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Maine Land Trust Excellence Program

The Maine Land Trust Excellence Program provides land trusts in Maine with the support they need to prepare for accreditation. Grants of $15,000 will be provided to each trust to support the work necessary to reach this goal.

Introduction

The Maine Land Trust Excellence Program is a project of Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT). This program, the first of its kind nationally, is designed to support and advance the operational quality and sustainability of land trusts in Maine as measured by implementation of Land Trust Standards and Practices and certification through the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. Selected land trusts will be able to increase hours of existing staff, or hire outside consultants or service providers to help them accomplish these goals. Acceptance to the program is on a competitive basis. The first six rounds of applications have resulted in 27 land trusts being accepted into the program.

Program Overview

The Maine Land Trust Excellence Program Grants will fund an array of services to land trusts in Maine that will prepare them for accreditation and build their overall capacity to conserve and steward land.

Land trusts selected for the program will be those identified as having the greatest potential for significant impact on the ground through improving their organizational practices and the skills of their staff and board members. Participating land trusts will establish progress measures in consultation with MCHT and will be periodically evaluated against those measures. Recipient land trusts are expected to apply for accreditation. If for any reason the trust decides not to apply for accreditation, unused grant funds must be returned to MCHT in full.

Participating organizations will receive $15,000. These funds shall be used for organizational assessments and workplan development, and will also help cover the cost of services needed and identified in the workplan, either through increased hours for existing staff or through outside consultants and/or service providers. Both the assessments and workplans must be reviewed and approved by MCHT staff.

Organizational Assessment: All land trusts participating in the program will engage in a guided organizational assessment based on Land Trust Standards and Practices. The assessment may incorporate additional questions that will further identify critical needs for the organization. Organizations that have completed such an assessment within the previous two years may be excused from this step with approval from program staff. In such cases, the land trust will be expected to share a copy of the organizational assessment with program staff. If an organizational assessment is done as part of this program, the land trust will be responsible for covering $300 of the assessment cost, with funds from the service package covering the remainder.

Workplans, priorities, and appropriate progress measures will be developed from the organizational assessment. The land trust, together with program staff and outside consultant (if engaged), will use the assessment to develop an appropriate workplan, including a plan for how Excellence Program funds will be spent and a corresponding timeline. The progress measures will be used to track progress toward the established goals.

Accreditation Application Preparation Assistance may be provided to those organizations in need of covering some of the costs of putting together their application for accreditation. Such funds could be used to pay a contractor to help in the process as well as copying costs, but may not be used to cover the accreditation application fee. Funds for this kind of assistance would be limited to no more than $2000 per organization.

Application and Selection

Interested applicants are invited to contact Land Trust Program Director, Warren Whitney, to learn more about future rounds of the program: wwhitney@mcht.org, 207-607-4595.

Application Process

  1. Application forms may be downloaded from the MLTN website (Microsoft Word required) or requested from Warren Whitney at Maine Coast Heritage Trust.
  2. The completed application and any additional materials should be mailed or emailed to Maine Land Trust Excellence Program, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, 1 Bowdoin Mill Island, Suite 201, Topsham, ME 04086 or wwhitney@mcht.org.
  3. Following review of the written application, key staff and board members will be contacted by phone to discuss the program and application.
  4. Questions during the application process should be directed to Warren Whitney at MCHT. (See contact information below.)

Eligibility

Organizations eligible to participate in this program must be:

  • A member of the Maine Land Trust Network
  • A land trust eligible for Accreditation via the Land Trust Accreditation Commission - a U.S.-based 501(c)(3) tax-exempt or quasi-governmental organization
    • incorporated for at least two years
    • focused on acquiring or stewarding conservation land or conservation easements
    • have completed at least two direct land or easement acquisition projects
    • have formally adopted the 2004 edition of Land Trust Standards and Practices

Note: Land trusts engaged in collaboratives with other land trusts are welcome to apply to the program for collective accreditation preparation assistance.

Selection Considerations

The application process for grants under this program is a competitive one. Applications are evaluated on the organization’s responses to the required questions, the supporting documents and overall fit with the program’s objectives. Particular attention is paid to the following:

  • The fit of the organization’s goals with the purposes of the program
  • The board’s understanding of and commitment to participating in the program and to improving the organization’s effectiveness
  • The organization’s understanding of the importance of organizational development
  • The organization’s familiarity with Land Trust Standards and Practices and previous efforts to meet them
  • The organization’s potential for conservation impact in its region
  • The likelihood that the program will have a positive impact on the organization’s conservation efforts
  • The organization’s plan for meeting the program’s required time commitment

Expectations

Land trusts participating in the program are expected to:

  • Pay $300 of the cost of an organizational assessment
  • Meet periodically for peer exchange around common issues and be available to provide guidance to other land trusts applying for accreditation
  • Share organizational documents with program staff and consultant (if engaged) as needed to facilitate workplan development (e.g. fundraising plan, previous organizational assessment, etc.)
  • Provide data and other information periodically during the project and at the end of the grant for purposes of evaluation
  • Select and contract with the appropriate service providers to meet the needs agreed upon in the Grant Agreement and workplan
  • Enter the Land Trust Accreditation Commission process for becoming accredited within three years of receipt of grant funds.

Program Contacts:

Warren Whitney
Maine Coast Heritage Trust
207 729-7366
wwhitney@mcht.org