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Charter and By-Laws

Northwestern Sustainability Fund Charter and By-Laws

Purpose of the Fund

The Northwestern Sustainability Fund (NSF) provides one-time grant funds for student-led projects directed toward improving the sustainability of the operations or student experiences at Northwestern University.

The fund and its grant making committee empower students and enable student-driven projects at Northwestern University by providing a source of funding, guidance, hands-on experience and networking.

Funding student-led green projects is consistent with the university’s mission of integrating learning and experience, and will contribute to sustainNU’s commitment to improve our built environment and natural ecology. In the words of the Northwestern Strategic Plan, "We will contribute to the solutions for renewable energy and a sustainable environment and to how public policies and economic incentives promote implementation of new technologies and practices.” Northwestern’s Sustainability Fund supports projects and initiatives that will advance the implementation of Northwestern’s Strategic Sustainability Plan. The plan focuses on several objectives to support our built environment, energy, and water reduction goals; expand sustainable transportation; conserve our resources and reduce waste to landfill; encourage curriculum and research to use our campus as a living learning environment; and expand our communications and engagement efforts to empower all members of the university to consider the environmental impacts of their activities and seek out opportunities to adopt more sustainable practices.

Article 1—Grant Making Committee

Section 1.1—Powers and Voting

The NSF Grant Committee shall have sole authority to receive and approve or reject grant requests for funds from Northwestern’s Sustainability Fund. A simple majority of the Committee’s full membership is required to make grant awards and any other official decisions, except as provided for elsewhere in these by-laws.

Section 1.2—Duties of the Grant-Making Committee

It shall be the duty of the Committee members to:

  • Establish and articulate clear priorities for allocating grant awards and make these priorities and policies publicly available;
  • Review project applications and determine allocations of grant awards;
  • Provide resources, advice, and alternative funding opportunities for students pursuing Northwestern University-related projects prior to the application and post selection of projects;
  • Provide guidelines to obtain regular progress updates and final reports for all grants awarded;
  • Produce an annual written report on funded projects, to communicate the effectiveness and impact of the Fund, and the importance of continuing similar funding in future years.

Section 1.3—Member Number and Representation

The Grant-Making Committee shall consist of six (6) students and four (4) non-students, as follows:

  • One student representing the Associated Student Government (ASG) Sustainability Committee
  • One student representing Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW)
  • One student representing Northwestern Energy and Sustainability Consortium (NESC)
  • One student representing Students for Ecological and Environmental Development (SEED)
  • Two student members at-large
  • One staff member representing sustainNU
  • One faculty or staff member representing the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN)
  • Two faculty members

Section 1.4—Officers

  • The Committee shall have two co-chairs selected by a majority vote of the Grant-Making Committee. There will be one student co-chair and one faculty or staff co-chair. The co-chairs shall preside at all meetings of the Grant-Making Committee, act as facilitators, and hold meetings to the agenda in a timely fashion. The co-chairs are responsible for writing the meeting agenda. The co-chairs are responsible for updating the Northwestern Sustainability Fund award tracking ledger regularly;
  • The Grant-Making Committee may appoint a student or staff secretary. The secretary will be responsible for note-taking of meeting minutes, scheduling, and other administrative tasks.

Section 1.5—Terms of Office

  • Each student member of the Grant-Making Committee shall be appointed for one year. All student member terms will begin on July 1 and end on June 30 of the following year;
  • Prior to the end of spring quarter, each outgoing student voting member shall nominate his/her replacement for the following term, from his/her campus organization, submitting names to the co-chairs;
  • Once the new student representatives have been identified, the Grant-Making Committee will take nominations and/or voluntary bids for co-chairs which will be approved by a majority vote of the Committee. Potential nominees are encouraged to have prior experience as a member of the Grant-Making Committee;
  • Student-at-large vacancies will be filled through an open application process, administered by sustainNU;
  • Faculty and staff hold their appointment permanently, unless they are impeached by supermajority vote from the full committee or voluntarily rescind their position via written request to the Grant-Making Committee;
  • New appointments for faculty and staff must be approved by unanimous vote of the Grant-Making Committee. Outgoing faculty and staff are included in this vote.

