Photo: Indigo Bunting
"A brilliantly blue bird of old fields and roadsides, the Indigo Bunting prefers abandoned land to urban areas, intensely farmed areas, or deep forests." Learn more about this and other birds at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds website. Photo courtesy of Tom Grey.
Navigating the NAWCA Small Grant Process
Tips From a Successful Applicant
Applying for a North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant may seem daunting, but preparing a proposal for the small grant program may be easier than you think. We recently talked to Noe Marymor, from the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory (RMBO), to get some tips on writing a successful proposal. She is a private lands wildlife biologist who works with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to deliver habitat conservation projects through Farm Bill funding sources in northeast Colorado and recently helped develop a NAWCA proposal that was awarded $75,000. The funds will help remove invasive Russian olive trees along the Republican River in Yuma and Kit Carson counties in northeastern Colorado.
"This was the first time I wrote a proposal for the NAWCA small grant program," says Marymor. "My advice is to start the process early, and develop some patience, but it is well worth the effort."
For first-time grant writers, understanding the background of this grant program and how it fits into the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) can be helpful. The plan, which seeks to increase duck population levels on the continent, recognizes that providing wetland habitat is key to sustaining waterfowl populations. NAWCA grants, both small and large, provide funding for long-term wetlands conservation projects. Since NAWCA grants are ultimately designed to help sustain wetland bird populations, projects should be designed with that in mind and proposals tailored to fit that goal.
The RMBO riparian project has been ongoing since 2007, so many of the pieces were already in place when they decided to apply for a grant, but timing was key according to Marymor. "It was very timely and fortuitous that we were at the point of the project which coincided with some major waterfowl goals. With the draining of Bonny reservoir, a major reservoir in eastern Colorado, we lost a bunch of wintering waterfowl habitat. It just went away over the course of one summer. At the time that was happening, we had begun to focus more on riparian restoration along the south fork of the Republican River adjacent to the reservoir. That work is opening new parts of the river for waterfowl roosting and helping to offset some of the wintering habitat loss from the draining of the reservoir."
Once you have a project idea, you'll need to consider how to get it accomplished, which requires looking at two money issues: 1) how much the entire project will cost, and 2) how much non-federal cash and volunteer services will be contributed by the partners involved (match).
"Fortunately, since this is a large ongoing project, we had a lot of partner involvement," says Marymor, "including non-federal match from US Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Yuma County Pest Control District. It definitely helps to go over the application guidelines with a very fine tooth comb to determine what constitutes match and how you can use it. There are so many ways to figure the match; there's more flexibility but also more rules you have to pay attention to."
When looking at match, there are several things to be aware of.
When the budget is determined you are off and running. The proposal itself requires only four pages of written material. This includes describing the project and partners, and answering questions about the project's value to wetlands and wetland dependent species.
"We worked with Christopher Rustay, at Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV), and Brian Sullivan, at Colorado Parks and Wildlife, to get some of the waterfowl information we needed to write the grant proposal and to figure out how to make it as strong as possible. Christopher gave us ideas on how we might try to address some of the application questions and also did a final review of the proposal before we submitted it."
PLJV can provide support with many aspects of proposal development—including discussing project ideas, directing applicants to planning information and helping to determine the value of the project to birds in the area—so we recommend having a conversation with our Conservation Delivery staff early in the process.
"It is really important to work with the Joint Venture," noted Marymor. "Christopher was invaluable. The first time we submitted our application, we didn't get funded. But Christopher came back to us and recommended we try again. We were a bit burnt out from the first attempt and not too motivated to try again. He really encouraged us to update the proposal and give it one more try; and this time the project was funded. I really appreciate Christopher being involved in the process and the support that PLJV provided."
When asked what she would have done differently, Marymor said she would have given herself more time. "We really started working on the proposal four to five weeks before the deadline; I wish we had started a couple months earlier. It is a detailed application, so it takes time to go through and build all the budget spreadsheets. Then there is chasing down partners to get letters of support. That can take a couple weeks of making phone calls and hunting people down."
So be sure to plan enough time to gather supporting materials and write, review, edit and submit your proposal through grants.gov. Also, remember that PLJV is here to help support your project. Please talk to us and your other partners throughout the development process.
The deadline for this year's NAWCA small grants program is Oct. 31, 2013. Learn more:
PLJV Grant Reporting
Complete interim reports to the extent possible, reflecting current progress, and include updates in the final report. Sections that are not applicable to your project may be deleted.
Project Report Form
PLJV Capacity Grants
The PLJV Capacity Grant Program provides member states additional resources to deliver habitat conservation projects that address PLJV priorities. The grants are intended to increase the ongoing ability of states to develop and deliver habitat conservation, rather than directly support any particular habitat project. PLJV encourages grantees to identify bottlenecks in habitat delivery within their state and think about projects/programs that remove or reduce these bottlenecks.
