Use Grants to Fund Your Idea

When Will We Run Out of Water?

Corrections or additions?

These articles by Jack Florek and Bart Jackson were prepared for the

April 26, 2006 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Survival Guide

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Use Grants to Fund Your Idea

Go onto the Internet and type the word "grants" into the Google search

engine and you will be amazed by the number of results you get. In a

mere fraction of a second, up will pop over 843 million separate

results varying from the mundane (community improvement grants from

the Department of Housing and Urban Development) to the quirky (better

pig farms for yummier pork). So perhaps it is no wonder that people

and organizations ranging from the non-profit to the

entrepreneurial-businessperson-wannabe are all looking for ways grab

some grant money.

But, of course, it is not as easy as simply making a request to a

foundation or the federal government. Grant applications must be

submitted and – as anyone who has actually applied for a grant knows –

asking for and receiving are not the same thing. "There certainly are

a lot of misconceptions about grants," says Stephen Sumner, based in

Middlesex and longtime grant-writer, "but people should note that

there are organizations out there that help all kinds of people do all

kinds of things."

Sumner heads a two-session "Grant Writing: How Do You Write a Winning

Grant?" workshop on Wednesday, May 3, and on Wednesday, May 10, at 9

a.m. at Mercer County Community College in West Windsor. The cost is

$165. Call 609-586-9446 to register or for more information.

The workshop, a perennial favorite in the Mercer County catalog, has

been offered twice a year (spring and fall) for a number of years and

usually attracts a wide range of attendees. "There are those who are

already experienced in writing grants, as well as people who have been

recently thrust into a position in which they are suddenly asked to

write grants despite having no experience," says Sumner. "There are

also people who just have an idea that they may think might be

grantable and want to know what is involved in putting together a

proper application. We also will usually see a few people who are

entrepreneurial, looking to start their own business, and are looking

for help in trying to put something together."

A common misunderstanding, according to Sumner, is that grants are

only for non-profit organizations. While not-for-profit organizations

– including schools, arts organizations, and community-run emergency

medical services – are active grant seekers, there are also a wide

range of small business grants available. "You get pretty much

anything you can imagine," says Sumner. "The important thing is that

you have to do your homework before going out and looking for a grant.

The people who give out money have their own agendas and you have to

be able to match yours with theirs."

There are numerous technical complexities involved in applying for a

grant that many neophytes underestimate. It pays to do a careful

investigation of what you want to do as well as a thorough analysis of

potential grant providers.

"Before going through the trouble of applying for a grant, you’ve got

to know who your audience is," says Sumner. "A lot of people come into

the workshop saying `I’ve got a great idea and everybody should

understand.’ Sometimes your application will be judged by experts who

already know the field and sometimes it will be judged by people who

know nothing at all about the field. In that case you have to educate

them within a limited number of pages."

Sumner has spent much of his life involved in the business of applying

for and acquiring grants. As a school administrator in upstate

Jamestown, New York, he found that much of the business of education

could be supplemented by grants from the state and federal government

as well as private federations. "People don’t realize that a lot of

grants are applied for by educators," says Sumner. Since moving to New

Jersey, he has worked as a grant writer for several educational

software companies

Now semi-retired, Sumner continues to teach, both at Mercer County

Community College and as an adjunct professor at Pace University in

New York, where he teaches educational computing. He and his wife have

two grown children: a daughter who is a former executive director of

the New Jersey Society of Association Executives and currently works

as a consultant for a federation focusing on low income housing for

the state, and a son who is on the staff of Harvard University.

Sumner also has an ancestry steeped in business. His grandfather

founded Kaufman Iron Works in New York City in 1907. "Next year the

company will be 100 years old and we will have a little celebration,"

says Sumner. "The company builds the gates for storefronts and fire

escape windows. I kind of grew up thinking a lot about business,

security issues, and administration."

