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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. 

Learn more by visiting AARP.org/CommunityChallenge

The AARP Community Challenge helps local governments and nonprofit organizations make immediate improvements that can jump-start positive change.

AARP has awarded more than $6 million through 560 grants since the program debuted in 2017. (Find more AARP Community Challenge Facts and Stats.)

Find answers to several frequently asked questions below.

The program is open to the following types of organizations:

  • 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) nonprofits
  • Government entities
  • Other types of organizations, considered on a case-by-case basis 

All applications must be submitted via AARP.org/CommunityChallenge (look for the link to the 2011 page) by Wednesday, April 14, 2021, at 8:00 p.m. ET. All applications must be completed through the online portal. No emailed applications will be accepted.

We have funded a wide range of projects. Grants can range from several hundred dollars to several thousand or tens of thousands of dollars. 

Yes, your organization can submit as many applications as it wants to. Once you submit an application, you will be given the option to begin another application within the online application portal. You will not see an option to begin a second application until the first is successfully submitted.

You can save a copy of your application as a PDF or print the entire application once it is submitted. (You can print before it’s submitted, but it will only print what’s visible in your text boxes, so some copy might get cut off.) Once you submit, you’ll be able to save and/or print the entire application. First, go to your application, select PRINT > PDF > All Pages and save a copy onto your computer. Doing so will provide you with a copy for your records, for printing and/or emailing. 

Yes. You can log back in and make edits until the application deadline of April 14, 2021, 8:00 p.m. ET.

Selected grant recipients and unselected applicants will be notified by email in June. Grantees will be provided with documents including a binding Memorandum of Understanding and vendor forms that must be completed and returned to AARP by Wednesday, July 14, 2021. Noncompliance with this deadline may result in disqualification or delayed funding.

No. In fact 38 percent of the AARP Community Challenge projects AARP has funded have gone to rural communities. Another 20 percent of grants have gone to suburban communities. Communities with populations as small as several hundred residents have received grants.  

No. Although nearly 200 grants have been delivered thus far to communities enrolled in the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities, a project can benefit any community so long as it satisfies 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 to help inform your application. 

  • 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 (cars, trucks, etc.)
  • 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

In 2021, AARP will prioritize projects that deliver inclusive solutions that meet the needs of diverse populations as well as those that directly engage volunteers through permanent or temporary solutions.  

The 2021 AARP Community Challenge is very similar to previous years with some notable exceptions:

  • NEW CATEGORY — Coronavirus Recovery: AARP will fund coronavirus recovery projects with an emphasis on economic development, improvements to public spaces, and transportation services.

  • NEW CATEGORY — Diversity and Inclusion: AARP will fund projects that ensure a focus on diversity and inclusion while improving the built and social environment of a community.

  • COMBINED CATEGORIES — Civic Engagement/Smart Cities: These previously separate categories have been combined into one. However, the same types of projects are still eligible.

  • DEEPER FOCUS — Volunteerism: AARP will place added emphasis on projects that engage volunteers, especially those age 50 or older.

  • SCORING — Diversity and Inclusion: We have amended the scoring criteria to give greater weight to the Impact section. This includes the addition of Diversity and Inclusion and the project’s likely ability to demonstrate longer-term outcomes.

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 about each category, descriptions of previously funded projects and more via AARP.org/CommunityChallenge.

Yes. Please see Attachment C to learn about some 2020 projects that were funded and are potential fits and ideas for the category in 2021. See the full list of funded coronavirus response and recovery projects for 2020.

Unfortunately, due to the high volume of applications we receive, we cannot offer feedback on individual applications.

Yes, you can. On the “Organization Name” line, list the main applicant name and add “in partnership with” and list the second name. From there, we only need the information for the primary point of contact. 

Typically, AARP Community 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 (around 10 percent) of the overall request. If the application demonstrates that these types of activities are part of a broader project that 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.

AARP Community 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, AARP funds wouldn’t pay for the staff, training, vehicle upkeep or the 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 a pop-up event related to an ongoing program.

  • IMPACT (65 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 all (especially people age 50-plus), and/or focuses on diversity and inclusion while improving the built and social environment of a community.

  • EXECUTION (25 points) — Applicants demonstrate the 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 volunteers age 50-plus) in the execution.

  • INNOVATION (10 points) — The project demonstrates creativity or unique design or engagement elements that will contribute to its impact.

AARP reserves the right to make funding decisions based on other criteria, in addition to those described herein.

Please look for the “REQUEST SUPPORT” link in the bottom left of the application log-in screen. From there, you can submit a Help Ticket and someone from the online platform’s tech support will get back to you. You can also email your technical issue to support@reviewr.com.

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 language. For now, we are looking for a general idea of how you will incorporate the AARP name/logo/message in your promotions.

For instance, if you’ll be installing a sign at the site of your project, it should include the AARP logo. If you'll be putting out press releases or social media posts, those should include verbiage about how the project was funded by AARP.

If your project is ultimately funded, you will design and secure your own signage or banners, but we’ll provide plenty of examples and guidance at that time. You will also be invited to coordinate publicity with your AARP State Office.

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.

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

Questions about the AARP Community Challenge can be emailed to CommunityChallenge@AARP.org

Page updated February 2021