WRD 526: Grant and Proposal Writing (Spring 2020)

Course Description

WRD 526 is a hands-on course in grantseeking and grant writing. You will learn how to identify and track promising funding sources, how to articulate projects and outcomes that address proven needs and problems, and how to write documents typical of the grantseeking process, including letters of inquiry and grant proposals. The course begins with a brief orientation 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 a major team project for a nonprofit partner organization. Your work with this nonprofit partner will provide a valuable real-world lens through which to understand grant writing, and the deliverables your team creates will advance the organization’s grant-writing goals. 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

Remote Format

WRD 526 is a “remote” course. While D2L will be used for posting materials and submitting assignments, the course demands a bit more synchronous participation (i.e., all or several of us online at the same time) than a typical online class. We will have some full-class Zoom videoconferences during the scheduled class meeting time (Tuesdays from 6-9:15), and you will need to schedule occasional team Zoom meetings with your nonprofit partner organization and with the instructor. As with a face-to-face course, WRD 526 is organized to require your sustained engagement over eleven weeks. While you may work a bit ahead, you should not plan to engage in fits and starts. Our sense of class community requires that everyone is reading, thinking, and talking about the same topics at roughly the same time.

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.

Anderson, P.V. (2018). Managing client and service-learning projects. In Technical communication: A reader-centered approach, 9th ed. (ch. 19, pp. 337–349). Boston, MA: Engage.

BoardSource (2010). In the spirit of service: Introduction to the nonprofit world. In The handbook of nonprofit governance (pp. 3-14). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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 (2019). The annual report on philanthropy for 2018.

Guidestar (2017). How to find the right funders by hacking 990s. Available: https://trust.guidestar.org/how-to-find-the-right-funders-by-hacking-990s

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

Karsh, E., & Fox, A. S. (2019). The only grant-writing book you’ll ever need, 5th ed. Basic Books. [Purchase from DePaul Bookstore or access e-book via course Ares Course Reserves]

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 (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.

Salamon, L.M. (2015). The stakes: What is the nonprofit sector and why do we need it? In The resilient sector revisited: The new challenge to nonprofit America (pp. 7-18). Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.


  1. Individual Practice Tasks (40%): Throughout the quarter, you will complete individual research and writing tasks designed to build your grant-seeking and grant-writing skills. Tasks include analyzing funder guidelines; conducting funder research and creating a funding opportunity tracker; gathering research to support the problem and need section of a grant proposal; and writing a letter of inquiry (LOI). In most cases, your nonprofit partner organization will be the focus of these practice tasks, but some tasks will be in response to fictional scenarios and other tasks can optionally be completed for a nonprofit organization that you have a preexisting relationship with.
  2. Team Preliminary Report (25%): Your team will write a report to your nonprofit partner organization, consolidating the team’s funder research, problem/need research, and other relevant tasks completed to date. The report, due early in Week 7, will also describe the team’s plan for final deliverables, enabling your nonprofit partner to give feedback on and approve the plan.
  3. Team Portfolio of Grant Materials and Cover Memo (25%): Your team will submit a portfolio of grant materials that respond to your nonprofit partner’s needs: typically, the portfolio contains several LOIs and either a grant proposal written in response to a specific funding opportunity or a template proposal that can be adapted for a range of funders. The cover memo describes the deliverables and outlines the team’s strategic suggestions for the partner’s future grant-related work.
  4. Quizzes, Discussion Posts, and Zoom Conversations (10%): There will be several low-stakes reading quizzes and you will be asked to post occasionally to the D2L Discussion Board and to join synchronous Zoom discussions.