Request For Proposals – Marketing Services for New Technologies for Agricultural Extension (NTAE) Project

eXtension Foundation, a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, requests services from a marketing firm experienced in providing marketing services to not-for-profit organizations with an emphasis in agriculture and the food production industry. Services are funded through a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute for Food and Agriculture. 

  1. Background
    1. The eXtension Foundation, founded in 2006, is a membership-based non-profit organization designed to fuel Cooperative Extension’s growth, leadership, competencies, entrepreneurship, and stewardship for innovation and technology supporting Cooperative Education professionals. Cooperative Extension is a national system of educational outreach from land-grant universities/colleges located in every U.S. state and the territories. eXtension generates value for its members and partners by offering professional growth and learning and fostering innovation at member institutions.
    2. Locations. eXtension is a national organization and operates as a multi-state entity: we are incorporated in Missouri. Given the broad geographic distribution of our staff and Board of Directors, we are also a virtual organization highly reliant on video conferencing and other tools for collaboration in addition to email.
  2.  Communications & Marketing Function.
    1. Assigned duties. One employee has been assigned communications, marketing, and engagement duties: the Communications & Engagement Manager, who is primarily responsible for providing proactive and strategic communications to our members and to the Land-Grant University system.
  3.  Overview: Scope of Services, Please address the following required services in your proposal:
    1. Coordinate an audience assessment and program awareness campaign in Year 1 (November  2019 – August 2020) to support the Weather Ready Farms (WRF) program and position this program as a valuable, trusted,  resource for row crop producers throughout Nebraska. 
      1. Conduct market research to determine how row crop producers (corn and soybean) assess their own farm risks, what they are already doing to minimize risk, and what prevents the adoption of risk-reducing strategies.
      2. Determine best channels, including Cooperative Extension, for reaching the target audience with WRF resources and information.
      3. Identify potential messaging strategies to better engage target audience in completing the self-assessment and adopting the recommended WRF practices to obtain verification. 
      4. Create and implement an intervention strategy to expand the reach and utilization of the WRF Self-Assessment throughout Nebraska.
      5. Explore potential technology solutions for managing and analyzing self-assessment and verification data.
  4. Weather Ready Farms Program 
    1. Background
      1. Weather Ready Nebraska is a portfolio of Extension programs developed to increase resiliency by identifying vulnerabilities and prioritizing actions. Included are initiatives that emphasize climate and weather literacy, scenario planning to overcome impactful conditions like drought or flooding, and an innovative credential dubbed WRF.
      2. WRF is a certification program designed to improve or increase resilience towards the impacts of extreme weather on Nebraska’s farms. Participants learn through a year-long program consisting of in-person and online material about improving resilience towards the impacts of extreme weather on Nebraska’s farms. Certified producers must successfully undergo separate phases including 1) assessment, 2) education and 3) verification.
      3. Since the formation of WRF in 2017, researchers and educators from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln designed a self-assessment framework to be used as an initial assessment of whole-farm risk to weather-related losses. This self-assessment was pilot-tested by four producers, representing over 4000 acres of row crops, in the spring of 2019. Through feedback from the pilot-test, the framework is currently under revision to better address farm-to-farm variation. 
      4. The potential for impact, and collaboration with partners, is illustrated by the substantial variety and scale of weather-related losses on farms in Nebraska and the surrounding region. In 2017, the USDA Risk Management Agency issued over $2.1 billion in indemnity payments to the 12 North Central Region States due to weather-related losses in agriculture.
    2. Audience
      1. Row crop producers in Nebraska (Corn and Soybean)
        1. The primary audience is in various places of adoption of practices identified to make the corn and soybean farms “weather-ready.” Some farms are going above and beyond the recommendations and others are much further behind. 
        2. Many of the farmers treat each field as its own entity, which can be influenced by proximity to towns, residences, bodies of water, etc., regulations, soil type, ownership status, slope, and many others. 
        3. Farmers use this to make decisions beyond best management practices, so it will be important to understand these scenarios when working with this audience. Sources for these scenarios include but are not limited to farmer knowledge, NRCS soil erosion risk tools, satellite data, and local zoning laws. 
    3. Additional Stakeholders
      1. Local communities are critical stakeholders through a reduced environmental impact and tax funded agencies potentially reducing indemnity payments. The benefit to local communities is hard to measure, but, as an example, soil and nutrient losses to water ways decrease water quality for drinking, recreation, and habitat.
    4. Audience Location
      1. This project was pilot-tested in the spring of 2019 on four eastern Nebraska farms. The current project is focused primarily on the corn and soybean growing regions of Nebraska.
    5. Specific Crop and/or Product Involved
      1. Row Crops (Corn and Soybeans)
        1.  The assessment makes reference to including a third crop into the rotation, likely wheat or sorghum. 
      2. Nature of Change for Audience
        1. The WRF program focuses on analyzing farming and management practices for row crop farms. 
        2. Changes are subject to scores on the WRF Self-Assessment and are implemented overtime for continuous improvement.
          1. Examples
            1. Diversifying crop maturities
            2. Implementing no-tilling practices
    6. Key Performance Indicator
      1. The purpose of the WRF program is to work alongside producers to administer the self-assessment, guide education, and verify the completion of necessary changes. 
      2. Increases in Verification and Adoption of Weather-Ready Farms practices
        1. The verification step allows comparison to the self-assessment to easily and accurately evaluate change. 
        2. At the current stage, the WRF verification is conducted by the Extension team member working with the producer on the WRF process. 
        3. As this project expands, the verification process will need to be expanded to other agencies, partners, or volunteers who are a part of the WRF program.
  5. Proposal Outline (Please organize your proposal as follows)
    1. Executive summary. Describe your understanding of the work to be performed and your firm’s ability to complete it within the November 2019 to August 2020 timeframe. 
    2. Professional experience. Provide a description of your firm including philosophy, size,structure, and qualifications. Include a list of current engagements in the agricultural sector or Cooperative Extension that you believe are comparable to the size, mission focus, and complexity of our organization.
    3. Team qualifications. Identify the specific individuals – partners, managers, and in-charge staff – who will be assigned to this engagement if your firm’s proposal is selected, including the qualifications and experience of each.
    4. Fees. Provide a firm estimate of the fees for services to be provided during each year of the proposed one-year engagement.
    5. Additional information. Additional information not specifically requested but nonetheless helpful in evaluating your proposal is welcome.
  6. Proposal Deadline
    1. The deadline for receipt of your proposal is November 15th, 2019. Documents should be emailed to aaronweibe@eXtension.org. Proposals received after this date will not be considered. For additional information, questions, or clarifications, please contact me via email or phone at (667) 228-4583.