ISEIF’s purpose under the statute that created us is to support a well-rounded program of consumer education about the smart grid throughout the state of Illinois. Special attention is to be given to educating low-income and low-income senior consumers. ISEIF has made some initial grants to several organizations with the technical experience and ability to teach consumers the details of the grid, smart meters, and how to make an informed selection from among the different products being made available to customers as the smart grid is deployed around the state.
Our larger grantees do the best job they can in reaching all types of consumers, but they are necessarily more removed from any particular community than an organization based in that community might be. They will naturally seek alliances and partnerships with community organizations as they do their outreach. However if they are asking for significant investment of time and effort by a community group in order to reach a particular population, it is likely that such a community group will need a small amount of revenue to cover the staff time and direct expenses needed to convene a group of community residents successfully. This small grants program is designed to insure that this funding is available.
It may also be that a community group feels that their constituents would benefit greatly from having more understanding about the smart grid and the new electric choices coming to Illinois, but lacks the technical expertise themselves in order to be able to provide that information. Whether or not they have first been approached by a larger ISEIF grantee, community organizations should feel free to approach ISEIF about the small grants program, and how to make use of it to increase the number of educational events that take place. ISEIF will provide the introduction to an appropriate education partner as part of the grant application process.
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Organizations that think they might want to apply for a small grant (from $5,000-$15,000) should first contact ISEIF staff to discuss the work they have in mind and to see whether or not it is a good fit for the current round of funding. ISEIF staff will encourage a wide variety of diverse organizations to apply for small grant funding, but will also spare some organizations the time they might put into crafting an application, if they are clearly outside the scope of ISEIF-funded work. ISEIF’s large grant process requires a letter of inquiry, followed by a peer-reviewed full proposal. In contrast, the small grant program requires a phone call to the foundation to discuss your interest, followed by a simplified online application, which is due when the full proposals for larger grants are due–view upcoming cycle deadlines for more information. Applications are made online, and the online process allows an applicant to select the small grant process.
Organizations are encouraged to look at the schedules for deployment of the smart grid by ComEd and Ameren, in order to be sure that they are proposing work in an area that is likely to receive smart meters soon, or that has already received them. ISEIF is required to provide grant funds to qualified not-for-profit organizations. Small grants applicants should have the capacity to perform their proposed work themselves, with the funds provided, rather than to contract out work to for-profit entities or consultants. The geographic focus for small grant submissions should align with the initial rollout areas for smart meters and the overall smart grid deployment plan in Illinois, including those areas in which meters have already been deployed.
ISEIF is very concerned with the collection of data in all our funded programming, so that to the greatest extent possible we can measure the impact that educational efforts we support are resulting in actual behavior change by their participants. One reason that small grant recipients are paired with larger ISEIF funded groups is that these larger groups will be charged with tracking attendance and subsequent behavior change in a manner that complies with ISEIF requirements. This will assure that there is a good measure of what occurs as the result of small grant recipient activity, without putting the burden for that data collection on the smaller organization.