Fundraising

In order to begin and maintain your garden, you will need to obtain funding. The start-up costs are just one aspect of your necessary garden funding. Once you have built your garden you will need a steady flow of funds to provide for its upkeep year after year.

There are many ways to raise funds for your garden. One of the first things you must do is clarify the type of garden you are building and create a mission statement, a summary for the values and aims of an organization. This allows donors to make an informed decision with regard to their donations.

Below are a handful of fundraising techniques that we have found most effective from our experiences with the Pleasantville Community Garden.

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Grants

Many organizations set money aside as grants for various charitable organizations such as community gardens. The Pleasantville Community Garden raised half of its initial funds (about $5,000) through grants. It continues to apply for grants for specific projects to extend its mission. Here are some ways to find grants:

  • Friends and Family: All of these people potentially have connections to organizations that offer charitable grants or know of grant-offering organizations.

  • Local Businesses: Local businesses often want to become involved in local service projects and will be willing to contribute financially.

  • Google: A simple Google search of “garden grants” or “food justice grants” will help you to identify numerous grant opportunities.

  • Grant Search Engines: These websites make it easier to search for grants.

Here are some general tips on grant searching and writing:

  • Grants vary greatly in size, so it is important that you have a well-laid-out plan assessing your need based on a clear, realistic, and concise budget.

  • The application process for a grant can take time, so do plenty of research and pick the grants that most accurately fit your mission and magnitude of monetary need to avoid wasting time and effort.

  • Having one or two people in your organization who are responsible for this process is helpful because if you do receive the grant, there is follow-up information that the grantor agency will request be provided to them. Follow-up is extremely important if you plan to seek subsequent grants from that grantor in the future.

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Events

Events are a great way to bring attention to your cause while raising money. A key issue with events is ensuring that the cost of the event does not outrun the money you raise with the event.

Some ways to keep the costs down are to:

 

  • Find a venue that will donate space for your event

  • Have the event at a volunteer’s home or in a public space

  • Ask local vendors if they will donate food or drinks or at least provide them at a reduced rate

Individual Donors

Cultivating a list of individual donors is extremely important, especially for creating a steady flow of year- after-year income to your garden. Always make it EASY to donate! Try to cultivate a way for donors to set up regular giving schedules such as monthly, quarterly, or annually. It is important to always look for new individual donors; regular donors may not donate repetitively if you continue to fish from the same well.

Opportunities to maximize individual donations:

  • Friends and Family: Friends and family will often be willing to donate to your charitable cause, especially if you demonstrate your passion for it. A simple set of letters or emails can fundraise hundreds or even thousands of dollars with a minimal cost. Here is an example friends and family donation letter [2.3] that we used. Here is a consistent donor letter [2.4] that we sent to our consistent donors to ask for more donations to expand our mission.

  • Coffee Events: We used these “coffee” events several times to fundraise for the construction of the garden. This event is a small party in which you ask a friend to invite 10-20 of their friends. Small snacks and coffee are provided at this event during which you can present about your cause and plan and mingle with potential donors. Your friend bridges between you and these possible donors. At the end of the event, provide an easy method to donate. This is a great way to make new contacts as well. Here is an example coffee event presentation [2.5] that we used.

  • Local Groups: Getting information out through local groups such as religious organizations, sports organizations, and civic groups is another way to attract individual donors. Here is a donation form [2.6] we asked a local group to distribute on our behalf, along with additional information.

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Sales of Produce

This is a tactic that the Pleasantville Community Garden has never taken (as we are committed to donating 100% of the fresh produce we grow and collect) but is a viable option for a garden organization. If you and your organization deem it necessary, the sale of the produce of the garden can provide a steady stream of income to cover overhead costs for the garden.

Possibilities for This Type of Sale

  • Garden Plots: You could rent out sections of the garden to members of the community who want to grow produce for their use but do not have their own garden. The renter would take care of their section and then be able to harvest the produce. You can decide if the renter is allowed to take home all of the produce or only a portion (with the rest of the produce being donated to people in need).

