February 4, 2015| Business Partnerships
U-HaulU-Haul, the largest do-it-yourself moving company in North America, wanted to give its customers renting equipment at more than 21,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada and on uhaul.com a simple way to make their move a little bit greener. Beginning in 2007, the company partnered with The Conservation Fund to offer customers a chance to donate $3, $5 or $10 at checkout to plant trees and offset their moving-related emissions.

“Since 2007, our partnership with U-Haul has served as a model for corporate social responsibility programs aimed at engaging customers and inspiring employees, and it’s rooted in a continued commitment by U-Haul and its customers to conservation and community.”

—Jena Thompson Meredith, Vice President, Business Partnerships 

Overwhelmingly, customers choose to give back: more than 1.7 million U-Haul customers have elected to offset their emissions, raising over $6 million to plant 756,000 native trees on behalf of The Conservation Fund and National Wildlife Refuges nationwide. So far, U-Haul donations have restored more than 1,900 acres of forest—that’s the size of 1,440 football fields—or two of New York’s Central Park. Over the next 100 years those trees will trap an estimated 448,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Donations have also helped to protect working forests along California’s north coast, including Garcia, Big River and Salmon Creek forests in Mendocino County.
I am extremely proud of the partnership U-Haul company has shared with The Conservation Fund over the past decade. The Conservation Fund has enabled our moving customers to offset carbon emissions from their move, enhance the beauty of the landscape they see during their move and have an overall positive impact on the environment while pursuing the dreams that moving allows.”

—JT Taylor, President of U-Haul International

GoZero-58 Ivan-LaBiancaTree planting at Rouge Park in Detroit. Photo by Ivan LaBianca.In 2013, U-Haul also began supporting urban restoration, starting with Rouge Park in Detroit where 1,600 trees were planted over 2 acres. The plantings were done in partnership with Greening of Detroit as well as volunteers from Quicken Loans and CSX.  To support green job creation, we also launched the Growing Detroit’s Green Economy Fund which is making small grants to Detroit organizations that support entrepreneurs who use natural resources responsibly.

Following the success in Detroit, in 2014 U-Haul pledged $375,000 over three years to our Parks With Purpose program in Atlanta. The company’s support has helped create Lindsay Street Park, the first park in the English Avenue neighborhood of downtown Atlanta, as well as Vine City Park and Boone Park West. These parks will bring cleaner air and water, safer places to play and more job opportunities to an underserved neighborhood. And the establishment of the Growing Atlanta’s Green Economy Fund, funded by U-Haul, is building long-term sustainable solutions for at-risk populations through grants to green or entrepreneurial programs working in some of the city’s most underserved neighborhoods.

In 2017, U-Haul began expanding its urban restoration efforts to additional cities:

  • In the Marlborough community of Kansas City, Missouri, U-Haul is helping develop public green space around a wetland basin built by the city, which will include community gathering space, playground areas, an outdoor amphitheater, recreational opportunities and native gardens, all designed with extensive input from the community. Support from U-Haul also provides workforce training opportunities for residents and will generate additional economic investment within walking distance from the green space.

  • U-Haul and The Conservation Fund are supporting the efforts of Pogo Park, a grassroots community development corporation working in Richmond, California’s tough, inner-city Iron Triangle neighborhood, to transform broken and neglected local parks into safe, green and vibrant public spaces. U-Haul is providing support for the expansion of Pogo Park’s Harbour-8 Park on the Richmond Greenway.

  • As part of a two-year commitment to support urban conservation and green job creation in Chicago, U-Haul and The Conservation Fund have teamed up with Space to Grow, a program of Healthy Schools Campaign and Openlands, to transform schoolyards from gray to green, starting with Nathan S. Davis Elementary School in the Brighton Park neighborhood. These improved schoolyards benefit the entire community by providing beautiful and functional spaces to play, learn and be outside. The schoolyards also use special design elements to help reduce neighborhood flooding.

In its home state of Arizona, U-Haul designated a portion of customer donations to the Upper Granite Creek Aspen Restoration Project in Prescott National Forest. This collaboration with the National Forest Foundation is helping reduce the threat of wildfires by hand-thinning 150 acres of aspen and surrounding pine forests. The project also improves trail conditions to minimize erosion and enhance recreation opportunities. In 2018, U-Haul received an Environmental Excellence Award from Arizona Forward for its support for the Upper Granite Creek Aspen Restoration Project.

Most recently, U-Haul embarked on an initiative to protect forest-based supply chains by working with The Conservation Fund to measure its wood fiber use—from pulpwood to cardboard paper products (e.g. U-Haul’s top-selling boxes)—and create equivalencies to help offset portions of that use. Through this effort, U-Haul is helping to conserve 8,700 acres of working forestland surrounding Success Pond in Northeastern New Hampshire. With the ongoing production of responsibly harvested timber, the land will continue to support more than 20 local and regional jobs for loggers, truckers, foresters and road contractors, while providing timber to mills in New Hampshire, Maine and Canada. The Success Pond Forest is located within the Mahoosuc Gateway Initiative, a broader conservation effort of 30,000 acres that includes protection of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in New Hampshire’s North Country region, which is considered a scenic gateway between Maine and New Hampshire.

Learn More

January 26, 2015| Programs
We practice conservation to achieve environmental and economic outcomes. Every Fund program places conservation at its center, and our entrepreneurial staff create and implement innovative, practical ways to benefit the natural world and the well-being of Americans from every walk of life.

At the Fund, we believe that conservation is an "all-hands on deck proposition," in the words of one of our former Board Chairs. Conservation takes many forms, and our programs interpret and practice conservation in a mutually-reinforcing way - working in concert to ensure the value of natural resources in America remain essential to our prosperity.

Eastern North Carolina 



Farmers can download an overview and application HERE (Word) or HERE (PDF).
Accountants can download an overview and application HERE (Word) or HERE (PDF).

Why This Project Matters

Farming is hard work, and even harder for small farmers.  Farmers of color face additional challenges– discrimination, difficulty accessing capital, and the loss of family lands.   NCIF is committed to helping disadvantaged farmers – who lack access to financial resources -- diversify their enterprises and build greater financial stability.  Raising vegetables or beef for the local market, for example, or developing a CSA, can provide more revenue streams and reduce risk.

Of course, branching out into new crop or animal production requires more than just agricultural knowledge. Farmers need good financial recordkeeping, tax returns and careful planning to access debt capital and take advantage of federal and state grant opportunities.  That’s where the Accounting Assistance project comes in.  

How It Works

Through this pilot program, farmers who aren’t currently working with Certified Public Accountants will be able to do so at a fraction of the usual cost.  They’ll get help filing their 2015 tax return and will develop a financial recordkeeping system to help keep track of their costs and be ready for future tax years.  

In addition, The Conservation Fund’s Resourceful Communities program will help participating farmers with crop planning and cost management. Learn more.

Farmer Eligibility

Curtis-Branch-c-Bill-Bamberger-390x260Farmer Curtis Branch. Photo by Bill Bamberger.
To be eligible for the program, farmers must:
  • Be able to show at least $10,000 in farm revenue for the previous year.  You may submit receipts of transactions of commodity sales, contracts, W-9s, Schedule F’s, etc.
  • Have NOT have used an accountant for the previous two years.
  • Agree to pay 20% of the cost of accounting services, up to $250.
  • Be located in Eastern NC or the Sandhills region: Beaufort, Bertie, Columbus, Craven, Duplin, Edgecombe, Greene, Halifax, Hertford, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, Pitt, Sampson, Warren, Wayne, and Wilson counties.
  • Agree to complete a survey and interview at the end of the program period to help assess this program.
  • Agree to utilize an accountant from a pre-approved list, OR an accountant of their choice who has experience working with farmers and is current on all certifications and licenses.  

