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Grant Insights: Important Factors When Writing a Grant Proposal

“The wisdom of the lessons learned from each previous grant application, whether funded or denied serves to make our next application that much stronger!” ~ Unknown

@ForagingandFarming Grants

This is the second editorial in a series covering how to research and find the appropriate grants for you, understanding qualifications and expectations. Connecting with grant managers, learning the application process, and following through are all important factors when writing a grant proposal for your farm or urban garden projects. A grant proposal is your story, and it is important to articulate your vision and mission. Distilling each project into bite-size chunks with resources and costing in place makes applying for grants much easier. 

Introduction To Grant Planning 

Whether you own a family farm or are running a non-profit urban farming project with a community education platform or CSA - or somewhere in between - or if you are seeking grant assistance, you have come to the right place for insight into planning and applying for grants. Maybe your project is for a high tunnel greenhouse, hydroponic solution, food production system, solar or wind energy systems, or a composting pad; it’s important to have your plan in place before you sit down to file an application. Recently, someone shared their experiences with me and their lack of planning. If you don’t have your plan in place, it's like trying to pull your car into the garage before opening the garage door all the way.

Before You Begin Writing the Proposal 

Ensure your Nonprofit 501-c-3 or corporate charters and tax filings are current, and your project plan must be ready for primetime. Know the required products, a list of materials to complete the project, costing by unit and totals, and a timeline from start to finish. The grant agency will require all of this information along with your application on Day 1.

@ForagingandFarming Grants

Defining And Designing The Plan 

Grant Funding is a way for business owners or non-profit organizations with a purpose and project proposal for the greater good to seek funding outside of profits to accomplish the greater good of the organization. Grants can come from people who have foundations set up to share in their resources, corporations who set aside certain monies from their net profits to share in project development, and government organizations, whether it be local, state, or federal - there are grant opportunities located everywhere. Grants are offered by these organizations because they want their monies to go to projects they, too, are passionate about when making a positive impact on their communities.

Building your project with a solid method in mind is key to success when building your farm plan, and the amount needed to accomplish your goals is important. We’ll cover this more in-depth in an upcoming editorials because when it comes to communicating with your grants manager, they will want to see your plans, timeline, receipts, videos, pictures, success story, and a Case Study to share how the funds were used with your organization and the success you have achieved because of the funding. 

The Executive Summary will share how the monies were invested, and the Case Study will be used to share your story with other producers - sharing your program, the materials used, and that your organization is using the resources as they were intended. Organizational goals - knowing what you seek regarding funding types and amounts will be a factor. Defining your project and aligning it with grant organizations that share your vision. Planning will flow into the Research aspects of Grant Planning - when you seek people who will share in your vision. So, get your pencil and field notebook ready because researching grant opportunities will take a while to gather information.

@ForagingandFarming Grants

Researching Grants That Align With Your Organization 

Where do we begin on the research front? How does an organization figure out what to apply for? How much is the grant worth? Will I need more than 1 grant to accomplish our project? What kind of information do you save, and how do you categorize and save it? Does our organization even qualify? Taking the necessary steps to learn about what grant organizations are closest to you geographically is a great place to begin your journey. If you are a larger organization, the USDA has many grants at your fingertips - we will learn more about the actual grants soon! Grant research requires a lot of Googling, Reading, Calling, Emailing, & Following Social media platforms for dates and important information. When learning about each grant organization, make a list and categorize the details of each grant that are relevant and well-aligned with your goals. Some grants have sample applications, an annual project focus, the total number of grants to be funded, and a range of amounts to be allocated. We will take a look at how to gather information - later in the video series.

Contacting The Grant Organization 

You will have questions, and people are behind the website, listserve, and applications to help you answer the unknowns. It is important to have some questions prepared when making contact with a Grants Manager. For instance - make a list with your project team or board of directors - something that helps you ask the tough questions of your organization and have important questions framed up! Softball questions are things like, “What is your application deadline?” That stuff is already listed on the website and shows a lack of preparation. Meaningful questions include, “What types of projects are you looking at funding this year?” For instance, ask them for case studies of previously funded projects; most are happy to share. Make sure to ask for tangible examples.....We will explore a list of solid questions in our upcoming video, Contacting Grant Organizations.

Writing The Grant Proposal 

The application is not the only part of the process; your Grant Proposal is also a large part of the equation. Writing the Grant Proposal begins with rationale, finding scientific literature, reports, White Papers, and data to support your project. Knowing how many other farms or food producers within your geography are seeking the same funding. Make sure to articulate the expected positive outcomes of your project. Articulating the methods and strategies, project timeline, and budget broken down into expense categories. There are typically 10 elements within a Grant Proposal, and we will cover these more in-depth in The Grant Proposal Video. Cover Letter, Executive Summary, Table of Contents, Statement of Need, Project Description, Objectives, Methods and Strategies, Execution Plan and Timeline, Evaluation and Expected Impact, Organization Bio and Qualifications.

Filing The Grant Application 

The application process begins with pulling down the editable document, PDF, spreadsheet, or online login. Make sure to register your organization on their database and review the profile to ensure correctness. The last thing you want to do is to be disqualified for inconsistency in your organizational data. Read the application samples thoroughly, print them out, and take notes in the margin - frame up questions you might have for the Grants Manager - they are there to help. Build a relationship.

Award Acceptance 

Once your organization receives a Notification and Acceptance Letter, it is your responsibility to respond with a Letter of Acknowledgement. The Contract should be reviewed by the Counsel, fully understanding the Terms and Conditions prior to signing. As you sign the Contract, you also provide a Commitment Letter. Some Grantors will require a financial Point of Contact.

Project Start-Up 

The start-up includes a project review, final cost, and project timeline review. Once the project layout is agreed upon, a kick-off meeting is scheduled to task each party member with their role and the timing of their participation. Of course, a schedule of meetings with all pertinent details.

Award Management & Closeout 

The Grantor will set up financial transaction details and milestone payment dates taken directly from the Contract.  Closeout occurs after the end of the performance period. This process ensures that the recipient has met all financial and reporting requirements. Taking time to run a post-project meeting and prepare the final Case Study - fully rounds out the project. Sending a final Thank You Letter to the Grantor, with team signatures, is important to keep the relationship alive.

Grant funding is an important part of building agricultural programs. Thank you for taking the time to learn more about the process of building and creating Grant Proposals, Applications, and Project Management. Watch for our Video series covering Defining & Designing a Grant Proposal.

@ForagingandFarming Grants

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