AARP AARP States Wisconsin

Apply for the Small Dollar, Big Impact Grant by January 18th, 2022.

Small Dollar, Big Impact Grant: make a remarkable impact on your community

Current Deadline: January 18th 2022

About the Small Dollar, Big Impact Grant

We are excited to be accepting applications from across Wisconsin for “Small Dollar, Big Impact” grants, which will be awarded to new projects that are designed to improve a community and make it a better place for everyone to live, work, and play as they age. AARP Wisconsin may award a grant of up to $1,000 to at least one eligible applicant. The grant amount could be a portion of or the total cost for the project. All projects must be completed within 60 days from winner announcement. if your project includes public engagement, please ensure that the activities follow all local/state guidelines.

Small Dollar, Big Impact grants are exactly what the name describes – simple, short-term, low-cost solutions that could have remarkable impacts on the shaping of neighborhoods and cities. There are so many great ideas and proposals for making life better in communities across Wisconsin. We know how impactful $1,000 can be. This is our way of extending some seed money to get these projects off the ground.

Here is Associate State Director for Community Outreach, Darrin Wasniewski, with a quick breakdown of the Small Dollar, Big impact Grant:

Does it sound like your project is a good fit for the grant? Great! Apply today!

Applications for the current cycle are due by January 18th.

AARP will prioritize projects that aim to improve one or more of the following “8 Domains of Livability,” which include:

  • Outdoor Spaces and Public Places
  • Transportation
  • Housing
  • Social Participation
  • Respect and Social Inclusion
  • Work and Civic Engagement
  • Communication and Information
  • Community and Health Services

The “Small Dollar, Big Impact” grant program is open to some nonprofits and government entities in Wisconsin. Other types of organizations will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Full eligibility is listed below.

Wondering what kinds of projects we're looking for? Check out the video below for inspiration, or take a look our Past Recipients section to see what projects we've funded in previously.


The program is open to the following types of entities:

  • 501(C)(3), 501(C)(4) and 501(c)(6) nonprofits
  • Government entities
  • Other types of organizations will be considered on a case-by-case basis
  • Must be located within the State of Wisconsin

The following projects are NOT eligible for funding:

  • Partisan, political or election-related activities
  • Planning activities and assessments and surveys of communities
  • Publication of books or reports
  • Acquisition of land and/or buildings
  • 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

Selection Criteria

Applications will be reviewed by a small team of community focused stakeholders who have experience in neighborhood and city development. Reviewers will assess each project based on the following factors:

  • WOWNESS: does it make us say, "holy coleslaw-on-a-sandwich, that's awesome and creative!"?
  • USEFULNESS: will this grant make a real difference in getting the project off the ground in the near future?
  • NICENESS: would the idea make people happy or help people?
  • BIGNESS/ LOCAL IMPACT: does this project have the potential to reach many people in the community? Is it scalable?

Upcoming Deadlines

o Recipient announced December 20

o Deadline January 18th

Past Recipients

2021 Recipients
Grant #1
o Darlington Ice Lounge

Grant #2
o Shawano Pathways

Grant #3
o Downtown Janesville Dog Stations

Grant #4
o Juneau "Movies in the Park"

Grant #5
o Eagle River Revitalization Program

Grant #6
o Spooner Railroad Park Grills

Grant #7
o Dane County Library Service Thematic Outreach Kits
o Downtown La Crosse Planter Beautification Project

Grant #8
o Milwaukee Riverworks adding plaques to artist murals

Grant #9
o Sauk County ADRC proposal to deliver Christmas comfort gifts to Meals on Wheels clients
o Eras Senior Network, Inc. to send clients info about latest COVID-19 scams

o Recipient announced November 9th

2020 Recipients
The Osceola Area Chamber and Main Street Program's Picnic-to-Go
This program transformed the entire town into a food court with newly designated eating areas spread out throughout town and in the parks. The program has three components:
1. Expanded and identified picnic areas and tables.
2. Picnic-to-Go Kits.
3. Promotions over the summer.
During the event period, participating restaurants offered a special Pick-to-Go meal package along with other choices.

The East Side BID #20 of Milwaukee
The Small Dollar, Big Impact grant helped fund an effort to convert an underutilized public space into a usable community gathering space that includes nearly a dozen new picnic tables painted by local artists.

The Mining & Rollo Jamison Museums/City of Platteville Museum Department of Platteville
This project will expand, beautify and make the Gail E. & Wes E. Kopp Memorial Pollinator Garden available in all seasons for the community to enjoy.

