Frequently Asked Questions

About Golden LEAF

How does Golden LEAF define the rural, economically distressed, or tobacco-dependent regions of North Carolina?

Under our charter, Golden LEAF’s funding priority is to provide economic impact assistance to economically distressed or tobacco-dependent regions of North Carolina. In determining whether a proposal fits these criteria, we look at a variety of factors.

  • Economically distressed— Factors that Golden LEAF uses to evaluate the economic status of a community include criteria set forth by the North Carolina Department of Commerce, which ranks each county based on an assessment of unemployment rate, median household income, population growth, ability to pay, and assessed property value per capita. Refer to the Department of Commerce’s Economic Distress designation for more information. Golden LEAF also considers applicants who make a strong case for economic distress based on factors other than those considered in the Department of Commerce’s rankings.  Golden LEAF also recognizes that a community may suffer from economic distress, even though the county in which it is located as a whole may not be similarly situated. See the NC Department of Commerce’s ranking of NC counties.
  • Tobacco-dependent— Golden LEAF uses a variety of criteria (provided by the NC Rural Economic Development Center in 2001) to determine tobacco-dependence, including: 1) tobacco receipts as a percentage of total agricultural receipts in a county, 2) tobacco receipts as a percentage of total income in a county, and 3) tobacco farms as a percentage of total farming operations in a county. If a county meets an established threshold in any of these areas, it is considered tobacco dependent. Golden LEAF also recognizes some counties are tobacco-dependent because of employment in tobacco manufacturing. Golden LEAF determined which counties were tobacco-dependent in 2001, and that determination does not change.

How much Golden LEAF funding is available for new awards in 2023-2024?

Golden LEAF has budgeted $43.5 million for new awards for fiscal year 2023-2025 in existing grant programs, not including scholarships. 

  • $10 million for Economic Catalyst
  • $14 million for SITE Program 
  • $11 million for the Community-Based Grants Initiative
  • $8.5 million for the Open Grants Program

Golden LEAF may also fund awards in new programs during the year not reflected in the list above.

What is the maximum or minimum grant amount?

There is no minimum grant amount. Most awards in the Open Grants Program will be for $200,000 or less. For projects that possess some of the additional characteristics described below, Golden LEAF may make awards of up to $500,000 from this program. There are no maximum grant amounts in the Economic Catalyst program. For information on other initiatives, please contact Golden LEAF program staff.

Golden LEAF Programs

Who is eligible to apply for Golden LEAF funding?

Governmental entities and 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations may apply for grants. Funds must be used for charitable, scientific, educational, or tax-exempt public purposes. Golden LEAF does not make awards to individuals or for-profit businesses.

Why are individuals and businesses ineligible to apply for Golden LEAF grants?
The Golden LEAF Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charitable foundation. To maintain tax-exempt status, Golden LEAF’s  funds must be used for charitable purposes.

How do I apply for Golden LEAF funding?

Golden LEAF  encourages applicants to use the open door policy to learn more about grant programs and to discuss proposal ideas with Golden LEAF staff. 

Learn more about priority areas and which program is the best fit for your project by navigating to the priority areas page

If you’re not sure which program is best for your project idea, contact Golden LEAF program staff.

Learn more about Golden LEAF scholarships by viewing the scholarships section of this website.

How are award decisions made?

The Golden LEAF Board makes all decisions whether to fund projects and the appropriate level of funding. (Golden LEAF staff may deem an application ineligible for Board review if the applicant is not eligible or does not follow required processes.)

If the Golden LEAF Board chooses to make an award for a project, it may do so in an amount different from that requested.

Should I contact someone at Golden LEAF before submitting an application?

There’s no requirement that you contact Golden LEAF staff before submitting a proposal, but Golden LEAF has an open door policy, and welcomes the opportunity to discuss project ideas at any time.

What projects are a priority for Golden LEAF? What kinds of projects are unlikely to receive funding?

For an overview of each Golden LEAF priority area, as well as a listing of low priority projects, please visit this page.

May an organization that submitted a proposal last year that was declined reapply this year?

Yes. Golden LEAF also encourages declined applicants to use the open door policy to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of a proposal. In the Open Grants Program, an organization may not resubmit a proposal for a previously declined project for six (6) months after the declination. An eligible entity that has had a project declined may submit a proposal for a substantially different project at any time.

If I submitted a proposal last year that was approved, may I reapply this year?

Yes. Golden LEAF encourages past grantees to call Golden LEAF staff to discuss proposal ideas.

How long does it take to receive a decision regarding an award?

Golden LEAF makes decisions on a regular timeline. Applicants are generally notified of the Board’s decision the day of the Board’s meeting. Each program follows a slightly different process. For more information, please visit each program’s page on our website.

What are the exceptions to the required disclosure of public records and confidential information?

Click here for a detailed explanation of exceptions to the required disclosure of public records and confidential information.

Open Grants Program

If I am interested in applying for more than $200,000 but Golden LEAF staff recommends that my organization apply for $200,000 or less, may I still apply for funding in excess of $200,000?

Yes. As long as an organization completes the required steps to apply for funding in excess of $200,000, the applicant is not obligated to follow Golden LEAF staff recommendations regarding the amount of funding to request.

Can I apply for more than $500,000 in the Open Grants Program?

No. The maximum award in the Open Grants Program is $500,000. Applicants seeking funding in excess of $500,000 may consider applying in one of Golden LEAF’s other grant programs and may contact staff to discuss other opportunities with Golden LEAF or other funders.

Golden LEAF has listed characteristics that indicate a project may be eligible for support in excess of $200,000. Are these the only criteria considered when determining whether to award funding for a project?

No. Golden LEAF will consider a variety of factors when determining whether to award funding for a project and the appropriate level of funding. Examples include the capacity of the organization to implement the project and how closely the project aligns with Golden LEAF’s strategic priorities. For other examples of some factors Golden LEAF considers, please see this link to Characteristics of Competitive Proposals.

I am interested in applying for funding but do not see a priority area outcome directly related to my project. Can I still apply?

Yes. An eligible organization may apply for funding for a project that does not include Golden LEAF priority outcomes; however, funding for those projects is unlikely.

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