organizations or government entities to serve as fiscal sponsors of grants.)
All applications must be submitted through aarp.org/communitychallenge by March 15, 2023 at 5:00 p.m. ET. All applications must be completed through the application website; no emailed or mailed applications will be accepted.
A recording of the webinar is available on the 2023 Community Challenge webpage.
Overview: Flagship Grants continue the successful Community Challenge grant program, first launched in 2017. These grants offer a broad opportunity for communities to apply for funding across several categories and to be creative.
Categories: In addition to categories focused on Public Places; Transportation; Housing; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Civic Engagement; Community Health and Economic Empowerment; there are two new categories for 2023, Digital Connections and Community Resilience.
Grant Range: Flagship Grants have ranged from several hundred dollars for smaller, short-term activities to tens of thousands of dollars for larger projects. Since 2017, our average grant amount is $11,900 and 83% of grants have been under $20,000. While AARP reserves the right to award compelling projects of any dollar amount, the largest grant that has been awarded under the Community Challenge is $50,000.
Please see examples of Flagship Grant projects in Attachment C.
Overview: Demonstration Grants are designed to encourage innovative replication of promising local efforts, drawn from previous projects from the Flagship Grants in Housing and Transportation specifically, Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Design Competitions and Transportation Systems Change.
Categories: There are two categories under this opportunity:
- Transportation Demonstration Grants for larger projects will range from approximately $30,000 – $50,000 each, with funding sponsored by Toyota Motor North America.
- Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Design Competition Demonstration Grants will range from approximately $10,000-$15,000 each. Several jurisdictions (with and without Challenge Grant support) have held ADU Design Competitions with small monetary awards for the winners. The winners are then typically asked to develop construction documents so community members can replicate pre-approved ADUs at their site, which can save homeowners time and money. Jurisdictions often include a variety of competition categories that address accessibility, sustainability, affordability, replicability, resiliency, and more.
Please see examples of Demonstration Grant projects in Attachment C.
Overview: This new grant opportunity combines $2,500 grants with additional resources, such as webinars, cohort learning opportunities, up to 2 hours of one-on-one coaching with leading national organizations, and AARP publications. Participation in these capacity building and technical assistance opportunities are a critical component of the grant.
Categories: AARP will accept applications for projects that benefit residents (especially those age 50 and older) in the following categories:
- Walkability – Implement walk audit assessments to enhance safety and walkability with support from America Walks, using the AARP Walk Audit Tool Kit.
- Community Gardens – Start or grow a community garden with support from 880 Cities, using the AARP publication Creating Community Gardens for All Ages.
Please see examples of Capacity Building Microgrant projects in Attachment C.
Flagship Grants have ranged from several hundred dollars for smaller, short-term activities to tens of thousands of dollars for larger projects. Since 2017, our average grant amount is $11,900 and 83% of grants have been under $20,000. While AARP reserves the right to award compelling projects of any dollar amount, the largest grant that has been awarded under the Community Challenge is $50,000.
The new grant opportunities will have unique and differentiated anticipated funding:
The Transportation Demonstration Grants for larger projects will range from approximately $30,000 – $50,000 each, with funding sponsored by Toyota Motor North America.
The Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Design Competition Demonstration Grant will range from approximately $10,000-$15,000 each.
The Capacity-Building Microgrants will be $2,500. However, the microgrants will also include additional resources, webinars, cohort learning opportunities, up to 2 hours of individualized technical assistance provided by America Walks or 880 Cities, and printed copies of AARP publications AARP Walk Audit Tool Kit or Creating Community Gardens for All Ages.
Please see examples of Flagship, Demonstration, and Microgrant projects in Attachment C.
Yes, your organization can submit as many applications as you like. Organizations are eligible to apply for more than one grant opportunity (Flagship, Demonstration, or Capacity-Building Microgrant) and may submit multiple applications in each grant opportunity.
