WRD 526: Grant and Proposal Writing (Autumn 2023)

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 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. Your work with this nonprofit partner will provide a valuable lens through which to understand grant writing, and the deliverables you create will advance the organization’s grant-writing goals. Proposals, to quote one of our readings, are instruments for managing change; the core aspiration of WRD 526 is, therefore, that you leave better equipped to envision and enact the changes you want in the world by writing grants and proposals.

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

  • apply your understanding of the typical rhetorical moves of proposals to generate and revise proposals;
  • research and evaluate funding sources to identify funders that align with an organization’s mission and projects;
  • clarify your own and organizational priorities through grant-seeking and grant-writing processes that include research, interpersonal communication, and iterative refinement of ideas;
  • write letters of inquiry and grant proposals that demonstrate knowledge of genre conventions and are tailored to specific funders or opportunities;
  • recognize, and when possible, avoid common ethical perils faced by grant writers.


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).

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.

DeJeu, E. B. (2023). Topoi of Nonprofit Proposal Writing. Business and Professional Communication Quarterly.

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.

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 the proposal genre by way of writing a <400-word research or conference proposal and a 5-600-word analysis of your proposal’s moves and rhetorical tactics.
  2. LOI for a Nonprofit Partner: After talking with your nonprofit partner organization about potential funders and fundable projects, 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.
  3. Full Proposal: As a culminating individual project, you will write a proposal 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 nonprofit partner into a complete proposal, 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 may “annotate” those proposal sections that you cannot reasonably complete, explaining the information you need and how you’d find and present that information.
  4. Team Memo to Your Nonprofit Partner & Engagement with Partner: With your team, you will collaboratively write an approximately two-page memo to your nonprofit partner organization, with the goal of smoothly handing off your work and communicating some actionable suggestions about their grant-seeking and grant-writing processes. Attendance and engagement at meetings with your partner, including the final course meeting and a visit to their headquarters or a program site, if possible, are also part of this grade.
  5. Practice 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 D2L discussion posts, your completion of self and team evaluations, and your compliance with deadlines.