Accountant Eligibility

To be eligible for the program, accountants must:
  • Have substantial experience working with agricultural enterprises and preparing their tax returns;
  • Be current on all licenses and certifications;
  • Have no overdue tax debts, as defined by N.C.G.S. 105-243.1, at the federal, state, or local level; and have no personal and/or professional relationships with the NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission or Natural Capital Investment Fund (state requirement).   

By the Numbers:
The Natural Capital Investment Fund's 253 portfolio companies have created or retained 4,500 jobs since 2001. 

NCIFund has provided 19,742 hours of technical assistance to more than 1,500 companies since 2001
Visit NCIFund's New Website!

Natural Capital Investment Fund finances and advises small to mid-sized enterprises, primarily in rural and underserved communities across a nine-state region. We help innovative entrepreneurs build locally-owned enterprises that create lasting jobs and community wealth, while using natural resources responsibly.

For example, NCIFund borrowers build local food systems; conserve energy and water; support eco-tourism; find creative outlets for recycled materials; and provide essential community services.

NCIF WhereWeWorkWe frequently partner with banks and community development lenders to provide the complete financing package a company needs to grow. We specialize in flexible capital that reduces the risk that senior lenders face, so they can participate in financing our target sectors. 

NCIFund is a Maryland nonstock corporation that is a 501(c)(3) organization and a certified Community Development Financial Institution. It is recognized as a supporting organization to The Conservation Fund under the Internal Revenue Code.

To apply for a loan or refer a loan to NCIFund, please contact Anna Tefft, NCIFund's Director of Lending at atefft@conservationfund.org, or 336-734-6902.

NCIFund welcomes individuals, lending institutions and charitable organizations who wish to invest in our work or provide charitable support.  To learn more, please contact Marten Jenkins, President, at mjenkins@conservationfund.org, or 304-870-2207. 

To learn more about NCIFund’s strategic initiatives, including specialized support for Farmers of ColorEnergy EfficiencyLocal Food Systems and Southern West Virginia Tourism, please visit the NCIFund website. 


Download the 2017 Impact Report (PDF)

NCIF recognizes that small enterprises often need more than just capital to grow.  That’s why we provides business advisory services along with loan capital.  Since inception, NCIF has provided over 17,000 hours of advisory services to over 900 companies.

NCIF’s strategic initiatives use targeted funding to “double down” on particular sectors, taking this combined approach of loan capital and business advisory services to the next level. Visit the NCIF website for more on our strategic initiatives. 

NCIF’s current strategic initiatives include:  Farmers of Color, Energy Efficiency, Local Food Systems and Southern West Virginia Tourism

For more information, visit the NCIF website

At Natural Capital Investment Fund, our management team maintains a fiscally healthy organization with growing assets and positive trends in its loan portfolio. 

Our ability to do this is made possible with generous support from individuals, foundations, corporations, and government agencies. As such, we are committed to accountability and donor transparency in our operations.

Below are PDF downloads of our most recent audited tax and financial information:

By signing up for our e-newsletter, you agree to receive periodic communication about the latest news and work done by Natural Capital Investment Fund. You can easily unsubscribe at any time, and we commit to only contacting you with pertinent, timely information. (See our Privacy Policy for details.)

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Read NCIF's latest e-newsletter here.

NCIF January 2017 newsletter 1

Past NCIF e-newsletters 

Fall 2016 Newsletter
Spring 2016 Newsletter
Fall 2015 Newsletter
Spring 2015 Newsletter

December 31, 2014| Resourceful Communities

Resourceful Communities offers a variety of training opportunities to strengthen community programming. Our trainings are designed to meet the needs of grassroots organizations and take many forms:  workshops, individual trainings, and peer learning visits. Support is provided at no-cost.

We hope you’ll join us at one of our network events listed below.  Keep an eye on our Facebook page for additional information or give us a call if you have questions!

2020 Upcoming Events!

Resourceful Communities has postponed scheduled events until further notice due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Workshops and trainings will resume whenever possible. We appreciate the continued work you are doing in the community. Please be safe and adhere to the country’s social distancing appeal and email us if you have specific needs. 

