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Community Connectors Program for Small and Mid-sized Communities


With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Smart Growth America in collaboration with Equitable Cities, the New Urban Mobility Alliance, and America Walks have created the Community Connectors program to help advance locally driven projects that will reconnect communities separated or harmed by transportation infrastructure and tap available federal and state funds to support them.

Donor Name: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)

State: All States

County: All Counties

U.S. Territories: American Samoa, Guam, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands U.S. Virgin Islands

Type of Grant: Grant

Deadline: 07/15/2023

Size of the Grant: Up to $130,000

Grant Duration: 18-24 months


The Community Connectors program seeks to equip small and mid-sized communities to take advantage of USDOT’s new programs ($4 billion over five years) for identifying, removing and repairing the wounds of divisive infrastructure, make a powerful case for a significantly larger effort, and also equip them to make use of the wider federal and state transportation programs to advance similar projects.

For supporting the ability to produce, perform or deploy transportation projects in coordination with land-use and housing decisions that reconnect communities. The primary goal of these grants are two-fold: Advancing these projects and building long-term capacity and expertise required for doing so.

The Community Connectors program aims to change that by providing financial resources to help build local capacity and advance these projects, but also by connecting local leaders to experts and other cities attempting to accomplish similar things. These capacity building grants (and the companion technical assistance and learning exchanges) are oriented toward supporting small and mid-sized communities to ensure they can compete for federal and state funds to support Reconnecting Communities efforts. The overall objectives of this program are to:

  • Support community and government project teams to build partnerships and co-create plans and projects with the greatest ability to affect those most impacted;
  • Expand the capacity of applicants to co-design projects with the most impacted communities while centering equity and climate;
  • Create new and diverse partnerships among the applicants & community-based organizations, local governments, transit agencies, health advocates, housing non-profits, land trusts, major employers, lenders & others;
  • Demonstrate how to leverage and align funds from various sources for greater social impact; and
  • Identify and assess the needs of applicant teams for longer-term TA and capacity-building support.
  • Support communities through the process of applying for Reconnecting Communities or Neighborhood Access and Equity Grant program funding, other federal grant programs, or gaining access to funding from flexible state/federal sources.

Funding Information

  • Capacity building grants of up to $130,000 per selected community team.
  • In addition to the grant, the selected teams will also receive customized technical assistance and participate in a learning exchange program over the subsequent 18-24 months, which includes a required convening in Atlanta, GA in November 2023.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Community size: Teams representing cities between ~50,000 and ~500,000 in population.
  • Eligible entities: Government agencies (including US territories), tribes, non-profit community-based nonprofit organizations, and academic institutions. Each team will identify a lead organization for the application. For-profit entities are permitted to be part of a wider project team but are not eligible to receive any of the funds directly or indirectly disbursed through the grant.
  • Convening: Teams are required to be able to participate in a convening and learning exchange in Atlanta sometime during the week of November 13, 2023 where projects and technical assistance will be co-designed and scoped. Travel and hotel costs will be covered for ~six members from each team.
  • Eligible funding uses: The capacity building grants are intended to build a community’s capacity—including the capacity for community members and community based organizations to participate in this work—to advance these kinds of projects. Grant funds may be used for staff salaries, consultant fees, data collection and analysis, meetings, supplies, funding support for community based organization participation, initiative-related travel, other direct expenses, and other expenses not named here but approved during the scoping process
  • Ineligible funding uses: In keeping with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation policy, funds may not be used to support clinical trials of unapproved drugs or devices, to construct or renovate facilities, for capital costs of any kind, for lobbying-related activities and expenses, for political activities, or as a substitute for funds currently being used to support similar activities.
  • Assent to participate in evaluation: An independent research group selected and funded by RWJF will conduct an evaluation of this program. As a condition of accepting this assistance, grantees agree to participate in the evaluation.
  • Reporting requirements: Grantees will be expected to provide narrative and financial reports periodically as well as information needed for overall project performance monitoring and management. Teams will be required to participate in periodic meetings and give progress reports on their capacity-building grants. Each team will be expected to provide a written report(s) on their project.
  • Budgeting guidelines: After selection, while developing the scope for the capacity-building grant, the team will collaborate on a schedule and a budget that specifies how and when the funding will be spent. This guidance will be provided in the fall.

For more information, visit RWJF.


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