Writing a grant proposal for an actual project with a real community partner is an authentic experience that allows students to become more passionate than if they wrote a proposal for a hypothetical project.
Typically, we work with a community partner around a specific project or program. In this way, the grant-writing activities have applications to different settings on/off campus and students are exposed to a variety of community needs and programs that meet those needs. Community partners for the grant-writing portion of the course are selected by the instructors based on both the community partner need and the fit with the course objectives. We choose community partners for whom it will be a mutually beneficial experience and we try to clearly communicate both benefits and expectations for the partnership. We ask partners to present to the class about their agency and specific funding needs and to be available to answer follow-up questions that arise throughout the semester. At the end of the semester, we are able to share electronic copies of the proposals with the partner and they are able to combine, revise, and tweak the proposals to fit specific funding guidelines. The servicelearning component of this project allows for authentic connections to be made with peers, faculty, community, and the university.
We have worked with a variety of community partners representing a wide range of agencies and programs within our community. One example was an agency called Building Hope who identified two funding needs: ReCycle, a program to help young men gain job skills and Women of Worth (WOW), which helps young women graduate from high school and continue in college or employment. The class was divided into six groups (three per program) with four students per group. This approach of multiple groups per funding need can be beneficial to the community partner in that they have multiple proposals from which they can choose or combine various elements. Another example was the pediatric palliative care program at the local hospital. This program had many different funding needs including training programs, memory boxes for families whose child died, a children’s palliative care room, a bereavement ceremony for families, etc. In this example, we had several groups of four or five students each working on a different funding need. This breadth can be beneficial for those partners with many different projects or programs. The key is to identify specific funding areas that truly meet the community partner needs. However, as program planning is a different skill, the instructor should be sure that the funding is needed for an existing program or one that has already been developed. Otherwise, students may focus more on program planning rather than the grant writing.