June 9, 2020
Webinar: Starting a 4-H Club
Time: 1:00pm EST – 3:00pm EST
Who Should Participate: Nonprofit Community Organizations

Join us for a 2-hour virtual training on the ins and outs of 4-H and determine whether becoming a 4-H Club is worth your while. You'll hear firsthand how two peer organizations-- Diversity Nurtures Achievement (DNA) and Michael’s Angels Girls Club—have used 4-H to their advantage. Don't miss this opportunity to ask all your burning 4-H questions while we have these resources in one "room!"

There is NO fee to participate. Click here to register!

Registration begins May 11, 2020 and will end on Friday, June 5th.

October 20-21, 2020
Grassroots Convening 23
The Conference Center at GTCC
7908 Leabourne Rd.
Colfax, NC (near Greensboro)

Registration information and additional details coming soon!

The following information applies to all events:

COST:  There is no charge to attend, but ALL participants must register in advance.

MEALS:  Snacks and lunch will be provided as needed.

MILEAGE ALLOWANCE:  A mileage allowance is provided, limit one allowance per car.

LODGING:  Lodging is offered to those driving more than 2 hours to the workshop closest to your home.

QUESTIONS?  Contact Donna Pratt at dpratt@conservationfund.org.
December 31, 2014| Resourceful Communities
By the Numbers:
Resourceful Communities has awarded more than $6.8M in grants awarded to community organizations 2,200 local “green” jobs supported $12 to $1 return on investments in community solutions.

Our triple bottom line network engages more than 500 community and resource partners, creating environmental, economic and social justice benefits for communities that need it most.
Many of America's most important natural areas are frequently home to our most economically and socially distressed communities.  Resourceful Communities creates opportunities that preserve the rural landscape, lift people out of poverty and celebrate our partner communities’ unique cultures.  Working with a network of 500 grassroots and community organizations, we take a balanced 'triple bottom-line' approach that generates economic, environmental and social justice benefits.  Our effective combination of direct support, skills building and connections to resources nurtures real change where it’s needed the most.  By bringing together communities and conservation, people and places, we have created or retained over 2,200 jobs, and advanced a $12 to $1 return on investments in community solutions.

December 31, 2014| Resourceful Communities
A specialized program of The Conservation Fund, Resourceful Communities supports a network of community groups, faith-based organizations, small towns and resource providers. The triple bottom line is the foundation of our work:  environmental stewardship, social justice and sustainable economic development. Rather than addressing community challenges as isolated issues, this integrated approach nets sustainable, comprehensive improvements.

Our work is built on values and practices that uplift our partners. Our triple bottom line mission grounds our work in helping communities build on their greatest resources: natural, cultural and human assets. 

We help communities implement the triple bottom line through three primary strategies:

Strengthening Organizations: Capacity Building

Resourceful Communities typically works in economically- and socially-distressed places. Our capacity building efforts are designed to meet the needs of limited-resource organizations and takes many forms: workshops, individual trainings, and coaching. All support is provided at no-cost and builds the capacity of the organizations to deliver more effective community programming.

Resourceful Communities offers a variety of training opportunities to strengthen community skills. Capacity building ranges from individualized technical assistance, which aims to improve organizational practices, to workshops that provide skill building opportunities on a range of topics presented by experts and peer educators. Technical assistance and training is designed with partner input and is offered free-of-charge to facilitate participation. Topics might include board development, fundraising and equitable partnerships and community engagement strategies.

Investing in Communities: Small Grants

Through our small grant program, the Creating New Economies Fund (CNEF), we invest in innovative triple bottom line projects.  Grants average $8,000-$12,000, with a maximum award of $15,000. The grants are as unique as the organizations we support, but all funded projects reflect the needs and visions of the communities. Funding has supported a variety of projects, including:  eco-tourism, sustainable agriculture, youth leadership development, alternative energy, and more.

