The Open Space Authority’s Urban Grant Program, funded by ballot Measure Q and Measure T, aims to directly benefit Santa Clara Valley residents by bringing nature to people and providing funding to local community organizations. Solicitations for the new grant cycle are now open, so keep reading to learn more about some exciting updates for grant applicants.
Updated Grant Categories
There are now two grant categories, program projects and capital/planning projects, each with their own set of guidelines. Program projects include classes, trainings, curriculum-building, special events, program development, and other impactful community services that help connect people living in urban areas to nature. Capital projects include the planning and/or implementation of long-lasting improvements including natural or built construction, restoration, or enhancements that bring nature to urban areas.
The separation of the two categories of grants aims to make the application process easier, and organizations can save time because they no longer need to read through guidelines that don’t apply to their project, while increasing clarity and conciseness of the guidelines that do apply. There are also separate staff review teams for the two project categories, to help create a more equitable scoring and staff recommendation process prior to approval by the Board of Directors.
Everett N. "Eddie" Souza Park Community Garden
Funding available for grant projects is now $1.5M, a 50% increase from previous years. Additionally, each solicitation category will receive half of the funding, as opposed to past years, when $200K was offered for programs, and $800K was offered for program and capital. For this 2022-2023 cycle, there is an expected $750,000 for Programs, and $750,000 for Capital and Planning projects. This approach is simpler for applicants, and the Open Space Authority is excited to increase the amount of funding available for projects.
Campbell School District, Living Classroom
Expanded grant performance period
The performance period, or the period of time given to a grantee to complete their project, has also increased from previous years for smaller, program projects. Program grants now have a two-year grant period, as opposed to a one-year performance period. Organizations that apply for Capital and Planning grants have three years to complete their projects.
Santa Clara County Public Health Department's Parks Rx Program
Match documentation only required for large organizations
“Match documentation” is the practice of requiring grantees to show their ability to use funding or in-kind resources to match the grant’s investment in their program and exemplify their internal and external support for the project. This cycle, the Open Space Authority is only requiring match documentation for organizations that have an annual revenue of at least $10M. This change should help smaller or newer organizations reach eligibility requirements and achieve project goals. The budget will not be scored based on matching amounts but will be screened for eligibility requirements.
Using a trust-based philanthropy approach, this new process lowers the burden on applicants by not requiring smaller organizations to prove matching funds, including cash match or “in-kind” match.
La Mesa Verde Garden Education
The Open Space Authority is also working to increase outreach to maximize awareness of the grant program. Lack of knowledge of the grant program is a barrier to new organizations applying for the opportunity, so the Open Space Authority is working diligently to spread the word through the help of its Board of Directors and Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC), social media, media outreach, and community outreach in general. To help spread the word about the program, please feel free to share on social media and share with your favorite local environmental organizations.
Guadalupe River Park Conservancy Environmental Education
The Open Space Authority has also instated a short pre-application for eligibility before applicants complete the full application. This allows Open Space Authority staff to confirm eligibility or ask clarifying questions with the applicant before proceeding to the more detailed full application. This may be especially helpful for those applying for capital or planning grants as they have specific site control requirements.
Bay Area Wilderness Training
Supporting Underserved Communities
Benefits to historically underserved communities is now a scored component for applicants, and an important topic for grantees to report on throughout their project period. Scoring for this category will be based on how well the application demonstrates:
- Project addresses open space needs for sensitive populations such as residents of park-poor neighborhoods, under-served, under-resourced, or disadvantaged communities, youth, seniors, etc.
- Project provides job training or skills development opportunities for youth, underserved populations, or at-risk populations
Campbell School District, Living Classroom
Simplified site control requirements
To make permanent or semi-permanent changes to land, applicants are required to have appropriate control or use of the land. This year, the process of fulfilling site control requirements is more streamlined: rather than having multiple land documentation forms for capital and planning projects, applicants have a simplified process for the landowner to sign a legally binding document declaring that the applicant has the right to make changes to the land.
City of Campbell's Nido Neighborhood Reforestation Project
Added question about partial funding
By nature of the grant application review process with the Open Space Authority Board of Directors, there is potential that applicants will be granted partial funding on their project. Sometimes the difference in funding will dramatically impact the project’s scope of work and goals, so the latest grant cycle application includes a question determining the limitations of partial funding. The question asks, “what would partial funding mean for your project?” and the applicant’s responses may be considered by the Board of Directors if considering awarding partial funding.
CommUniverCity Growing Sustainably program
New Grant Management Software
The Open Space Authority is using new grant management software called Wizehive-Zengine. This more intuitive and user-friendly program makes it easier for applicants to apply, collaborate with the Open Space Authority staff, submit reimbursements and invoices, report on project goals, and close out their grant.
City of Morgan Hill Community Garden
Feedback from Applicants
The grants team is continuing its practice of gathering feedback from applicants – awarded or not -- to make well-informed and effective changes.
Finally, the Open Space Authority hosted two workshops in October 2022 – one for Capital/Planning Projects and one for Program Projects, where Jackie Latham, Grants Program Coordinator at the Authority, walked applicants through how they will apply, specific application questions, and described the review and award timelines and processes.
Grant application timeline.