WRD 526: Grant and Proposal Writing (Autumn 2022)

Course Description

The ability to write winning proposals, be it for money or other opportunities, is both a marketable skill and a highly satisfying way to use your writing and persuasive talents. WRD 526 is designed to demystify the proposal-writing process and provide you with lots of opportunities for writing and feedback. We will engage with ideas from practitioner-oriented and scholarly texts about grant and proposal writing, analyze proposals from a range of contexts, and, in collaboration with several Chicago-area nonprofit organizations, practice real-world funder research and proposal-writing tasks. You should leave the course with a better sense of how to find and assess proposal opportunities and more confident in your ability to write successful proposals in response to these

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

  • Identify, evaluate, and track funding sources and other proposal-worthy opportunities
  • Write component elements typical of proposals and letters of inquiry (LOIs)—including project descriptions, statements of need, workplans, and outcomes—in ways that demonstrate knowledge of conventions and best practice
  • Analyze a proposal-writing situation, including the likely proposal-reading audience and proposal review process, and apply the resulting insights to your writing approach
  • Recognize and negotiate common ethical challenges in the proposal-writing process


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

Candid (2016). Foundations and their role in philanthropy (video).

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

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.

Conix S., De Block A., Vaesen K. (2021). Grant writing and grant peer review as questionable research practices. F1000Research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8825646/

Halleck, G. B., & Connor, U. M. (2006). Rhetorical moves in TESOL conference proposals. Journal of English for academic purposes, 5(1), 70-86.

Hart, S. & Logan, J. (Hosts). (2020, Jul. 29). Reviewing grants. . In Within & between. https://podtail.com/en/podcast/within-between/episode-7-reviewing-grants/  

Hay, H. (Host). (2021, Oct. 23). Edgar Villanueva: Reimagining philanthropy to better serve people of color. . In Diverse voices book review. Hopeton Hay Podcasts. https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/hbhpodcasts/episodes/2021-10-23T05_14_08-07_00

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

Johnson-Sheehan, R. (2008). Writing proposals, 2nd ed [selected excerpts]. Boston: Pearson.

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.

Mehlenbacher, A. R. (2017). Crowdfunding science: Exigencies and strategies in an emerging genre of science communication. Technical Communication Quarterly, 26(2), 127-144.

Nonprofit AF. Posts on grants (blog).


  1. Proposal Fundamentals: The course begins with an initial dive into proposal writing by way of writing a conference proposal or a content pitch. The deliverables include a proposal in response to a specific conference’s CFP or publication venue’s pitch guidelines and an analysis of your proposal’s moves and rhetorical tactics.
  2. Funder Research & Analysis for a Nonprofit Partner: Using an online funder-research tool, you will research potential funders for one of our course’s nonprofit partner organizations and create a “funder tracker spreadsheet” that consolidates information about five promising funders for the nonprofit and its projects. In addition to the tracker, you will submit a memo to your partner organization summarizing insights you had while searching for funders and explaining your rationale for selecting and ranking the funders in your tracker.
  3. LOI for a Nonprofit Partner: After talking with your nonprofit partner organization about the funders we have identified in the funder research and analysis task, you will write a letter of inquiry (LOI) to one promising funder, which introduces the organization and describes a project for which it seeks funding. LOIs are ‘grant proposals in miniature,’ and are a common genre of grant writing.
  4. ‘Real-World’ Proposal + Presentation: The final course project is a proposal written in response to a funding opportunity of your choice. Depending on your professional goals, you might expand the LOI draft that you’ve written for a class nonprofit partner into a full proposal (often collaboratively written with a classmate or two), write a proposal on behalf of another nonprofit or community organization that you work for or volunteer at, or, if you are pursuing a research career, write a research proposal. It is often challenging to pull a full proposal together in the time of the course, so you will “annotate” those proposal sections that you cannot reasonably complete, explaining the information you need and how you’d find and present that information.
  5. Engagement, Reflection Tasks, & Participation: This category of work is ongoing and includes your engagement with individual and group in-class practice tasks and discussions, your thoughtful completion of weekly posts about the course texts on D2L, your completion of self-reflection activities, and your compliance with deadlines.