Since CNEF began in 2001, Resourceful Communities has awarded more than $6.8 million in grants, and thanks to this investment, grantees have secured an average additional $12 for every $1 of grant support. Funded projects include development of food distribution centers, green job training programs, paddle trails and more. Our combination of training, funding and connections to additional resources strengthens community-led efforts and results in broad community benefits.

Grant applicants receive training in general grant writing as well as effective project planning strategies. Resourceful Communities continues to provide support to strengthen community projects through improved project design (timeline, budget, evaluation plan, etc.), community engagement and sustainability through connection to additional resources.

We thank our supporters, including the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, the Oak Foundation, USDA Rural Community Development Initiative, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the Overhills Foundation and private donors. If you are a current applicant or grantee, please visit our Tools and Forms section to download grant materials, or contact us at kmarks@conservationfund.org. To see a complete list of grantees, click here.

Nurturing Our Network

Resourceful Communities started and continues to support a growing network of grassroots partners and resource organizations (organizations and agencies that provide resources such as training, funding, technical assistance and expertise). We actively provide network opportunities that result in: reduced isolation, shared lessons learned, new partnerships and collaborations, replication of successful models, and new resources for grassroots organizations. Our network connects people across age, race, economic status and geography and help build a movement that advocates for the triple bottom line.

We support our network through:
  • Annual convenings where participants connect with each other and resources and learn about broad trends that affect their communities;
  • Peer learning visits provide opportunities to learn about specific topics and replicate effective strategies by visiting successful projects and engaging with community practitioners;
  • Facilitated connections that provide opportunities for frequently excluded communities to access resources and begin building equitable partnerships.

Video: Resourceful Communities Prioritizing Community Land Preservation

December 31, 2014| Resourceful Communities

About the Creating New Fund Economies Fund

Resourceful Communities’ small-grant program, the Creating New Economies Fund (CNEF), provides direct investment in community-based efforts. Seed money supports a range of projects: eco- and heritage tourism, youth conservation programs, farmers markets, alternative energy production and more. Additional information for applicants follows. Submit questions to smallgrants@conservationfund.org.

A portion of CNEF funds are available to help rural United Methodist Churches (UMCs) strengthen food ministries. UMCs are encouraged to contact a Faith and Food Coordinator, Justine Post (jpost@conservationfund.org) or Jaimie McGirt (jmcgirt@conservationfund.org), or email smallgrants@conservationfund.org to discuss potential projects.


  • Click here to view important dates for the 2020 Creating New Economies Fund grant cycle.
  • Click here to view Frequently Asked Questions about the 2020 Creating New Economies Fund grant cycle.
  • Click here to view the Creating New Economies Fund list of grantees.
  • Click here for sample completed budget.


For CNEF Grantees

online application

Additional Resources

background checks

  • Click here to learn more about obtaining county-level background checks in North Carolina

Considerations for new community garden projects

  • Click here for some key questions to ask before digging in.


  • Click here to learn more about technical assistance, business and legal, networking and learning, and financial assistance for limited-resource farmers

Triple Bottom Line

  • Need help understanding the triple bottom line, a requirement for all funded projects? Check out the video below and learn more by clicking here. 

PROJECT BUDGETS AND Working with a Fiscal Agent

  • If your organization is not a nonprofit and you are working with a fiscal agent:
    • Click here to learn more about fiscal agents.
    • Click here to download a sample Memorandum of Understanding.
    • Please be sure to include non-cash support or in-kind support for your project.  Learn more here.
    • Questions about cashing checks?  Download this helpful guide.

TRIED and tested Rural Health Ideas

  • Click here to visit Try This NC and learn about rural health initiatives from our partners

Corporate Giving Guide

  • Click here to learn about grants and giving programs available in NC and nationwide, including funding priorities and sample applications.
December 31, 2014| Programs
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December 31, 2014| Resourceful Communities

Our emphasis on the triple bottom line means that Resourceful Communities engages in work and with partners that represent a broad range of issues – renewable energy, youth leadership development, eco-tourism, cultural preservation and more.  We recognize that some issues call for special attention because they are innovative, represent critical need, and support The Conservation Fund’s broad mission of working land protection and economic development.  Our targeted initiatives advance innovative solutions for our most economically- and socially-distressed communities.

