In the fall of 2012, I entered my Grant Writing class with a strong understanding (and attraction) to client-based work that was often integrated into service learning classes at Elon University. It was the first time, however that I would be taking a service learning class that focused on writing to fund a program. Very few of my peers had any experience with writing grant proposals, but we were given the advantage of using our professor, Dr. Pope-Ruark, and our community partners to learn more about the process of writing for funds. The class was divided into several groups, each with their own community partner.
The Positive Attitude Youth Center outreaches to children and young adults living in the Burlington, North Carolina community. Their mission is to aid the communities youths to mature physically, spiritually and emotionally by supplying a positive social environment that offers recreational and academic programs. PAYC is noted for it’s work in an “at-risk” location; “at risk” means that youth living inside the area face greater problems in academically and socially. When Chelsea Vollrath, Ashley Rose and I became a group, we focused are research (prior to our first client meeting) on the “at-risk” component of the organization. However our community partners asked us to focus of funding activities relating to healthier living and their Alamance County Youth Basketball League sponsored teams.
As with prior service learning classes, our grant proposal was to be completed through collaborative writing and with two audiences in mind. Although we had a short time to become integrated with PAYC, we had to learn their voice to use it when addressing the PWR Community Foundation. Finding the voice of an organization is relatively easy, but learning to speak in that form is more difficult and required multiple drafts and questions on term definition to be able to use the right sense of feeling our partners wanted conveyed. In trying to find the right voice to use, collaborative writing and argumentation were most useful within our group. The group often discussed at length what sentence would be most persuasive to use in a specific paragraph. Outside of the course, these discussions seemed nick-picky, but by taking the tone of the organization seriously we were better able to adapt to the intentions of our community partner. Clarity in our vocabulary was especially important because the main audience (those who would decide with our proposal would be funded) turned out to be our class (whom had less knowledge of our community partner outside of what our group had discussed in class). The secondary audience was our professor, because at the end of the course, their needed to be a way to grade the level of work we accomplished. However, the point was made that following the strict instructions of the RFP would act as a guide to our final grade.
Writing “Improving Health Habits of Burlington’s At-Risk Youth”, our grant proposal, was a challenge for multiple reasons. First, we had to adjust our communication preference to match what worked best for our community partners. In this case, we had to conduct our queries through phone interviews and person-to-person meetings. Secondly, the writing of the grant proposal was not done as the document was organized. This was one of the few times that I've had to look at a writing intensive piece like a puzzle. This was the best experience I've had with collaborative writing, but in terms of working with a community partner one of the worst. Although our group was finally able to adapt to communicating through phone calls, we were often left to figure out problems with the writing and find resources to support our proposal on our own. We were able to fund part of their project, but I think that if our group had been able to secure resources (such as pictures and statistics) from our partners, then our proposal would have been more successful.
To view the our grant proposal or the portfolio recording all important documents regarding my work with PAYC, please selecting "Improving Health Habits of Burlington's At-Risk Youth" Grant on the left or one of the linked documents below.