As a junior, I enrolled in a class called Grant Writing for Nonprofits that focused on teaching students the rhetorical skills of working with an organization to write a grant. We broke up into four groups and were each assigned a local community partner. I was placed in the Friendship Adult Day Services group with three other students. It is an organization that serves as a community gathering place, mostly for seniors that promotes healthy living and staying active in the community. The organization had partnered with our service learning class because they were a well-run local nonprofit. We were given the task of learning about the organization and then producing a multi-part comprehensive grant asking for real money. The grant involved many sections demonstrating a need and arguing for funding for specific projects. Our organization was in need of a railing and planters to keep clients from falling down stairs. Therefore, my grant writing group used the rhetorical ideas of pathos and ethos as a vehicle to reach the audience of the grant distribution committee.
In order to accurately convey Friendship Adult Day Service’s need, I realized the absolute necessity to become an expert on the organization. The group took many trips to the Burlington, NC center and talked with clients, volunteers, and staff. Four times during the semester I visited the center where I conducted interviews, took pictures, and corresponded extensively with Executive Director Kathryn Porter. This experience was fundamental to the grant as it gave us a uniting sense of purpose and understanding. Since we were all on board with the mission, we could communicate the goals of the organization in text. This idea of ethos or credibility is huge when writing a grant because the writer must seem invested and knowledgeable to convey the information to an evaluating committee.
The grant was broken up into sections of a traditional grant including needs, benefit, and many more. The writing process was centered on creating a strong argument for the validity of the funds. We needed to prove that the funds were essential to the organization and that they would benefit the community. Every week we drafted a different section as a group and put the document through extensive peer review. This was really great practice for peer group writing as it is a difficult skill to work on. We would sit around a pod of computers and talk about our expectations for each section while keeping in mind audience and purpose. At times, I would get frustrated with the process because there were so many sections and things I wanted to say in the grant because I was passionate about the organization. Given the strict grant guidelines, I learned how to be concise and deliberate. I realized that some things are not necessary to include in the grant, such as extensive descriptions of the steep stairs and sloping hill. I realized that although I am passionate, I should limit my bias and present the facts that are already implied or explained.
Also, when drafting and composing the grant, my group relied heavily on the idea of pathos. We incorporated language and images to persuade the grant committee that we were a worthy cause of the funds. We visited the center to take images to enhance our argument. The images helped articulate the need in a way that played on the audience’s emotions. Although we made sure to balance the emotional appeal with logos and ethos, for this genre of writing pathos is the most effective. We needed the audience to buy into the essential part of the grant, the statement of need.
I really enjoyed the process of learning and growing as a representative of Friendship Adult Day Services. I was thrilled that we were awarded some money and that I was able to use words and images to make a difference in my community. I realized the impact a professional writer could have on civic engagement. Our group actively relied on rhetorical techne and strategies to give back to the community, sucessfully adopting and applying learnt theoretical knowledge. I know from reflecting on the experience that I really grew as a collaborator, researcher, and writer. Also, when I visited Friendship Adult Day Services a couple of months later, they had installed the railings, which we were asking funds for, giving a concrete example of how civic rhetoric can benefit a community. Using learnt rhetorical strategies of professional writing I was able to make an argument in a particular genre.