Grant writing is not for the faint-hearted or for those who are

hyperactive and disdainful of detail. Time consuming and demanding, it

offers no guarantee of success. Grant writing is like tax preparation

or applying for a mortgage. It’s not fun, but it can be very rewarding

if done correctly. Here’s how to give yourself, or your organization,

the best odds of a good outcome:

Know yourself. Know what you want to accomplish. Create a mission

statement that clearly points out your objective and ask yourself why

someone would want to fund it. Then ask yourself if there is a need

for what you want to offer. "It is important to remember that people

don’t give money away without expecting something in return," says

Sumner. "They expect grants to be written with clear indications of

mission statements, purpose, evaluation, and budgets. This is where

people often blow their opportunity."

Find out what’s available. What is your niche? Are you a woman who is

interested in starting a business? There are organizations that may be

able to help. There are also organizations that are interested in

funding programs to improve community life, such as purchasing

computers for a middle school, helping working mothers, or creating

after-school programs for kids. Using the Internet is a good way to

test the waters and see what may be available for your idea or

concept.

Put your money where your idea is. Look at the big picture. "People

won’t give money away to John Doe who wants $25,000 to start a

business," says Sumner. "But they might give $25,000 to a John Doe who

has a community project that is worth doing, especially if Mr. Doe is

funding $5,000 of it himself."

Create a thorough budget. A detailed itemized budget is an absolute

necessity. No one will give you money if you do not prove that you

know exactly how much of it you are likely to require and what it will

be used for. In the grant writing phase, it is important to make it

clear that you can keep dollars and cents under control while

realistically accomplishing your objective.

Follow directions. A common mistake in the grant application process

is that many people fail to follow specific directions. "The rules in

grant writing are very specific," he says. "I was once in a situation

where a federal grant was denied because there was an extra 26th page

in the document that was limited to 25 pages. It never got read."

Get to the point. When applying for a grant, brevity counts. "Too many

people involved in grant writing seem like they are trying to write

the great American novel," says Sumner. "Answer the question that is

being asked in a succinct manner."

Create a grant writing team. Successful grant writing is a process and

it is important to build a team. "You may be asked to write a grant

even though you know nothing about the budgeting of the organization

and how to price it out," says Sumner. "So you have to find people who

can help you. Many people don’t seem to realize that when you take on

the responsibility of grant writing you become the leader of a team."

Beware of politics. Like everything else in life (from school systems

to newspapers to your kid’s Cub Scout troop) grant writing has a

political component. "There are politics involved when you are asking

somebody for money," says Sumner. "Not realizing this is a common

mistake. A lot of the people who apply for grants are wonderful people

who are idealists, but they are also sometimes people who are avoiding

dealing with the world as it is. They seem to want to make the world

the way they want it to be."

– Jack Florek

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When Will We Run Out of Water?

While the world’s current wars are waged over oil, our future wars are

very likely to be waged over fresh, drinkable water. The twin factors

of runaway population growth and pollution are certain to make the

commodity even more scarce than it already is.

Jim Waltman, executive director of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed

Association, gives a free talk on "Water, Water Everywhere: But for

How Long?" on Wednesday, May 3, at 7:30 p.m. at the Princeton Public

Library. Call 609-924-9529.

The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association covers the 26

municipalities with land that is drained by the two rivers and their

various feeder streams. For the last 59 years the association has

worked to study and protect these waters, as well as lakes such as

Carnegie and Etra, along with the Assunpink creek and other

surrounding wetlands. To find out if your community falls under its

aegis, or if you would like to join the effort, visit

www.thewatershed.org. Its museum and headquarters, open to the public,

is located at 31 Titus Mill Road. Call 609-737-3735 for more

information.

Waltman, who has headed the organization for 16 months, has vast

environmental experience here and abroad. He replaces Noel McKay, the

energetic previous executive director, who has moved north to head the

Vermont Forum on Anti-Sprawl (www.vtsprawl.org).