Just make sure each application aligns with the right grant opportunity, i.e., your organization could apply for an ADA-accessible park improvement project within the traditional Flagship grant opportunity and you could also submit a second application within the Capacity-Building microgrant area for a $2,500 community garden or walkability project.
You can save a copy of your application as a PDF or print the entire application at any time. First, go to “My Account” and click on “My Applications” from the menu on the left-hand side. Then locate the application you would like to print and select “Print” on the far-right side. From there, you have a copy you can hold onto, email or print.
Please look for the “REQUEST SUPPORT” link in the bottom left of the application log-in screen. From there, you can fill out a help ticket and someone from the online platform’s tech support will get back to you.
All selected and unselected applicants will be notified by email in May using the email with which your organization applies.
Selected applicants must complete a binding Memorandum of Understanding and AARP’s vendor forms by June 14, 2023. Details on how to complete forms will be provided to selected applicants after selection notification. Noncompliance with this deadline may result in disqualification or delayed funding.
No. Hundreds of grants have been delivered to AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities since 2017, but projects can benefit any community so long as they satisfy all other eligibility criteria.
Yes. You are eligible to apply again, and several grantees have been selected after previously applying and not receiving a grant. Please carefully review the project examples that are provided in Attachment C and throughout the Community Challenge website to help inform your application.
The following projects are NOT eligible for funding:
- Partisan, political or election-related activities
- Planning activities and assessments and surveys of communities without tangible engagement
- Studies with no follow-up action
- Publication of books or reports
- Acquisition of land and/or buildings
- Purchase of vehicles (such as a car or truck)
- Sponsorships of other organizations’ events or activities
- Research and development for a nonprofit endeavor
- Research and development for a for-profit endeavor
- The promotion of a for-profit entity and/or its products and services
These restrictions apply to Flagship, Demonstration, and Capacity-Building Microgrants.
Please view Attachment C for examples of projects that AARP has funded in the past. While these projects can help inform your thinking, we are also interested in innovative and fresh ideas!
You can see videos of previous projects, videos of each category, descriptions of previously funded projects, and more at AARP.org/communitychallenge.
If our application is not selected, can we receive feedback about why? Can we speak with someone about our project idea?
Unfortunately, due to the high volume of applications we receive, we cannot offer feedback on individual project ideas or applications. In 2022, AARP received over 3,200 applications, of which 260 were funded for over $3.4 million. Many worthy projects were unfortunately, not funded.
Yes, you can. On the “Organization Name” line, you can list the main applicant name and add “in partnership with” and list the second organization name. From there, we only need the information for the primary point of contact. However, the grant funding will only go to the main applicant.
Typically, Challenge grants do not fund indirect costs such as salaries or administrative fees. The majority of Challenge funds will need to go directly to project execution or implementation – we would not pay for a significant portion of administrative overhead, staff time, ongoing program costs or the hiring of a designer or surveyor or facilitator, such as a project planner, graphic designer, landscape designer or site surveyor unless those indirect costs were a very small part (0-15%) of the overall request. If the application demonstrates that these types of activities are part of a broader project which shows a commitment to engage residents with some tangible demonstration, then a larger percentage of paying for a consultant or facilitator may be eligible and warranted.
Challenge grants do not typically support ongoing programming; however, we would fund a tangible, short-term purchase that would benefit a current, ongoing program. For example, Challenge funds typically wouldn’t pay for the staff, training, vehicle upkeep or gas needed to implement a current, year-round food delivery program, but funds could be used to purchase new technology or items such as a new freezer, storage pantry, reusable coolers/delivery bags, tables, benches, etc. Funds could also be used to host a temporary demonstration, civic engagement opportunity or pop-up event related to an ongoing program.
Eligible projects will be assessed on the following. This applies to applications under all three funding opportunities.
- IMPACT (60 points) – The project addresses a clear need that brings positive change and demonstrates the ability to overcome barriers and accelerate, grow and/or sustain the community’s efforts to become more livable for residents (especially those age 50 and older), focuses on diversity, inclusion and addresses disparities.