North Carolina ranks in the top ten most food insecure states, with significant rates of poverty, farm loss and food deserts.  Two of our current initiatives, Healthy Eating, Active Living and Food and Farm, address these serious trends.  By employing our three primary program strategies of training, direct investment and networking, we are increasing low-income individuals' and families' access to healthy food and opportunities for recreation.  We also help small farmers connect with new markets, better growing strategies and hard-to-reach resources.

Through these initiatives, we have supported SNAP/ EBT access at local markets with targeted technical assistance on securing and implementing equipment and targeted outreach to low-income community members and effective vendor education to support sales to SNAP recipients.  Other projects include community gardens and trail building, training for youth and veterans in agriculture entrepreneurship, a chop-and-bag project that provides cafeteria-ready produce to rural schools and more.  Convenings and peer learning visits support awareness of trends related to these issues; connections to peer educators and other resources; and skills to replicate effective strategies that garner real community change.

In addition, we are working with agency partners to advance Community Forestry.  Many landowners and small municipalities own property that provides critical habitat; can improve water quality; offers outdoor education and passive recreation opportunities; and can generate sustainable revenue.  Through workshops and technical assistance, we are helping develop partnerships and stewardship plans to ensure the best use of forest resources.  

Resourceful Communities is also developing our Growing an Outdoor Generation initiative to help people of color and low-income communities connect with the outdoors. By connecting low-income youth of color and rural youth with environmental/outdoor education field trips, STEM-based curriculum programs, and natural-resource based professional development opportunities, we’re helping create new environmental stewards and addressing economic and social inequities. 

December 31, 2014| Programs
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December 31, 2014| Programs
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December 31, 2014| Cities

Optimization Modeling

If you’ve ever studied a crowded supermarket shelf—Which brand? Size? Price?—you know the challenge of comparison shopping. So do conservationists. From state governments to local land trusts, cash-strapped conservationists must choose which of America’s special places to save. Today, with tight budgets, those choices are tougher than ever.

But we’ve developed a tool that can help.  Our strategic conservation team, working with a resource economist, has crafted a computer model that enables conservationists to shop smart—by evaluating potential conservation projects for best dollar value.

“We all want the most bang for our buck, and conservation is no different,” says Will Allen, our director of strategic conservation. “Are you spending too much money on expensive projects, or are you getting real value? With public budgets so tight, government officials must be able to justify how they’re spending these dollars wisely.”

The new model “optimizes” conservation decisions. It works by turning raw data about conservation decisions—project costs, benefits (scored numerically), budget constraints—into a user-friendly spreadsheet yielding comparison shopping conclusions.  Using the model, for example, a government agency can quickly compare the relative value of all possible projects and then make, and justify, an informed choice.

Optimization Modeling On The Ground

On the ground, the Baltimore County Agricultural Land Preservation Program in Maryland has already used our optimization model to save 22% more farmland than it would have otherwise over the past three years. Every year since 2007, Baltimore County has applied the optimization model to choose which agricultural lands to save. Optimization has helped the county protect an additional 680 acres of high-quality agricultural land, at a cost savings of roughly $5.4 million—a return on investment over three years of more than 60 to 1. In other words, for every $1 that Baltimore County spent using the optimization model, it has gained more than $60 in conservation benefits.

Wally Lippincott, Land Preservation Administrator in Baltimore County, is pleased with the results: “After trying for years to balance price with farm quality using rank based methods, we switched to optimization. In the first three years of using optimization, Baltimore County has been able to protect an additional 680 acres for the same amount of funds that would otherwise have been spent.  This also translates into a savings of approximately $5.4 million.”

Rob Hirsch likes that the program is easy to use: “Optimization has proven easier to administer and run than our old methods.  During our rank-based days, we performed extra administrative and mathematical work in order to solicit discounts and award extra LESA points for discounting.  With optimization, this is no longer required.”


Purchase book on optimization and strategic conservation