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Grants and Thanksgiving: Lessons from the Art of Grantwriting Workshop

Thanksgiving and grant writing may not seem immediately similar, but after hosting the Art of Grant Writing Workshop for nonprofit leaders, some interesting parallels came to mind.

Talking turkey

There is no way around it — grant writing comes with the territory when you’re a nonprofit fundraiser, yet very few of us have received formal training on the process. It’s a vital skill that supports our organization’s mission, but most of us learn the skills through trial and error on the job.

So, with that in mind, the Nonprofit Leadership Initiative and the Association of Fundraising Professionals Northeast Wisconsin Chapter, offered a grant writer training, The Art of Grant Writing. We learned that the demand for this training is high! We had over 60 people on a waiting list, and we’re grateful for the technology that allowed us to grow the impact of the session by offering a virtual attendance option allowing 184 people to participate.

The team from VPI attending the Art of Grant Writing

Harvesting Local

Rather than hiring an outside trainer, we decided local grant writers with a proven record of success would be a better fit to share their real-world insights and grant strategies with their fellow Northeastern Wisconsin grant writers.  Ariela E. Rosa, Lawrence University; Jenn Harper, Jake’s Network of Hope; Emily Bowles, Girl Scouts Northwestern Great Lakes, and Josh Hernday, Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, had a cornucopia of knowledge that they were happy to share generously with attendees.

Local grant writers lead the education session: Jenn Harper, Emily Bowles, Ariela Rosa. Josh Hernday not pictured. (Josh got sick and couldn’t attend the event, but did a lot of planning, so deserved a shout out.)

Bountiful Learnings

Important lessons emerged during the session.

  1. Just like a Thanksgiving meal – preparation is key. Our local experts advised reviewing funders’ websites, contacting program officers, creating a system for organization, involving our boards, and gathering necessary documents.
  2. There are tools to help with our research. Jenn shared Impala Digital, which helps grant writers discover funders to solicit for support.
  3. Budgets are important – budgets are one of the biggest disqualifiers of a grant. Ariela led us through a budget exercise emphasizing the importance of gathering input from your team to ensure accuracy and reminding us to use the budget narrative to tell our story.   

Gathering friends around the table

Inviting a panel of funders to join the event was a highlight for everyone.

Funder Panel: Wendy Krueger, Greg Vandenberg, Laura Welsh, Stephanie Gyldenvand and Jenny Krikava

Greg Vandenberg of U.S. Venture/Schmidt Family Foundation, Laura Welsh of the Kimberly-Clark Foundation, Jenny Krikava of Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, Wendy Krueger of United Way Fox Cities and Stephanie Gyldenvand of the Basic Needs Giving Partnership graciously answered participants’ questions.

The direct interaction with the people who review grant applications was invaluable. Funders made it abundantly clear that they are our partners in this work and encouraged us to communicate with them regularly.

 Season of Gratitude

During this season of thankfulness, we’re grateful for the local wisdom and cooperation that helps nonprofits thrive and make a positive impact in our community.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Annette Look, NPLI Program and Communications Manager

The Nonprofit Leadership Initiative within the Community Foundation is a partnership of Fox Valley-area nonprofits, funders, educational institutions and businesses dedicated to providing resources needed by effective nonprofit boards and executive leaders. NPLI offers a wide range of leadership, management and technical skill-building programs, as well as peer learning circles, to the entire nonprofit sector in the Fox Valley.

We support NPLI with a grant from the Community Vision Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, one among many community partners supporting NPLI. Click here to learn more.

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