Students in the Grant Writing Program gain career experience while helping the community
Oct. 06, 2011
Christian Basi, BasiC@missouri.edu, 573-882-4430
COLUMBIA, Mo. – In a new program at the University of Missouri, graduate students aren’t just learning how nonprofit organizations operate and are funded, they are helping these organizations attract new funding and, simultaneously, learning important skills for future employment.
Recently, students in the MU Truman School of Public Affairs new Grant Writing Program (GWP) helped Welcome Home, Inc. — a nonprofit organization that offers assistance to homeless veterans — research, write and submit an application for a grant. Shortly after the application was submitted, Welcome Home was awarded a $41,428 grant from the Veterans Administration to augment their work helping troubled veterans transition back to society. Money from the grant will be used for temporary financial assistance such as rent and utility payments, moving costs, emergency supplies, childcare, and transportation expenses.
“The award would not have been made without the assistance of the MU graduate students.” said Melissa Acton, associate director of Welcome Home, Inc. “Writing a grant application is a lot harder than what it seems on the surface; it’s more than just typing a paper. I would like to have help from students in that program every semester.”
MU’s new Grant Writing Program (GWP) partners students with nonprofit organizations. While the students learn how nonprofits operate, they also use their new grant-writing skills to assist the nonprofit organizations. Since 2010, graduate students in the GWP have helped more than a dozen nonprofits across the Columbia community to find and apply for grants and other financial assistance. Currently, the GWP has over 20 participants and a part-time coordinator. Students work in teams with each nonprofit organization.
“Our program engages students in the grant writing process and allows them to put their knowledge gained from the classroom to work in the real world,” said Colleen Heflin, GWP faculty adviser. “It connects these students with the nonprofit community with positive outcomes for both.”
Student volunteer groups worked between 40 and 60 hours total over the term helping Welcome Home, Inc. in the grant writing process. Students spent the majority of time identifying funding opportunities and helping prepare grant applications. While these nonprofit organizations benefit from the extra help they receive, students in the GWP also pass on their skills of researching databases and grant writing to the nonprofits’ staff, so they can apply for grants on their own in the future.
“The need for nonprofit services is increasing,” said Heflin, associate professor of public affairs. “So the ability to do more with less is key.”
Besides assisting nonprofit organizations, the GWP helps students prepare for successful careers after graduate school. Experience gained through the program has helped students receive internships and has been noted by employers when students are applying for jobs after graduate school.
“Grant writing is a really important skill for nonprofits and public organizations to access federal funding,” Heflin said. “It’s something that everyone needs in their toolkit. Who wouldn’t want a grant writer on staff?”
The Grant Writing Program works with many nonprofit organizations such as early childhood centers, local sports clubs, food banks and student organizations such as MedZou, a student-operated medical clinic that provides free primary healthcare.
“I am constantly reaching out to nonprofits in the community who might have an interest in our services,” said Eoghan Miller, student coordinator of the GWP in charge of screening nonprofits and overseeing each team. “We are always striving to add strong partners to our existing pool of nonprofits.”