Seminar: Columbia University, NYC, 2009
Full course: The New School, NYC, 2011
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From Idea to Action: Creating Environmental Change
A Seminar for the Graduate Program in Climate and Society
Columbia University, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Instructor: Tara DePorte
Seminar Goal: To help students transform academic learning, intern experiences and other ideas into on-the-ground projects.
Description: Students will work during this four-hour seminar to develop research and grant proposals, how to develop a program on a limited budget, and how to effectively mobilize interest around a program. Pulling examples from non-profits, scientific research, and private-sector consulting, students will develop skills needed to develop their ideas and careers. As an output, students will be expected to write their own program proposal and pitch for use in The Interdisciplinary Job Search Panel.
Preparation: Students should prepare a 1-2 page grant proposal concerning an original idea that they have to the fictitious "Idea to Action Foundation". The proposal can be for innovation, research, education, or any other approach to an environmental issue they would like to pursue. Students should also be sure to include a succinct narrative, time line, and budget for their proposal. Specific "grant requirements" are below.
Idea to Action Foundation: Giving Guidelines
The Idea to Action Foundation funds only environmental work. We are most interested in making grants to organizations and individuals that identify and work on the root causes of problems and that approach issues with a commitment to innovation and long-term change. Because we believe that true change will occur only through a strong grassroots movement, our funding focuses on organizations and individuals that build a strong base of support.
We support organizations and individuals with direct-action agendas, working in research, education, outreach and innovation to preserve and protect our environment. We look for innovative groups that produce measurable results. Your efforts should be quantifiable, with specific goals, objectives and action plans, and should include measures for evaluating success. Most grants are in the range of $10,000 to $50,000.
Idea to Action Foundation: Budget Requirements
(adapted from http://vpr.utsa.edu/osp/proposal_budget.htm)
Some funding agencies provide budget forms. Others specify the budget categories that they will approve. The following budget categories are commonly used. Be sure to include the fair market value for any donated services, supplies or space in your budget. You will then specify them as "in-kind contributions" at the end of your budget and subtract them from your total grant request. This enables you to show that you already have support for your project.
Personnel Services (note these are only people that get benefits, would not include interns, consultants, etc)
Personnel. The project director, research associates, graduate assistants, student workers, secretarial support, and technicians. Staffing should be sufficient and appropriate to the needs of the project. Often, the wages of student workers are placed in a separate category because they receive different employee benefits.
Employee Benefits. All benefits provided to project personnel that are paid by the project, including FICA, vacation leave, sick leave, and health insurance.
Other Than Personnel Services (OTPS)
Office Space is the cost for any space you need for your programs. This would include office, teaching spaces, etc.
Office Supplies. Any special items that will be consumed by the project, such as chemicals, film, videotape, and audiotapes. All items should be listed separately and based upon current prices.
Copying. Estimate the number of photocopies to be made by the project.
Printing. Estimates for printing project materials.
Postage. Estimate the number of items to be sent and compute the expected cost.
Telephone. To estimate the cost of regular telephone service for project offices, obtain the current costs for each instrument and line. For long distance telephone costs, estimate the number of calls and the average length and cost of each call. If the project is only one component of the organization, then you should show the percentage of phone for the project (i.e. Phone (20% of organization use))
Utilities. If the project is only one component of the organization, then you should show the percentage of utilities for the project (i.e. Electricity, Heat, Water (20% of organization use))
Travel. All travel needs to be itemized, such as specific trips to conferences and conventions or field trips. Current airfare rates can be obtained or State mileage rates can be used to determine expected transportation costs. Lodging costs can be obtained from hotels, and food costs can be computed from the State’s per diem allowances. Additional costs for items such as tips, taxi, parking, and conference rooms should be included.
Equipment or Materials. All equipment purchases (teaching or office) must be itemized with current market prices listed.
Professional Services. Each individual consultant or company must be itemized along with the consulting rates and duration of each professional service to be purchased by the project.
Overhead Indirect Costs, often referred to as "overhead" are assumed by most grant-giving institutions. This covers costs that might not be directly related to your project, but are ones that you would incur throughout. These Costs do not need to be described and are usually 10-15% of the project budget.
Total Project Cost (Total Personnel + Total OTPS + Overhead)
In-kind Funding is any non-cash contribution to your program (donated space, volunteers, etc) and a fair-market cash value should be allocated to them and included in your budget.
Other Funding Sources include other grant sources or cash contributions that you already have secured or are pending for the project/program. Be sure to note something like "projected", "secured" or "pending" next to each of the grants listed.
Total Grant Request often includes the total project cost minus the In-kind contributions and other funding sources.
Optional Activity: As a preparation for the seminar, students will be expected to take a free grant writing course at The Foundation Center and to explore the grants database of the Center.
Introduction (30 minutes)
Grant-making in small groups (1 hour 30 minutes)
Grant-making class (45 minutes)
Closing comments (15 minutes)