Toolshed Tips: Budgeting and Fundraising

Garden Budgeting and FundraisingChamplainStreetPark-GSCTeam

Your November Tip: Once your group has reviewed the past season at your community or school garden and decided your plans for the coming year, it’s time to begin to think about what resources you need to make it happen (tools and supplies for maintaining the garden, materials for constructing garden infrastructure, educational or outreach materials and supplies, or people to get a task done). Answering the following questions will help you determine what resources you need, build your budget, and develop a fundraising plan for the year ahead. Begin by making a list.

  1. What basic resources do you need to continue to upkeep your garden and program (i.e. annual costs such as compost, seeds, water bill, etc.)? Make a list. Starting with this list will help you identify the bare-bones of what you need, so that if other resources don’t come through you at least have what you need to sustain your garden program.
  1. What resources will you need for any changes or additions to your garden and program? Make a list. This list should reflect new projects or changes that will improve your garden and have been agreed upon by your garden group (i.e. building a new shed, replacing fencing, etc.).
  1. Of these resources, which do you already have? Mark next to these resources: “have.”
  1. Of these resources, what do you still need to find/acquire? Mark next to these resources: “need.”
  1. Determine numbers for each resource—if its people you need, indicate the desired number of people and hours; if its materials needed, indicate the quantity and estimated cost.
  1. What regular income do you already collect? (i.e. plot fees, products, etc.)

Putting together these lists will help you build your budget for the coming year. (Check out the below sample garden budget.) The next step is to figure out how you’re going to get the resources still needed. If you’re looking for people to support the garden, here’s a helpful tool for brainstorming how to grow your network of support. If it’s funding and materials you’re seeking, here are a few more things to think about…


  1. What fundraising strategy is the best match for the resources you’re seeking? Develop a fundraising plan. Before sitting down to write a grant proposal or knocking on doors for donations, consider which fundraising strategy will best balance the time and energy spent with the resources received.  Read below for tips to help you decide the best strategy for your group and tools for getting started.
  • Small costs like basic tools and materials for maintaining the garden (i.e. watering cans, rakes, straw, compost, etc.) or supplies for educational programming (i.e. visuals, cutting boards, recipe ingredients, etc.) can be easily sought through material donations from local businesses and individuals or through financial donations from small fundraisers like bake or yard sales. A simple posting on your local Front Porch Forum or local newspaper can be a great way to find materials that people may have sitting unused in your neighbor’s garage. Also, to prepare you for your first conversation soliciting donations, check out these Tips for Approaching Businesses.  For schools – here’s a helpful source for fundraising ideas for gardens.
  • Moderate costs such as a new rototiller or materials for building raised beds are often best met through mini-grants of $250-$1,000. The Whole Kids Foundation & Food Corps co-created a basic grant writing tip sheet for garden groups. A few examples of regular mini-grant opportunities include: New England Grassroots Environment Fund’s SEED grant, Kitchen Gardener’s International Seed Money fundraising portal, Vermont Community Foundation’s Small and Inspiring grants, and’s Youth Garden Grant (deadlines coming up soon). For more info and links visit VCGN’s Garden Grants page.
  • Bigger costs or combined program or project costs might include garden coordinator stipends, larger infrastructure projects, or a combination of the sorts of materials mentioned above that will help you accomplish a specific project or program. For example, if your group is working to develop the accessibility of your garden you might request supplies for elevated beds, materials for widening and stabilizing pathways, and funding for increased outreach efforts—all at once as a part of a coordinated effort. This would be an appropriate time to put the work into obtaining larger grants or business sponsorship. For a complete list of current garden-related grant opportunities visit VCGN’s Garden Grants page. Grant Space has an Introduction to Finding Grants that will help you determine the right grant for your group. For guidance in writing your proposal visit Foundation Center for a free online Proposal Writing Short Course. If you’re a school garden coordinator looking to fund your position here’s a great article from Life Lab which explores alternative approaches to keeping these valuable jobs funded.
  • Special events that serve as fundraisers for your group can also be great ways to bring in small to moderate funds. However, due to the amount of time, effort, and other resources that go into special events, this fundraising strategy should only be used when you have a dual goal of “friend-raising.” Event fundraisers will best serve your group when you are trying to increase outreach about your garden to the broader community. Get started by checking out these Event Planning Tools & Tips.
  • Earned income can provide an ongoing source of revenue for your operations. Is there a product you can sell from your garden? Some gardens hold a mini-farmers market or make a value-added product like salsa or salves made from garden produce. Local regulations on the sale of garden produce and home-made garden products vary; check out any restrictions before you get started.
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