WRD 526: Grant and Proposal Writing (Autumn 2021)

Course Description

WRD 526 is a hands-on course in grant seeking and grant writing. It offers you an opportunity to research and write grants for one of our five nonprofit organizations—Compassionate Care Network, KEEN Chicago, Port Ministries, the Stepping Stone Theater, and Talk 2 Me Foundation—with lots of coaching and feedback along the way. The course begins with a brief introduction to grant writing as a rhetorical and social practice and an overview of nonprofit organizations and philanthropic funding in the US. Then, you will practice the core skills of grant writing, completing both individual tasks and, on a 2–3-person team, a major collaborative project for your nonprofit partner organization. Upon completion of WRD 526, you will both understand how grants are written and have writing samples and real-world experience that attest to your knowledge.

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • Describe the role of grant writing and philanthropic funding in the resource development of US nonprofit organizations
  • Research and evaluate funding sources and identify funders that align with an organization’s mission and with specific projects
  • Write letters of inquiry and grant proposals that demonstrate knowledge of conventions and are tailored to specific proposal opportunities and funders
  • Find and integrate persuasive research into grant materials
  • Work on a team to execute an organizational grant-writing project
  • Recognize and negotiate common ethical challenges in the grant-writing process

Readings & Resources

NOTE: Those resources not linked below or indicated as available at the DPU Bookstore are available for download via DePaul’s Ares Course Reserves.

Butler, M., & Butler, B. (2016). Telling the not-for-profit story through Form 990. Journal of Accountancy, 222(6), 56.

Candid (n.d.). Demystifying the 990-PF (online article).

Candid (2016). Foundations and their role in philanthropy (video). Available: https://youtu.be/_byywlV85FM

Clarke, C. A., & Fox, S. P. (2006). Demonstrating the fit: Making first and lasting impressions. In Grant proposal makeover: Transform your request from no to yes (pp. 5-19). John Wiley & Sons.

Giving USA/CCS Fundraising (2021). Perspectives on philanthropy webinar (slides).

Johnson-Sheehan, R. (2008). Introduction to proposals and grants. In Writing proposals: A rhetoric for managing change, 2nd ed. (pp. 1-8). Longman.

Howlett, S. and Bourque, R. (2016). Getting funded, 6th ed. Seattle: Word & Raby Publishing. [Purchase from DePaul Bookstore]

Kiritz, N.J. (2014). Problem: The reason for your proposal. In Grantsmanship: Program planning and proposal writing, 2nd ed. (pp. 42-59). Los Angeles: The Grantsmanship Center.

Lawrence, H. Y., Lussos, R. G., & Clark, J. A. (2019). Rhetorics of proposal writing: Lessons for pedagogy in research and real-world practice. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 49(1), 33-50.

Nonprofit AF (2020). Guidelines for higher education programs that require students to do special projects with nonprofits.

O’Neal-McElrath, T. (2013). Winning grants step-by-step, 5th ed., online content.

Shah, R.W. (2020). Networks: Nonprofit clients for student projects. In Rewriting partnerships: Community perspectives on community-based learning (pp. 67–94). Utah State UP.


  1. Individual Preparation, Class Engagement, and Practice Tasks (50%): The first category of work in WRD 526 includes engaging with readings and other tasks in preparation for our class sessions, which includes keeping handwritten or digital notes that highlight your key questions and responses to out-of-class tasks, engaging in conversations and activities during class time, and completing a series of Individual Practice Tasks (IPTs) designed to build your grant-seeking and grant-writing skills. These tasks include analyzing funder guidelines; conducting funder research and creating a funding opportunity tracker; gathering research to support the problem and need sections of a grant proposal; and writing a letter of inquiry. The course also offers a range of supplementary readings and topics that you may explore and summarize for the class.
  2. Team Portfolios of Grant-Related Items for a Nonprofit Partner Organization (50%): The second category of work in WRD 526 centers on collaboration over the quarter with your nonprofit partner organization and student team. Your team will create two portfolios of grant-related items for your nonprofit partner organization. The first, a Preliminary Portfolio, consolidates work completed in Weeks 3–6 and will be submitted to your partner in Week 7. The second, a Final Portfolio, is submitted at the end of the course. Broadly, the Preliminary Portfolio items are related to grant seeking and readiness to apply; the Final Portfolio items are complete documents, written in response to specific proposal opportunities. Creating these portfolios will also require regular and productive engagement with your nonprofit partners and teammates, likely in the form of weekly Zoom or phone meetings.