We love helping school garden dreams come true, and are always encouraged to see the number of school garden grant applications we get every year. Some of them really stand out!

Our friends at FoodCorps contributed to the Whole Kids Foundation School Garden Grant review process, and have a list of helpful tips and examples to help you write your garden grant application.

Download the application at:

When evaluating applications, Whole Kids Foundation focuses on three things: a clear connection between a school garden and its community, a thoughtful and achievable plan, and integration into the school and its curriculum.

It helps to remember the following tips:

  1. Be specific
  2. Be unique
  3. Be concise
  4. Be realistic
  5. Be strategic
  6. Be sustainable
  7. Be passionate

Be specific.

Pick a specific project to focus on. From a reviewer standpoint, it’s much more compelling to have funds go to a specific part of a project (like vermicomposting) than to a scattered set of needs that aren’t well defined. Remember: bigger projects aren’t necessarily better! Think about a clear, well-organized project proposal that will engage dozens of students rather than a broad or vague one that hopes to engage hundreds.

When addressing your budget, it helps to be really specific about money. After all, that’s what the grant is for! How and what exactly will you use the money for?

Avoid general statements, like, “We’ll use the funds to purchase supplies and supplement labor.” Instead, try an itemized list with an estimated budget, like: “Garden Vermicomposting Project: Four 4’x8’ worm bins, approx $500. One cedar vermicompost holding bin, $120. One hundred pounds of red worms, approx. $875. Soil tiller, approx. $200.”

Get specific when talking about how you’ll integrate your school garden into the curriculum. School gardens can teach students about where their food comes from in a variety of ways. The more the garden can be woven into their other classes, the more the message will stick. How, specifically, can you accomplish this?

A not-so-great example: “Our garden will be integrated into both science and math classes.” Let’s try that again: “Our garden will be integrated into science and math classes for each grade to maximize hands-on learning. From seed sprouting and edible parts in the earlier grades to ecosystems and environmental sustainability to the later grades, and from simple counting and subtraction all the way up to planning square footage and soil volume for the garden.”

Another good way to get specific? Consider how you’ll evaluate your program. This will prove you have a clear understanding of your garden program and how you intend students to interact with it.

If you’re requesting funds to enhance an established program, consider evaluating it in these terms: How long has your program existed? How many meals have come from your garden? How much produce have you donated? How much time do kids spend in the garden? Do you collect any info from the students about their reactions to gardening and trying healthy foods? Consider class polls or more in-depth surveys.

Again, get specific. Don’t say: “Our garden coordinator works with children throughout the school on a daily basis.” Instead, try: “Our garden hosts 50 students weekly in 45-minute classes, with 2 instructors at each class, for a total of 3 hours in the garden each week per student. Produce from the garden is used in a meal in the cafeteria monthly, for a total of 9 meals a year. We hope to improve the program by increasing student participation to 100 students twice a week and use the produce in 2 cafeteria meals a month, for a total of 18 over the academic year.”

Get specific with your needs. Use this opportunity to express challenges faced by your particular school or community. Applications are stronger when the grant reviewer can understand the unique needs of your community and how they can be addressed through a grant. And “needs” doesn’t just mean money. They can include physical or mental health disparities, access to resources, location restrictions, administrative or district barriers, and community history.

Be unique.

If you’re submitting an application, make it stand out!

All garden projects are special, but how will yours be a shining example of a sustainable program that will be incorporated into the school’s culture and curriculum?

Note: if you’re writing a template proposal for a number of different schools, make sure you tailor each one in some way. You’ll increase your chances of getting one of your applications awarded by making a strong, individual case with each request.

Be concise.

Stay on message and use those bullet points! You want grant reviewers to see your project clearly, so don’t clutter your proposal with extraneous information. Use strong imagery for maximum impact and be as concise as possible.

Instead of saying this: “We do have tools, but we really need a safe place to store them. The grant will help us do that! Please help us have more time in the garden and protect our resources.” Say this: “This grant will enable 100 city kids, many of whom are low-income, to explore all of their senses in the garden — from touching worms to smelling lemon verbena to tasting egg-flower soup. Fourteen classes throughout the year will cover the following topics:

  • Seed starting
  • Planning a garden
  • Planting
  • Harvesting
  • Composting”

Be realistic.

It’s fun to dream big, but you need clear, achievable objectives for your garden project. Outline how each phase of the process will go. If you have unique challenges facing your project, talk about ways you might overcome them. This will show that you have a game plan for any possible hurdles.

Don’t just say: “Last summer we had a hard time recruiting volunteers to water, but we’re hopeful this year will be better.” Instead, try: “We learned a lot last summer when volunteers we recruited couldn’t keep up with the needs of the garden. At the end of the season, we developed a task force to research alternatives. This spring, we’ll work on outreach to parents, partners and teachers living in the neighborhood and use newsletters, social media and PAC meetings to aid recruitment.”

Be strategic.

Pay attention to the grant’s purpose and know your audience. Whole Kids Foundation seeks to improve children’s health and wellness through nutrition. Talk about how your school garden will further that mission, and highlight any edible aspects! If your grant focuses on environmental literacy, talk about that. And if you find that your program doesn’t really satisfy the mission of the organization or the grant, consider other grants. Stick to your program’s possibilities and strengths.

Be sustainable.

Grantors don’t want to be your single source of funding, and they do want to see a plan to keep the project alive once the funds have all been used. Seek out other sources of funding and support. This includes in-kind donations, expertise, awareness and volunteer hours. Don’t be shy! List all the ways you’ve received and will continue to receive support. Or, come up with a plan to generate support and show how you can keep this project going.

Don’t say: “This is the only grant we plan to apply for. We have the support of the PTA.” Instead say: “We’ve received materials from our local gardening store and applied for a major home improvement store’s school grant. We’re also ramping up our garden events as a way to raise awareness and possibly generate more funds.”

Be passionate.

This one seems like a given, but it goes a long way. Show passion for your project throughout your application, and especially in the overall goals section. You’re speaking to an audience that gets it, so don’t be afraid to show how much this project means to your school and your community!

With some careful thought and a lot of heart, your grant proposal can have an excellent chance at getting noticed by reviewers. At the very least, the act of putting everything down on paper in clear, detailed terms will help you think through your project overall. Good luck, and happy grant writing!

Download the application at: