The SMCC Land Trust Grant Fund Program aims to strengthen the organizational capacity and programmatic effectiveness of land trusts throughout Maine.


  • Strengthen the land trust community’s governance, leadership, strategic planning, financial stability, programming, and organizational development.
  • Help land trusts integrate equity and inclusion in their organizational policies, practices, and programming.
  • Position land trusts to broaden their membership, including by engaging BIPOC, low-income people, LGBTQIA+, and people with disabilities.
  • Support land trusts in developing additional social capital and infrastructure by facilitating connections to share lessons, opportunities, and growth.
  • Ensure that conservation is rooted in community, and that conserved land is accessible to the broadest range of communities for meaningful experience.


Eligibility requirements:

For 2023, land trusts that have received funding from the Onion Foundation in the past and whose grant term will end in 2023 (this year) are eligible to apply. However, land trusts that received a two-year grant from the Onion Foundation in 2022 and that, therefore, will receive a payment from the Onion Foundation in 2023 are not eligible to apply to SMCC for funding in 2023. 

Organizations must be certified as tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code or use a fiscal sponsor with 501(c)(3) tax status. Applications must contain a valid EIN (tax ID) number to be considered.

SMCC will be sending an email to the 2023 eligible land trusts to apply to the grant on April 10, 2023. A link to the online application portal will be included in the email.

If you are an eligible land trust and did not receive the email or if you have any questions, please contact SMCC’s Executive Director, email Jessica Burton.

Important Dates:

Application opens: April 10, 2023

Application deadline: May 22, 2023, at 11:59 PM

Funds awarded by: July 1, 2023

Application Process:

SMCC’s Land Trust Grant Fund Program will utilize an online grant application to access, complete, and submit your application. This will be made available when the application opens on April 10, 2023.

In the meantime, you can view the application questions by clicking on the button below.

Grant awards will be announced by July 1, 2023. Applicants will be notified of funding decisions by email. Please allow time for our review and decision-making process.

Funding amounts:

In 2023, awarded grant amounts will be consistent with amounts awarded to your organization by the Onion Foundation in past grant cycles.

Grant limitations:

We recognize there are a plethora of ways to advance the goals of this program, so we are not limiting the use of these funds in your organization’s pursuit of these goals.

If successful, how would SMCC like us to acknowledge the grant?

As a partner in your efforts, SMCC is pleased to be acknowledged in any communication materials related to the grant activity. Please refer to your award letter containing more information.

What are the reporting requirements if my organization receives a grant?

We are committed to learning from our grantees and will follow up on grant awards to better this program and the other assistance programs that are in development. Reporting may take many forms including, but not limited to, written reports, surveys and interviews. Please refer to the award letter for reporting requirements.  

If unique circumstances exist, the grantee will immediately consult with SMCC to request an extension or alternative option for fulfilling the reporting requirement before the reporting deadline.

Contact Information: 

Email questions to SMCC’s Executive Director at: email Jessica Burton


In 2023, the Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative (SMCC) partnered with the Onion Foundation on a new initiative to provide both technical and financial assistance to land trusts throughout the state of Maine.

3.1.2023 News Release: Onion Foundation Awards $680,000 to Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative to support Land Trusts.

What is happening and why? 

The Onion Foundation has awarded SMCC a significant grant for two purposes: 1) to expand the technical assistance SMCC provides to land trusts in Maine; and, 2) to enable SMCC to launch a grantmaking program to provide land trusts financial support.  The foundation anticipates providing continued support to SMCC for these purposes. The grant falls under the newly conceptualized work of the foundation’s Environment Program to support Equitable Outdoor Access.  More information about the Onion Foundation’s Environment Program is available at:

Although it may occasionally provide direct support to a land trust that has the potential to strengthen the field through an especially innovative program or approach, the Onion Foundation is discontinuing its ongoing support for individual land trusts.  The Onion Foundation has made this change in order to move grantmaking closer to the field, to democratize its practice, and to strengthen SMCC’s role as an intermediary that can build the capacity of land conservation organizations in Maine.  The Onion Foundation also aims to make it easier for other funders, including regional and national funders, to support individual land trusts throughout Maine by adding funds to SMCC’s grantmaking program.  

Who will be eligible to apply for a grant in 2023?

For 2023, land trusts that have received funding from the Onion Foundation in the past and whose grant term will end in 2023 (this year) are eligible to apply. Land trusts that received a two year grant from the Onion Foundation in 2022, and that therefore will receive a payment from the Onion Foundation in 2023, are not eligible to apply to SMCC for funding in 2023.

Questions should be directed to SMCC’s Executive Director, email Jessica Burton

Does my organization need to be an SMCC member to apply for and receive a grant?

No, applicants do not need to be members of SMCC to receive a grant. The SMCC membership program will continue but will not be connected to this grant program.

How will grant decisions be made?

For 2023, the SMCC board has delegated decision making authority to the staff. This is a common practice for nonprofit grant-giving organizations that have many board members who have direct connections with likely grant seekers and therefore potentially have conflicts of interest. 

For 2024, we foresee the decision making process changing to incorporate a more participatory process. We will begin to develop this new process during Fall 2023 and will communicate relevant changes to inform our grantees, land trusts currently supported by the Onion Foundation, and the wider land trust community.

Will the application questions be different from those asked by the Onion Foundation last year?

Yes, but not very different. 

Will we still be able to apply for unrestricted operational funding?

Yes, applicants will continue to be able to request unrestricted funds for their general operations.

What new technical assistance will SMCC provide to land trusts and how can my organization apply for assistance?
SMCC plans to work closely with land trusts throughout the state to identify capacity building needs and priorities.  We will also take into account the existing assistance provided by others, including Maine Land Trust Network, Maine Association of Nonprofits, and the Land Trust Alliance, to name a few.  We anticipate helping the field to become stronger through training, educational materials, peer-to-peer exchanges, and workshops.  As in the past, we will publicize opportunities through our website and newsletter.  We welcome your suggestions regarding capacity building activities that would be particularly useful to you.

What is the relationship between this program and the Maine Land Trust Network programming?

SMCC and MLTN have a long-standing relationship and both work to add value in service to the land trust community in Maine. SMCC and MLTN look forward to continued coordination and the offering of a variety of programs that will further support and strengthen the conservation sector.

Learn more about SMCC’s Guiding Statements and Strategic Goals here

Learn more about Onion Foundation’s Environmental Program here