Beaver Dam Area Chamber of Commerce's Movies Under the Stars
After winning the Small Dollar, Big Impact Grant this summer, Beaver Dam Area Chamber of Commerce invested the $1,000 prize into their community in a way that will keep on giving for years to come. When organizers discovered that renting equipment was roughly the same cost as owning it, they decided to use the grant money to help purchase a high lumen projector and contribute to the movie licensing fees. Using a local Slumberland parking lot to serve as the gathering space, Beaver Dam’s Movie Under the Stars gave people the chance to see family-friendly movies like Goonies and Avengers: Infinity War for free this summer.

On Broadway, Inc. of Green Bay
"In our world today, there are a lot of people struggling and a lot of voices that want to be heard. To bring people together and share the good word, On Broadway would like to create a community insta-mural with a sign that has the capability for the messaging to be switched out monthly,” said Brian H. Johnson, Executive Director of On Broadway, Inc.

Vliet Street Oasis
Vliet Street in Milwaukee’s Near West Side has been transformed by local businesses and residents of the Martin Drive, Cold Spring Park, and Washington Park neighborhoods. The Vliet Street Oasis will bring life to a vacant city-owned lot and serve as a vital fresh-food access point and community gathering space, supporting a neighborhood farmers market and area restaurants.

Havenwoods Economic Development Corporation's Villard Distract Mural Project
The Villard District Mural Project calls for installing five murals in the neighborhood in an effort to celebrate and uplift the community, while showcasing local Milwaukee artists.

Village of Rochester - Seven Waters Bike Trail
The park committee will use the grant to purchase and install a trailhead kiosk for the Seven Waters Bike Trail near a parking and rest area in Case Eagle Park. The kiosk will be used to post a map of the bike trail with a mileage log showing distances between key destinations and features; to post information on other nearby outdoor recreational opportunities; and to post information on community events.

Serving Older Adults Newsletter
Cathy Wood, President/CEO of Serving Older Adults, said, "This grant will help us make a connection to the seniors we serve through a newsletter designed to help them get resources they need and let them know we are thinking of them and connect them to services in the community.

“A mailing to the 5,000 seniors we serve is the only way for us to reach each and every one of the participants who have passed through our doors and provide them with a lifeline to resources and activities that we are currently offering during this time of sheltering at home and ways for them to get involved from the comfort of their homes."

Fountain City's Little Free Library
With the grant money, the city plans to turn an old unused office space just off the lobby area of the historic auditorium into “The Nook – a Little Free Community Library”. With the efforts of several enthusiastic volunteers, they plan to clean out the office space, add shelving, and stock The Nook with an assortment of books, games, videos, magazines, and newspapers for residents of all ages.

Aeroponic Vertical Gardens for the Waupaca Senior Center
“This is a simple, low-cost investment in the physical, social, and mental health of senior citizens in our community,” said Sara Reybrock, Senior Center Coordinator, who added that the garden will do more than just supply senior citizens with year-round access to organic greens and herbs. “It will also foster social participation for senior center members who create communal meals and snacks from the harvest.”

Terms and Conditions

By submitting an application to AARP-WI, the applicant agrees that:

  • The decisions of AARP regarding the eligibility of participants and the validity of entries shall be final and binding.
  • All submissions will be judged by AARP-WI, whose decisions and determinations as to the administration of the award and selection of award recipients are final.
  • AARP has the right, in its sole discretion, to cancel, or suspend the award.
  • All projects and applications shall not violate any third-party rights.
  • Except where prohibited by law, participation in the AARP- WI Small Dollar, Big Impact Grant constitutes the Applicant’s consent to AARP’s use of the organization’s name and corporate logo, street address, city, state, zip code, county, and names, likenesses, photographs, videos, images, and statements made or provided by the Applicant’s representatives regarding the award for promotional purposes in any media without further permission, consent, payment or other consideration.

All promotional materials (such as newsletters, press releases), events and signage related to the funded project will include a statement indicating that support was received from AARP-Wisconsin.

The organization is required to capture photos of the project and is encouraged to capture video. As the organization captures photos and video of the project, if an identifiable individual appears in the photos and/or videos, the organization is responsible for having him/her sign the AARP General Release (this document will be provided to grantees with the MOU and other required paperwork). In addition, the organization should not include any element in photos or videos provided to AARP-WI that may violate third party rights such as artwork and trademarks in text and logo other than those owned by the organization and AARP-WI. The organization should be prepared to send work in progress photos to AARP-WI upon request.

AARP and its affiliated organizations, subsidiaries, agents and employees are not responsible for late, lost, illegible, incomplete, stolen, misdirected, illegitimate, or impermissible submissions or any other error whether human, mechanical or electronic.

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