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Taking the Mystery Out of Grant Writing

March 21, 2016 by Mandy Byrd |

Grant Writing Planning at UNCG.jpgYou’ve been given $150,000 to make a difference in your community. It’s up to you and your classmates to determine which grant proposal gets the funding. How do you decide?

Welcome to Problems in Public Management: Grant Writing at UNCG. The course is a key part of the Nonprofit Management Certificate Program, which offers a flexible curriculum that prepares students to meet the challenges faced by nonprofit organizations. 

Planning, planning, planning

Students can take Grant Writing online or on campus. Fred Newman teaches the online course for UNCG. He says there’s a mystique about grants, and he wants to unravel the mystery to make grant writing less intimidating for students. So he breaks the process down into steps and has students work in small groups.

Newman starts with what he says is the most important aspect—good program planning.

“Our starting point isn’t writing skills, it’s planning skills,” he explains.

Students work on a logic model (a system of planning) before they are given summary grant proposals and have to decide as a group which one to fund. Newman gives all groups the same proposals but says he never gets the same answer twice. This teaches students the importance of the interests and experiences of those reviewing grant proposals.

Getting results

Newman says it’s important for students to know that they must plan effectively so they can be effective with the funds they’ve received.

“It’s not about getting funds—it’s about getting results,” he says. People are investing in outcomes, he explains, and they want a return on that investment in the form of community impact. 

“You shouldn’t get the money if you can’t be successful,” Newman says.

To demonstrate this concept to her Grant Writing students, UNCG’s Nancy Parks Hunter shares the following quote from Norton J. Kiritz, founder of The Grantsmanship Center:

“A grant is not about money alone, because money by itself doesn’t protect battered families, help children to read, fill the plates of the hungry, clean polluted lakes, or open museum doors. But when a grant is used to finance a well-planned program run by a capable and committed organization, it can be a powerful catalyst for change.”

Making proposals

Hunter teaches the course on campus at UNCG. Like Newman, she has extensive professional experience in grant writing and has students take a hands-on approach to learning, which includes group role-play and preparing grant proposals. Hunter’s students have developed proposals for a homeless shelter, an organization serving new immigrants, a summer computer camp program, an animal foster rescue program, and a meals delivery program for senior adults, among others.

Hunter also plans a guest speaker panel night, which gives students the opportunity to learn from (and network with) senior staff from local foundations.

Getting started

So you’re interested in taking a Grant Writing course, but you’re not sure what you would focus on. Newman says his students typically find subjects for their grant proposals in one of three ways:

  • They are employees of the organization for which they are developing the grant.
  • They are not employees but are somehow connected to or interested in an organization (volunteers, for example), so he works with students to find a match.
  • Agencies contact Newman because they want someone to write a grant for them.

Whether you work for a nonprofit or simply want to help a cause or organization that is close to your heart, grant writing is an important skill to have in your toolkit. And as part of UNCG’s Nonprofit Management graduate certificate program, it can help you advance your career or take it in a new direction. Visit UNCG’s Nonprofit Management website to get started.


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