Section 1.6—Member Qualifications

  • All Student members of the Grant-Making Committee must be registered as Northwestern University undergraduate or graduate students in good standing as determined by their respective schools during their term of office;
  • Staff and Faculty members of the Grant-Making Committee must be full-time employees of Northwestern University.

Section 1.7—Member Replacement

A Grant-Making Committee member may be removed by supermajority vote of the other committee members for unjustifiable absence, conflict of interest, or other reasons deemed appropriate by the Committee. In the event that a Committee member is removed or resigns, the original appointing body will select a replacement. The new Committee member will serve the remainder of the original member's term.

Section 1.8—Conflict of Interest

The Grant-Making Committee shall conduct itself in such a way as to prevent conflicts of interest. Each member must publicly disclose all campus groups and organizations of which he or she is a member. Where appropriate, members must recuse themselves from voting on grant allocations for projects proposed by such groups. For such votes, the “full Committee membership” as defined for voting majority purposes shall be decreased to account for the Committee member’s recusal.

Article 2—Oversight by sustainNU

Section 2.1—Oversight by sustainNU and Facilities Management

sustainNU and Facilities Management shall assure that operation of the Sustainability Fund follows university policy and procedure and shall serve as the office of record for all Northwestern Sustainability Fund documents. sustainNU must approve all disbursements of the funds. sustainNU must verify that requested disbursements are reimbursable according to the terms of these by-laws, the terms of the grant award, and are consistent with university policy and procedure.

Article 3—Allocation of Funds and Project Selection

Section 3.1—Allocation of Grant Awards by the Grant-Making Committee

As noted in Section 1.1, the Grant-Making Committee shall approve grant awards for submitted projects by a simple majority vote of the full Committee membership. The Committee may elect to award only a portion of a grant proposal.

Section 3.2—General Requirements for Funded Projects

Northwestern University undergraduate and graduate students, as well as recognized student organizations at Northwestern University, may submit proposals for funding. Non-Northwestern University entities and persons may submit proposals only if these proposals are co-sponsored by a Northwestern University entity. Following is a list of broadly defined criteria that will guide grant allocation decisions by the Committee.

Submitted proposals shall meet the following criteria:
  1. Increase the sustainability of Northwestern University’s campuses. 
    Projects should directly address environmental sustainability on Northwestern University's campus or in the capacity that off-campus activities influence on-campus sustainability. This includes a broad range of environmental considerations, including but not limited to energy efficiency, water efficiency, waste reduction, transportation management, green procurement, green buildings, and education. Projects should seek to contribute to a goal identified in the Strategic Sustainability Plan. 
  2. Have clearly defined, measurable outcome(s) within a proposed timeframe.
    All projects shall have a mechanism for evaluation and follow-up after funding has been disbursed. Projects that are not completed within a single academic year must present a plan for continuation during the following year, until the project is complete. Projects must include both progress and final reports submitted to the Grant-Making Committee during and after successful or unsuccessful implementation.
  3. Incorporate publicity, education and outreach within the Northwestern campus and its surrounding communities.
    The project should include some component that raises greater awareness of sustainability issues on campus. This might include an outreach component, an article in a Northwestern University publication, or the fact that the project is conducted in public view.
  4. Contain a component of direct student involvement.

Section 3.3— Priorities

Six questions to consider to guide the Funds priorities:

  1. Does the project add value?
    Projects that will complement existing Northwestern University programs and projects in place on campus are encouraged. For example, proposals that build on existing infrastructure and commitment to work towards a common goal for campus sustainability.
  2. Does the project educate or raise awareness?
    Preference will be given to projects that are highly visible, impact daily student life, and/or reach a wide demographic within the Northwestern University community.
  3. Does the project make economic sense?
    Preference will be given to projects that demonstrate the greatest reduction in Northwestern University’s negative environmental impact for the least cost and that cannot obtain funds from sources other than the Northwestern Sustainability Fund.
  4. Does the project include strong student participation?
    Preference will be given to projects led by students or that involve students in their implementation.
  5. Does the project have long-term impact?
    Strong preference will be given to projects that will have a lasting impact on campus beyond their completion and beyond the graduation/departure of their original instigators.
  6. Does the project contribute to the goals set forth by the Strategic Sustainability Plan?
    Strong preference will be given to projects that specifically and measurably address a goal identified by the Northwestern University Strategic Sustainability Plan. 

