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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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