COMMENTARY: AARP is excited for “quick-action” community projects

We know that it takes time to build great communities. But, we also believe that tangible improvements can spark long-term change. The AARP Community Challenge launched in 2017 to fund projects that build momentum to improve livability for all. We are excited to announce the program is back in 2021 for its fifth year and is accepting applications online through April 14.

The AARP Community Challenge’s focus on tangible projects, community engagement, and its “quick action” timeline helps selected grantees fast-track their ideas and replicate promising practices. Some previous projects have demonstrated an ability to garner additional funds or support from public and private funders, encourage innovation, overcome local policy barriers, and receive greater overall awareness and engagement.

The grant program is open to 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) non-profits and government entities. Other types of organizations are considered on a case-by-case basis. Grants can range from several hundred dollars for small, short-term activities, to several thousand or tens of thousands for larger projects.

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 that aim to achieve one or more of the following outcomes:

  • Creating vibrant public places and improving open spaces, parks and access to other amenities.
  • Delivering a range of transportation and mobility options that increase connectivity, walkability, bikeability, wayfinding, access to transportation options, and roadway improvements.
  • Supporting a range of housing options that increase the availability of accessible and affordable choices.
  • Increasing civic engagement and demonstrating the tangible value of “Smart Cities” with innovative and tangible projects that bring residents and local leaders together to address challenges and facilitate a greater sense of inclusion.
  • Supporting local recovery from the coronavirus pandemic with an emphasis on economic development, improvements to public spaces, and transportation services.
  • Ensuring a focus on diversity and inclusion while improving the built and social environment of a community.
  • Other innovative projects to improve the community. In addition to these areas of focus, AARP wants to hear about local needs and innovative ideas for addressing them.

AARP is thrilled to bring this grant opportunity back to Washington in 2021, and we encourage all eligible organizations to apply. We’ve seen great results from the Community Challenge grant program supporting communities across Washington as they make tangible improvements that spark long-term change.

Since 2017, the Community Challenge has funded 560 projects nationwide, including 12 right here in Washington.


Amanda Frame, who wrote this article, is the director of outreach for AARP Washington.