To help address some of the economic challenges facing North Carolina, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors embarked on a strategic planning process that concluded with the adoption of a long-term plan in February 2021. The goal of the strategic plan is to help Golden LEAF become more effective, efficient, and impactful in moving the economic needle in rural, economically distressed, and tobacco-dependent North Carolina communities.
The plan distilled the Board’s vision into these strategic priorities:
- To increase job creation and economic investment in rural, economically distressed, and tobacco-dependent communities
- To improve workforce preparedness in rural, economically distressed, and tobacco-dependent communities
- To increase the value of North Carolina’s agriculture industry
- To improve the competitiveness, capacity, and vitality of targeted communities
- To have, and be recognized for, excellence in organizational collaboration, innovation, and impact
At the June 2021 meeting, the Golden LEAF Board approved steps to begin implementation of programs to support the priorities outlined in the strategic plan. These strategies included modification of the Open Grants Program, a new Site Development and Infrastructure Program, and modifications of the Four-Year Golden LEAF Scholarship Program.
Open Grants Program
The Open Grants Program provides funding throughout the year in the Golden LEAF priority areas of job creation and economic investment; workforce preparedness; agriculture; and community competitiveness, capacity, and vitality. Under the Open Grants Program, most projects are awarded at $200,000 or less.
At the June meeting, the Golden LEAF Board approved establishing criteria and an application process for requests for funding of more than $200,000, up to a maximum of $500,000, from this program. Projects eligible for up to $500,000 will include one or more of these characteristics:
- The applicant can clearly demonstrate and explain how the applicant would be able to achieve additional outcomes as a direct result of receiving more than $200,000 in funding, and the additional outcomes are commensurate with the additional funding.
- The project results from a planning process involving multiple organizations and members of the community that the project will serve, e.g., employers, and those organizations and individuals continue to be engaged in and will provide support to the project.
- The additional funding will build on a history of success and allow the applicant to scale a project to significantly increase the outcomes the project can achieve.
- The project is collaborative and includes some features that make the collaboration particularly compelling, such as the following characteristics:
- i. The collaboration is uncommon and includes innovative approaches.
- ii. Golden LEAF funding will enable or encourage the collaboration.
- iii. The project is regional, i.e., involves organizations in more than one county.
- A Golden LEAF award would leverage significant funding from other organizations, i.e., Golden LEAF is a small but important part of a larger project.
- The applicant has limited resources and has made efforts to secure funding from other sources.
- Implementing the project in phases would compromise its outcomes.
Applicants looking to apply for more than $200,000 from this program, must first have a consultation with Golden LEAF staff to discuss the project and how the project addresses the characteristics that would potentially lead to a higher award level. If you have an urgent project need and are interested in applying for more than $200,000 through this program, please contact Senior Vice President Ted Lord at TLord@goldenleaf.org prior to submitting your letter of inquiry. If you previously submitted an application, Golden LEAF staff will follow up regarding an opportunity to revise your pending proposal. More information about the enhanced Open Grants Program is available on our website now.
Site Development and Infrastructure Program
The purpose of the new Site Development and Infrastructure Program is to help promote economic development resulting in job creation and private investment throughout North Carolina, with priority consideration given to Tier 1 counties. For FY 2021-2022, $10 million has been budgeted for the Site Development and Infrastructure Program to make awards of up to $1 million, on a competitive basis, to eligible applicants to significantly advance a project toward development of a site that is attractive to businesses.
The program will support projects that increase inventory of viable sites that are attractive to industry, where businesses can expand or locate within the state; have potential to create new, full-time jobs in the near term that are at or above the county average wage; and are on publicly owned or publicly controlled property. Golden LEAF anticipates supporting site identification, property assessment, and site development projects under this new program. The Site Development and Infrastructure Program is designed to build upon and leverage existing programs across North Carolina, including the recently launched program from the North Carolina Railroad as well as programs offered by state and federal partners.
Golden LEAF anticipates launching the new program in August 2021. More information will be available through the Golden LEAF website and in future newsletters this summer.
Golden LEAF Scholarship Program
One of the longest running programs of the Golden LEAF Foundation is the Golden LEAF Scholarship Program. The Golden LEAF Board took steps to enhance the Four-Year Golden LEAF Scholarship Program at the June meeting. The enhanced program will feature the following:
- Increase scholarship amount from $3,000 per year to $3,500 per year (beginning in fall 2022 for all new and current scholars).
- Establish a cohort of scholars that receive additional funds and programmatic support selected through a competitive application process to be announced in the coming months.
- Allocate funds for paid internship opportunities and leadership development programs through current and new opportunities to be announced in the coming months.
The goal of the enhanced program is to increase quantity and quality of graduates returning to rural communities by providing the following:
- Expanded internship and leadership development opportunities for all students that will lead to improved employment outcomes for graduates.
- Expanded opportunities for identified students who have demonstrated commitment to rural communities that will increase employability for graduates that desire to return to rural communities.
- Further broaden the impact of the program and deepen the connection to the Golden LEAF Foundation’s mission.
The Golden LEAF Board also approved creation of a new Scholarship Program Manager position to lead implementation of this program. Golden LEAF is currently seeking applications for this position. The position description and application process information are posted on the Golden LEAF website.
We anticipate changes in the Four-Year Golden LEAF Scholarship Program to take effect in 2022. We will include more information on the website and in upcoming newsletters in the fall of 2021.
We are excited about the changes to our programmatic funding as it will serve as a critical component to our strategic planning goals. The LEAF in Golden LEAF stands for the long-term economic advancement foundation. The Golden LEAF Board and staff remain focused on moving the economic needle in rural, economically distressed, and tobacco-dependent areas of North Carolina.