- EXECUTION (30 points) – Applicants demonstrate capacity to deliver the AARP Community Challenge project on time and within the awarded budget, effectively engage residents and key stakeholders, and leverage volunteers (especially those age 50 and older) in the execution.
- INNOVATION (10 points) – The project demonstrates creativity or unique design or engagement elements which will contribute to its impact on residents (especially those age 50 and older)
In addition to the criteria provided, AARP will also evaluate each project based on its consistency with the AARP mission to serve the needs of people age 50-plus.
By submitting a proposal for the AARP Community Challenge initiative, you and your organization give AARP permission to reach out to you and others at your organization about other possible AARP funding opportunities that your proposal may be eligible for based on the AARP Community Challenge criteria. However, please note that AARP is not obligated in any way to consider your proposal for any additional AARP funding.
AARP might be contacted by other potential funders that could be interested in funding projects that were not funded through the AARP Community Challenge. The potential funders may have additional process steps and funding requirements than those of the AARP Community Challenge. If requested, AARP would like to send your contact information, organization name and a short description of the proposal, including the community where the project would take place (“Project Information”). Please note that these projects will be subject to any potential funder’s own terms, conditions and review. Please indicate in your application whether or not you give permission to AARP to share your contact information and a description of your proposal. If you select “yes,” you agree on behalf of yourself and your organization to release AARP and its affiliates and their respective officers, directors, employees, contractors, agents and representatives from all liability associated with sharing the Project Information with potential funders.
If your application is funded, you will receive detailed guidance about branding, including a package with AARP logo files and pre-approved acknowledgment language. If you'll be putting out press releases or social media posts, those should include verbiage about how the project was funded by AARP. You will also be invited to coordinate publicity with your AARP State Office.
If your project is ultimately funded, you will design and secure your own signage or banners to acknowledge the Community Challenge Grant, but AARP will provide plenty of examples and guidance at that time. You may include funding to pay for signage in your grant request and project budget.
If your application is funded, your organization will need to carry and maintain comprehensive general liability (and professional liability, if applicable) in an amount not less than one million dollars ($1,000,000) and workers’ compensation insurance in an amount as required by applicable law covering all personnel engaged in the execution of the grant.
AARP understands that some organizations may not currently have this coverage. There are several options to address:
- Municipal Policies: Municipalities typically already have liability and workers’ compensation coverage. Organizations working on municipal property (e.g., a non-profit working at a municipal park), may be covered under the municipality’s umbrella insurance.
- Expansion of Existing Coverage: If a non-profit organization already has insurance, such as Directors and Officer Insurance for the Board of Directors, insurance brokers can usually add on a short-term liability insurance policy for six months for a nominal amount.
- Budget to Purchase: Applicants may include funding to pay for the required insurance in your grant request and project budget if the cost is nominal.
Matching funds are not required. If your project will be using volunteers, you can account for the monetary value of their donated time as an in-kind donation or matching funding. Various websites can provide the estimated monetary value of volunteer hours.
One document can be uploaded to the application, but it is not required. Some applicants may wish to explain their project visually or more in-depth than the application permits. Multiple files should be combined into one document. The format of the document (e.g., JPEG, PDF, DOCX) does not matter.
Go to States.AARP.org to find contact information for your AARP State Office. Click on your state. The information will be listed on the next page.
To be the first to learn about future Community Challenge Grant opportunities, you can subscribe to the free, award-winning Livable Communities E-Newsletter.
If the information you seek is not covered by these FAQs, please email us at CommunityChallenge@AARP.org.
Learn more about the AARP Community Challenge
- Look up the recipients by year or state: AARP Community Challenge Grantees
- Visit the AARP Community Challenge Home Page
Questions about the AARP Community Challenge can be emailed to CommunityChallenge@AARP.org
Page updated January 2023
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