  • Direct Sale of Fruits and Vegetables: This option could constitute selling the produce to a local farmers market or restaurant, or setting up your own mini farmers market to sell your produce. However, be wary of legal requirements before embarking on any of these tracks and consider consulting with local officials or lawyers if possible. Look here for some tips about legal regulations for selling produce [2.10].

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is another avenue that many organizations use to raise money. Crowdfunding is useful when raising funds for a specific goal that you can promote, such as raising the funds to begin your garden. If you choose to go this route as part of your fundraising efforts, make sure to do your research into the various platforms to determine the fees associated with the utilization of that specific platform. Here are some crowdfunding options to investigate:

  • Kickstarter [2.7]: If you fail to reach the goal, you do not get any money. A 5% fee if you do reach your goal.

  • Indiegogo [2.8]: You keep the money no matter if you fail to reach the goal, but up to 10% fee (we used this crowdfunding site).

  • Fundly [2.9]: You keep the money no matter if you fail to reach the goal, but up to 8% fee - great for charities.

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Sale of Promotional Items

The sale of items related to your garden is a way to make money and get the word out about your organization. You will want to sell items that require little financial outlay on your part but allow a large enough mark-up to be profitable. This is typically not a way to make a large amount of money but is useful for small costs and can function as a good form of advertising. Make sure the items have the same tone as your organization.

Examples of promotional items:

  • Logo Reusable Bags: We sell these at certain events (especially a town pride event at which we have a booth) to offset event costs. People promote the garden whenever they go shopping!

  • Logo Shirts or Hats: These can be sold to volunteers, potentially at a small price, as another form of promotion.

  • Plaques/Bricks: Companies, families, organizations, or individuals can sponsor your garden by donating a set price so that you buy a brick or plaque printed with the group or individual name to be placed in the garden. However, this item has less promotional value as it will stay at the garden.

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Other Notes

  • The location that you choose for your garden can impact your fundraising capabilities. For example, the Pleasantville Community Garden’s main donation garden was built on a piece of land of a local church in Pleasantville. This church was willing to give us use of the land for free, cover our cost of utilities, and allow our organization to function under their 501c3 (nonprofit organization), allowing the Pleasantville Community Garden to get off the ground quickly with low overhead. Due to this connection to the church, several people were hesitant to write us checks as they had to be written out to the church. Also, certain organizations restrict religion-affiliated organizations from applying for their grants.

  • The Pleasantville Community Garden raised $10,000 to build our 600 square foot garden and have a base annual overhead cost of about $2,000 (not including one-time purchases and special projects). Don’t be scared off by these large numbers! Don’t think you have to raise this much for your project! This is just an example for the Pleasantville Community Garden’s unique experience, and it is certainly possible to build and maintain a garden for a fraction of the cost, depending on the size of the garden and your materials. Our initial cost was so large mainly because we wanted to use high quality cedar wood for the fences and beds so that the garden would last longer, along with a costly irrigation system so that constant watering was less of an issue. These seemingly insurmountable budgets were scary for us at first as well, but hard work and multiple fundraising tactics put this goal within our reach. A fairly accurate initial cost and annual overhead cost for your organization will allow a more targeted fundraising plan.

  • If you are able to properly articulate your plan and goal to others, it will be easier for them to make a decision to donate money, goods and services to make your passion a reality.

  • If you are struggling to fundraise enough money for initial construction or annual overhead, try to find ways to lower costs in addition to looking for funding options.

  • Keeping records of the amount of produce grown, collected, and donated can help immensely in asking for donations or grants. These numbers give people a concrete quantification of how much they are helping. By keeping poundage records, you can also set realistic goals of how to expand your mission.

  • Always keep fundraising! Never become comfortable with what you have in the bank account because these funds will always slowly drain away. Be proactive and continue to fundraise every year in case of disaster and to maintain funds.