Grantees may be focus areas, habitat partnerships, or other coalitions wanting to do habitat conservation work. Once funded, the parternships work to strengthen their infrastructure and their ability to contribute to PLJV habitat objectives. While we do not expect immediate habitat accomplishments, continuing accomplishments are expected after two to three years. Our intent is to support groups to get them on their feet and move beyond current capabilities.
The Capacity Grant program is by invitation only. Capacity Grant proposals must be run through your state wildlife agency. Prospective grantees may contact PLJV at any time to discuss a project and explain how it will encourage additional and ongoing habitat conservation once PLJV funding for the project has stopped. If the project meets the program criteria, callers may be directed to talk with the appropriate PLJV state wildlife agency representative.
North American Wetlands Conservation Act Grants
The North American Wetlands Conservation Act provides federal funding in the form of matching grants for projects that support long-term wetlands acquisition, restoration, and/or enhancement and that benefit migratory birds in the United States, Canada and Mexico. There are two programs: Small Grants and Standard Grants. Up to $75,000 is available for proposed projects in the Small Grant program. For larger projects, the Standard Grant program is best, with up to $1 million available per project.
The NAWCA national proposal-review committee relies on Joint Ventures to rank and evaluate proposals for their region (see map of North American JV boundaries), so it is essential that applicants work with the PLJV when developing NAWCA proposals within our boundaries (see map to right). We can help prospective grantees with conceptualization of the project, suggesting additional partners, writing and reviewing the proposal, and providing the necessary bird conservation information.
If you are interested in developing a NAWCA grant proposal, please contact PLJV Conservation Delivery Leader Christopher Rustay at 505-243-0737 well in advance of the application deadline. All grant applications must be submitted through www.grants.gov. If you have not previously worked with the website, please access it at least three weeks prior to when you'd like to submit in order to receive a username and password.
The NAWCA Small Grants Program can help fund small-scale wetlands projects anywhere within the PLJV boundaries. Principal conservation actions supported by the program are acquisition, enhancement and restoration of wetlands, streams or wetland-associated uplands, as well as long term leases of these habitats. Up to $75,000 in matching funds is available per project. The application deadline is in late October. This year, in addition to the regular application process, certain portions of the proposal will also need to be submitted under www.grants.gov.
If a project has good wetland conservation value, brings partners together, and contributes to conservation plans, the project will rank well. NAWCA Small Grants have been used to fund a variety of wetland conservation practices in the PLJV region, from straight-out acquisition, like the Shaffer Playa project in Oklahoma, to invasive species removal, as demonstrated by a Huerfano Lake restoration project in Colorado.
For more information about navigating the NAWCA Small Grant application process, read tips from a successful grant applicant. The PLJV has also developed a NAWCA Small Grant Checklist to help applicants stay on top of proposal requirements. We can also help direct applicants to planning efforts and help determine the value of the project to birds in the area.
Developing a NAWCA Standard Grant takes a significant amount of time, regardless of whether you are a first-time or seasoned applicant. If you are considering applying for a NAWCA grant and have not gone through the proposal process before — and even if you have — the PLJV Standard NAWCA Timeline can give you a good understanding of the process. Application deadlines are twice a year in March and July. Applications must be submitted through www.grants.gov.
In 2008, NAWCA staff organized a meeting at the 2008 Land Trust Rally in Denver, Colorado. They presented the NAWCA process from both the grantor and grantee perspective. Presentations focused on proposal development and submission as well as what happens after a proposal receives funding. The PowerPoint presentations from those sessions are below. We encourage you to view all of them prior to embarking on this process.
Reading through the proposal instructions can be a daunting task if you aren’t familiar with them. Finding specific items can also be a challenge. Below you'll find help with several key questions.
What are the eligibility requirements for what you can spend grant money on and what kinds of funds are eligible as match?
How does my project fit into the bird plan priority areas for Technical Question #3?
How will the proposal be judged?
PLJV ConocoPhillips Grant Program
The PLJV ConocoPhillips grant program funds projects that address the PLJV mission within the Joint Venture's boundaries (see map). Funding is available for proposals in three categories — habitat conservation, research, and outreach — with the majority of the funding dedicated to habitat conservation projects. Funding is limited to no more than $25,000 per project. Proposals must have a minimum of a 1:1 match, with preference given to projects that have higher levels of matching funds, and must show support and involvement from state wildlife agencies and how the project fits with PLJV priorities. Projects selected are funded on a reimbursement basis, with all funds to be spent by Dec. 1, 2014.
To submit an application, download the proposal instructions and template using the link below. Please pay close attention to the instructions and requirements when developing and submitting your proposal to ensure it is accepted. Applications are due by 5pm MST on December 6, 2013. Applicants will be notified of funding decisions the first week of February 2014.
Proposal Instructions and Forms