March Toolshed: Tips for Garden Leaders

Fundraising Tools

By Libby Weiland, Statewide Network Coordinator

How are you going to fund your garden projects this season? What can you do to think past the same old fundraising strategies of years gone by?

  • Seek donations. Before you dive into grant writing mode, think about what resources are already in your community. From free plant starts to donated lumber and paints for your new garden sign, local businesses and individuals often get just as much out of giving as you do receiving. Be sure to thank all donors, publicly if possible!
  • Crowdfund your project. Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular fundraising tool for pooling online donations for a cause or project. Two favorite crowd funding platforms for community-based gardens are: 1) Seed Money uses a “crowdgranting” platform that combines crowdfunding with challenge grants to support public food garden projects and 2) ioby combines crowdfunding with “resource organizing” to organize all kinds of capital—cash, social networks, in-kind donations, volunteer time, advocacy—to support neighborhood improvement projects. While crowdfunding can be a powerful tool, there are some tricks of the trade that help make any campaign more successful. Read below for details on two free March webinars on crowdfunding for your community garden.
  • Apply for grants. If you’re new to grant writing or feel like you could use some skill-sharpening, check out these Garden Grant Writing Tips from the Whole Kids Foundation (even though the focus in on school gardens, the tips are universally applicable). Two of my favorite tips: 1) be specific – know your itemized budget before you dive into your proposal and 2) be unique – remember that grantors are likely scanning through piles of applications; make yours one that jumps out!
  • Plan for seasonal fundraising. Are there additional projects or gaps in funding you need to fill? Seasonal fundraisers are a great way to fill small gaps. Some examples include charging for plot use, selling value-added products such as tea, jam or other goodies from the garden, or hosting an event such as a garden tour where admission is charged or that includes a fundraiser like a silent auction. Avoid the trap of putting in more time and resources than you expect to get in return, unless you’re looking to put on more of a FUN-raiser!

There are several unique opportunities coming up to apply for funds and to build your fundraising skills.  Read below for details.

Get Funded

For an extensive list of garden-related funding opportunities visit VCGN’s Garden Grants webpage: http://vcgn.org/garden-organizer-toolkit/garden-grants/. Here are a few highlights:

  • The Grassroots Fund Grow Grant deadline is March 15, 2017. Grow grants range from $1,000 to $3,500 and are dedicated to helping established groups increase capacity, collaborate, and leverage impact. Apply for Grow Grants if your group:
    • needs help deepening and expanding a community project;
    • expenses include general operating, stipends, capacity building, program development, expert assistance, etc.
  • Pilot Project: Food Scrap Composting at Community Gardensapplication deadline March 15. Special funding has been set aside through the Grassroots Fund’s Grow Grants for starting food scrap composting at, or in association with, a community garden. Successful applicants become a part of a new pilot project, supported by Composting Association of Vermont (CAV) and Vermont Community Garden Network (VCGN). Selected gardens receive funding, training, technical assistance, and other resources for starting projects in the 2017 season.
    • Who’s eligible: Community garden groups interested in starting food scrap composting in summer 2017.  Pilot sites must be located in Vermont, in one of the 5 eligible Solid Waste Management District areas (click here for a list).
    • How to apply: Visit http://vcgn.org/cg-food-scrap-composting/ for eligibility requirements and a link to the online grant application through the Grassroots Fund. Applications due March 15. Please only apply for one Grow Grant in the 2017 grant year.
    • Questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact us with questions – Libby at libby@vcgn.org or (802) 861-4769.
  • Northeast Farm to School Institute – application deadline March 9, 2017. The Institute is a unique year-long professional learning opportunity for 12 school teams from New England and New York, which kicks off with a Summer Retreat held at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, VT from June 27-29, 2017.  VT FEED welcomes Farm to School champions — seeking long-time advocates and those looking to begin integrating these programs into their school community — to form a team and apply for the 2017-2018 Institute. Click here for application details.
  • Fund your pollinator project! See a recent post by Wild for Pollinators Intern, Lily Myers, with grant opportunities for pollinator gardens.

Learn How to Get Funded

New England Grassroots Environment Fund (Grassroots Fund) is collaborating with ioby to present “Growing Resources webinars for community gardens.” All webinars are free.

  • Crowdfunding for your Community Garden – March 16, 12-1pm. Curious about crowdfunding for your community garden? Want to engage garden members in fundraising, build an individual donor base, or engage the broader community in your gardening work? Join the nationwide, nonprofit crowdfunding platform ioby (in our back yards) for a free webinar to learn how you can use crowdfunding to grow support and raise funds for your garden! Register here.
  • Crowdfunding with ioby and Matching Funds – March 23, 12-12:45pm. This webinar is for community gardeners interested in applying for match funding on an ioby crowdfunding campaign. We’ll recap some of our top tips for crowdfunding success from the first two webinars, and explain what to expect when fundraising with matching funds on ioby’s platform. You’ll also learn everything you need to know to apply for funding and get your ioby campaign started. Register here.