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If your group has made efforts to involve as many sectors of the community as possible, you will find yourself with a large resource base to approach for funding. And when people are familiar with and involved in a project, they are much more likely to donate their time and resources.
Before approaching potential sources of funding, have a clear idea of what you need and how much it costs. Depending on the nature of your project your costs may include:
Budgeting requires careful and detailed planning. Referring to your action plan, determine the costs associated with each phase of the work. Consider which resources will be needed first and which ones can wait until later. Organize these on a timeline in the order in which they are required. Assign each a priority rating, from those that are absolutely essential to those that are not necessary but would be nice.
Consult catalogues and potential suppliers to get an idea of what items will cost. It is worth doing some research before deciding on where you will make your purchases. Comparison shop to get the best price, quality and range of choices. Obtain quotes from at least three suppliers. For large plantings of wildflowers, it is highly recommended that you contact your local nursery to have desired species grown on contract. This needs to be arranged during the winter season. Costs are often reduced, but most importantly, you can be guaranteed availability of desired species.
Once you have determined exactly what you need and how much it will cost, start tapping your resources. This is when you need your creative thinkers. There are many potential sources of funding, but identifying and approaching them may take some ingenuity. Be innovative and explore beyond the obvious.
Gifts in kind include donations of materials, equipment and time. These are typically much easier to get than actual cash. Parents are a vast source of resources. For example, the parents who run the local nursery may be much more willing to donate 100 seedlings to your restoration effort than to give a donation of $200. Brainstorm to draw up a list of potential supporters for each of your needs. Would a construction company donate labour and machinery for large-scale landscaping needs? Would a garden centre be willing to provide hand tools such as shovels and rakes? Would an office supply or stationary store donate paper and envelopes? When you make up your list of needs, be as specific as possible. Instead of asking for seedlings, for example, specify that you want 20 red maples, 150 purple asters, 300 mixed prairie grasses. Companies will find it easier to donate if they know exactly what you are asking for.
The golden rule of fundraising is Ask before you buy. Many schools have had a long list of items they couldn't afford to buy, but when they sent out a notice about their restoration project accompanied by a wish list of items, they soon started receiving phone calls from parents and members of the community offering to help. The donations included everything from wooden fencing around a pond, to boulders and plant materials, to design expertise and machinery for heavy digging and moving.
Corporate donations - Businesses that have an interest in supporting community-based or environmental projects may be willing to help. They are often a good source of cash and in-kind donations. Consider both large corporations and local businesses (nurseries, gardening supply stores).
Government grants - Federal and provincial governments often have grants available to sponsor community-based and environmental projects. Environment Canada's EcoAction 2000 is one example of a federal fund for restoration initiatives. (Environment Canada's Web site has up-to-date information on its funding programs: www.ec.qc.ca.) Municipal governments also sometimes have a small budget for community improvement projects.
Private donations - Individual members of the community may have time or materials to donate. A group of neighbours may be willing to jointly lend equipment on a short-term basis.
Credit unions - These financial institutions may have funds available to either donate or loan in support of community-based initiatives.
Neighbourhood and community health centres - Social service organizations can be a source of in-kind donations.
Universities and colleges - Students enrolled in environmental studies, science, education or geography programs may be willing to donate time and expertise to a naturalization effort.
Service clubs - Social service clubs such as the Lions Club, the Rotary Club and the Kiwanis Club may be able to offer volunteer support for getting the work done, or they may be able to assist with organizing fundraising or other publicity events. Other community groups may be similarly available to help.
Community and private foundations - There are a number of foundations across Canada that provide funding in specified areas. For information on foundations, the mandates they fund and their grant deadlines search in the Canadian Directory to Foundations, published annually by the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy and available in most libraries.
Other sources - Horticultural societies, public utilities, municipal parks departments, "Adopt-a-tree" programs.
Evergreen provides an up-to-date listing of potential funding sources across Canada. It's available on-line in the Learning Grounds section of www.evergreen.ca.
Be sure to carefully document all sources of funding - whether cash donations or in-kind support - in terms of time, expertise, materials and equipment. Use this information as a tool when writing funding proposals and building donor recognition programs.
Research potential funders and only pursue those who indicate that they support the type of work you are doing. Become familiar with their funding criteria, organizational vision and principles and describe how your project is compatible with these. Refer to the vision, goals and objectives of the restoration initiative. Emphasize the benefits of the project to the natural environment and to the community. Provide any documentation that is available, such as media releases, newspaper articles featuring the project, photographs and promotional brochures.
Some granting programs may require a comprehensive description of your project, while others may only ask that you complete a short application form. For more extensive applications, do a rough draft of your proposal first to help organize the presentation of your material. Ask someone not involved with the project to read over the application and give you feedback on his or her understanding of your goals and objectives and how you propose to use the funding if granted.
If possible, arrange to make an in-person presentation of your project to the funding organization or agency. At the very least, follow up your application with a phone call to make sure that it arrived and to communicate that you are available should the committee have any questions.
Be specific in your request about which portion of the project you are requesting funds for. Vague lumped totals with a requested portion do not do as well. (See sample budget for grant request below.)
Don't underestimate the assets that are available in your immediate core group. Take an inventory of the skills, expertise and resources that participants can contribute or obtain. Find out if anyone in your group has connections to businesses or organizations that would be willing to help. Refer to the information you collected from participants at previous meetings to see what resources they had offered.
The success of your project will depend greatly on the generosity and support of others. As any fundraising expert will tell you, recognizing your supporters is an integral part of a successful fundraising process.
To promote interest and concern for the school's environmental commitment, the naturalization committee designed and commissioned the construction of a two-meter-high "Tree of Recognition." Whenever students, staff or parents support our naturalization project, their names are engraved on a leaf on the tree.
Brookhouse School, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Don't get discouraged if you don't get the support you were expecting right away. It takes time to build momentum. As the community becomes increasingly familiar with the benefits of the project and the dedication of its participants, support for the effort will increase. If you are turned down for funding from one source, go on to the next. Seek feedback on ways your proposal could be improved. Once you have secured some funding and support, try again with those who initially refused. And recognize when you have raised enough money to get started with the hands-on work!
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