Request For Pre-proposals (RFP)

About the Leopold Center's annual Request for Pre-proposals (RFP)

The Leopold Center’s annual competitive grants program consists of two main categories:

  1. Research: Proposals with a specific hypothesis-driven question designed into research work makes up this category, the major area of Center grant funding.  
  2. Project:  Proposals designed to demonstrate, educate, plan and build capacity or outreach fall into this category.

For the LCSA RFP, these two main categories are divided into 10 subject portals and five focus areas (varies by year). The LCSA will give priority to pre-proposals whose outcomes contribute to increased resilience on Iowa landscapes and demonstrate a systems approach to the identified problem or situation rather than investigating single-tactic solutions. Innovative research and project ideas are highly encouraged. Projects may be one to three years duration.

Subject Portals (and managers)


  • Water: water quality, hydrology, water use and water management. (Malcolm Robertson)
  • Soil: soil health and systems: knowledge and practices that positively impact the self-renewing capacity of soil. (Malcolm Robertson)
  • Landscape: adoption of multiple sustainable practices in targeted Iowa agricultural systems and landscapes. (Malcolm Robertson)


  • Crops: alternative crops, crop selection, crop development, cultivation practices and factors contributing to plant health or productivity. (Malcolm Robertson)
  • Integrated Farming Systems: crop-livestock production systems (mixed or integrated farming systems) designed to clearly demonstrate improvement to the quality of soil, water, air, wlidlife habitat and the landscape. (Malcolm Robertson)
  • Energy:  production and utilization of energy in agriculture and food production. (Malcolm Robertson)
  • Livestock Systems:  livestock enterprises, nutrition, housing and other practices used in livestock husbandry. (Malcolm Robertson)


  • Policy: economic, legal, and business aspects of agriculture and farming as well as public programs which impact agriculture. (Mary Adams)
  • Social: interactions of various stakeholders, organizations and interest groups focused on food and farming. (Mary Adams)

Local Foods/Marketing

  • Marketing and Food Systems: Raising awareness of local food systems opportunities and building capacity for food systems professionals, organizations, and projects. (Craig Chase)

Focus Areas

The Center encourages pre-proposals in these areas. Note that proposales which include producer/farmer, on-farm reserach/demonstration will receive preference in scoring:

  • Soil health and associated biological processes
  • Farming options for a more diverse landscape
  • How to increase adoption of conservation practices
  • Preliminary development of a collaborative group/issue team to research a critical sustainability topic
  • ​Food hubs/food processing and distribution business development.

Pre-proposals will be assessed based on these criteria:

  • Sustainability/resilience. How does the project contribute to increased agricultural sustainability and/or increased resilience* on Iowa landscapes? How will this project help farms adapt to accelerating climate change?
  • Research/development basis. How does the project contribute to formation of new knowledge or to the application/extension of current research as it relates to sustainable agriculture? To what extent is this proposal unique or innovative?
  • Outcomes. If this project is funded, how will it inform or encourage changes in behavior or  practices?
  • Budget. Does the preliminary budget realistically reflect the scope and cost of the project activities? Does the project demonstrate potential to obtain additional resources from other sources?
  • Partnership development. To what extent will this proposal increase or support the work of other Leopold Center partners? What new partners could potentially participate in this project?

*Resilience is the ability of a system to absorb a disturbance and yet retain its structure and function (Walker and Salt 2006).

FAQs about the RFP process

Who may submit a pre-proposal?  Investigators representing any Iowa nonprofit organization, agency, and/or educational institution (i.e., soil and water conservation districts, schools and colleges, and regional development groups). Farmers, landowners, and farm-based businesses cannot apply independently, but are encouraged to partner with an eligible investigator in the pre-proposal process.

What do I include in my pre-proposal? Please refer to the subjects (above) to find the appropriate fit for your pre-proposal. Prepare a two- or three-page concept paper with these required elements. (Note that letters of support are not a consideration at this pre-proposal stage.)

  1. Include a cover page with project title and complete contact information for the principal investigator, including mailing address, phone number and email address; dollar request per year; and the subject that best fits your pre-proposal.  (Do not count the cover page as part of your page total.)
  2. Anticipated Outcome(s)—What will be the outcomes, both end-of-project and long-term, if you achieve your objectives? How will the pre-proposal contribute to more sustainable agricultural systems or increased resilience on the Iowa landscape? 
  3. Strategies—What activities will help you achieve project outcomes? Describe by outcome.
  4. Outreach—How (and with whom) will you share project results? You are strongly encouraged to outline plans to work with groups such as ISU Extension and Outreach, NRCS, PFI, or other NGOs to help disseminate information about your work to producers, landowners and other interested parties.
  5. Budget—Estimates and financial explanation  
  • Estimate total expenses and describe briefly for these categories: Salary and Benefits; Equipment/Supplies/Materials;Travel; Subcontracts/Consultants; and Other.
  • Which of the following best describes your estimated budget?
    1) LCSA will provide all funding.
    2) LCSA funds are a start, but work is contingent on other funds to meet all desired outcomes.
    3) LCSA funds fill a gap in ongoing work sponsored by other funding.
    4) LCSA funds will support completing part of the work even if funds from other sources are not received.


How do I submit my pre-proposal?  An electronic copy OR one hard copy must be received by 5 p.m., July 7, 2016. No faxes, please. The electronic version should be a .doc, .docx, .txt file or PDF contained or attached with the e-mail. Be sure to combine all elements of your pre-proposal into one document. Send your document to the appropriate manager listed, who will acknowledge receipt of your pre-proposal. Also, if emailing, CC the Leopold Director with your submission.

Mary Adams, 515-294-5832,, Subject line: LCSA 2016 RFP; CC email:
Craig Chase, 515-294-1854,, Subject line: LCSA 2016 RFP; CC email:
Malcolm Robertson, 515-294-1166,, Subject line: LCSA 2016 RFP; CC email:
Mark Rasmussen, 515-294-3711,, Subject line: LCSA 2016 RFP

Note to previous Leopold Center grantees: If you have a final report pending for a previously completed grant, it must be approved before we can consider a new pre-proposal from you. Please check with the appropriate manager if you have questions.


What happens after submission?  Pre-proposals will be screened for adherence to requirements as well as economic, environmental, community/social sustainability and fit with the Leopold Center mission priorities.  An invitation to submit a full proposal will be based upon review of all pre-proposals by the Leopold Center Advisory Board and staff. The Center will notify all applicants in September as to whether they will be invited to submit a full proposal. Full proposals will be due October 30 and funding decisions made by early January.