Article 4—Other Rules Governing NSF Funds 

  • Any funds not allocated in a given year shall remain in the NSF account for future use;
  • Funds allocated to a project that are not spent within the project timeframe shall be returned to the Fund for reallocation;
  • Sustainability Fund monies are not to be used or reallocated for purposes other than those described in this document;
  • The Sustainability Fund shall continue to operate as long as sufficient money remains in the account;
  • Funds may not be used for any purposes that violate Northwestern University policies and procedures;
  • Funds may be used for compensation or travel only with specific approval from the Sustainability Fund Committee;
  • The Sustainability Fund may not own any intellectual property in Northwestern Sustainability Fund-sponsored projects;
  • The Sustainability Fund may not be used in exchange for equity.

Article 5—Accountability, Records, and Reports

Section 5.1—Accountability of Sustainability Fund to the Student Body

​Administration of the Sustainability Fund shall be open and visible to the student body and therefore the Sustainability Fund shall:

  • Make its records available to the Northwestern University public, including project proposals and documentation of projects that have received funding;
  • Publish an annual report of its activities;
  • Maintain the Sustainability Fund website.

Section 5.2—Accountability of Projects

  • All projects funded by the Sustainability Fund shall submit a final report to the Grant-Making Committee at the conclusion of the project and by the date specified in their Funding Agreement Form. Projects will be required to update the committee on their progress through a progress report by the date specified in their Funding Agreement Form.
  • The final report must include a budget detailing the spending of all funds. It is the responsibility of individual projects to maintain proper documentation of all spending, such as but not limited to receipts, order forms, and in-kind services. The Sustainability Fund will pay only those expenditures eligible under these by-laws and the specific terms of the grant award.
  • Northwestern University is exempt from sales tax, in the State of Illinois, and as such, does not reimburse for taxes paid.
  • Failure to submit the requisite progress documentation, final reports and spending documentation by the respective deadlines indicates a breach in the agreement established by the Funding Agreement Form and empowers sustainNU to halt the disbursement of funds and to request a refund of previously disbursed funds at the personal expense of the project group members. The Grant-Making Committee may also refuse to consider future funding applications from any student group associated with a project that failed to submit obligatory reports and records.

Section 5.3 – Records and Reports

  • Northwestern Sustainability Fund records will be kept in a Box file that can be accessed by Committee members and sustainNU.
  • The Sustainability Fund Committee must keep on record:
  • Minutes of all meetings of the Grant-Making Committee indicating the time and place of meetings, the names of those present, and the proceedings thereof;
  • Adequate and correct ledgers and records, including of its business transactions and accounts of its assets, receipts, and disbursements;
  • Ledger of projects granted funds each year and the funds allocated to them;
  • A folder for each funded project that contains:
    • Signed Funding Agreement Form;
    • All submitted Disbursement Request Forms;
    • All receipts, order forms, invoices, and any other documentation of purchases made with funds granted by the Northwestern Sustainability Fund;
    • Completed Progress Report;
    • Completed Final Report;
  • An annual report prepared by the Grant-Making Committee on the status and successes of the Fund.

Article 6—Amendment of By-Laws 

A three-quarters majority vote by the voting members of the existing Grant-Making Committee may amend, create, or repeal portions of this charter. The co-chairs are responsible for submitting revisions and updates to this document on a yearly basis.

Article 7 – Grant Proposal Deadlines 

The Grant-Making Committee shall select grant proposal deadlines at the beginning of each academic year. The Committee may choose a period of time to accept rolling applications.

Funding deliberations, questions to potential project leads, and final funding decisions will be made and announced within two weeks of the application deadline.