Waltman was born and raised in Princeton, and, as a boy, toured all

around the state’s outdoor areas with his family. After graduating

from Princeton University in l986 with a B.S. in biology, he earned an

ornithology graduate degree from Yale University’s school of Forestry

and Parks.

During these graduate years Waltman journeyed to Venezuela, the

Galapagos Islands, and other hinterlands in search of winged wildlife.

Struck with the need to protect and conserve, he moved to Washington,

D.C., advocating for the Wilderness Society, the Wildlife Federation,

and the Audubon Society. He brings to central New Jersey’s waters not

only knowledge and enthusiasm, but also political savvy.

Yes, there do indeed remain a few effluent pipes surreptitiously

leading out from the backs of warehouses and factories into our

pristine streams. But to find the real polluting villains, Waltman

suggests, as did his predecessor, that we look in the mirror. "Most of

our water pollution comes from what they call `non-point-source

pollution,’" explains Waltman. "This is everything that washes off our

fertilized lawns, chemically treated roofs, and overly paved, oily

highways." This is the threat that must be understood and minimized.

See it – pave it. What part of "flood plain" don’t you understand,

asks Waltman? "Last year’s record flooding should have shown people

the limits of where they can build," he says, "but somehow it made no

dent in the public consciousness."

It is an insightful turn of phrase that "developed land" in our common

parlance is that which has been paved. Of course, there is money to be

made from this developing and of course our growing (albeit slowly)

state requires new houses. But both the needs of home builders and

buyers can be met by local townships that plan their growth wisely.

"The real decisions that shape our future get made in all those late

night town council meetings which we need to attend," Waltman says.

Much more vital than battling whether houses or one giant warehouse

should be permitted on a certain section, he notes, is to examine the

area’s waterways and avoid encroaching on them.

Lawn versus water care. People joke that the suburbs are places where

we shave off all the trees and name streets after them. But with the

exception of excess paving, probably no single thing has done more

harm to our waterways than the myth of the monocolor lawn. As

dandelions, violets, and other pretty spring flowers thrust up their

bright heads, many homeowners rush to drench their yards in killing

chemicals. The thinking tends to go like this: If it’s not a

plastic-looking putting green, my front yard will bring down real

estate values.

As we heap on 5-10-5 fertilizer, along with other blends of weed and

feed for garden and lawns, we in effect pour an overwhelming amount of

nitrogen and phosphorous into the water. These amounts are enough to

kill both necessary bacteria and fish.

Decanting the rain. Since 2004 New Jersey has mandated that all new

development must catch 100 percent of the property’s storm runoff in

detention basins. These basins must be designed to remove 80 percent

of the suspended particles from the water. Some of them are

pollutants, such as wash-in from roofs or roadways. Others are just

huge clumps of organic sediment that also can foul the water’s

potability and livability.

While the detention basin mandate is an excellent start, it is not a

panacea. Waltman points to the quarry operated by 3M in Hillsborough.

"Over time the quarrying has released tiny, tiny particles, suspended

in the water, that will never naturally filter out, in any amount of

time."

Concocting solutions. Our primary focus must remain to save what

Waltman calls the high recharge areas. These are those flood plain or

streamside areas that act as ready conduits into our waters. This is

the first ground to protect and the last ground townships should

permit to be covered up with development of any kind. Further, we

should actively revegitate these areas, so they will filter pollutants

and stop eroding sediments.

As for the lawns, Waltman suggests we simply get over it. "Dandelions

are beautiful," he declares. "Your neighbors won’t tar and feather you

if your grass has a few bare spots." In fact, the Stony Brook

Millstone Watershed Association offers several environmentally wise

and attractive ground covering plans to keep your lawn enviable.

"An enormous amount of new organic technology has come to the fore,"

says Waltman, "both for crop care, and for cleaning our waters. Yes,

New Jersey will continue to expand, but with so many people laboring

for a good environment, I personally remain hopeful."

– Bart Jackson


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