Huntington, Ind.— It is likely to be one homework assignment Christi Shook won’t soon forget—a class project that resulted in a $3,350.00 check nearly ten months later. Shook, a not-for-profit business major and recreation management minor, elected to take the Grant Proposal Writing and Funding course in the spring of 2004. She hoped to gain the essential skills necessary in grant writing.
“Grant writing is a skill you can use whether it’s your profession, or whether you are a volunteer or board member,” says Shook, who hopes one day to teach not-for-profit business at the collegiate level. “I will be able to use this skill in the future, whether or not I do it full-time as part of a broader fundraising position.”
During the class, each student went through the rigors of an actual grant writing process. Rather than doing a fictional project, Professor Connie Updike, assistant professor of recreation management at Huntington College, encouraged students to contact a local agency and write a real grant for submission. And for Shook, writing an actual grant paid off big. Her proposal for Upper Wabash Interpretive Services (UWIS) received the full amount of funding from Ecolab Incorporated.
Shook first contacted UWIS after learning that its director, Mr. Marvin McNew, was interested in obtaining grants for the organization. UWIS is an extension of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources that oversees the daily programming, management and educational activities at Mississinewa, J. Edward Roush and Salamonie Lakes. In 2003, Ecolab Incorporated’s Visions for Learning program donated nearly half a million dollars to help teachers enhance classroom curriculum. Therefore, Shook and McNew decided to respond to a new invitation from Ecolab for grant proposals
“Ecolab has a high desire to support youth and education, but the nature of their business also makes them interested in environmental preservation,” explains Shook, a junior from Franklin, Ind. “It seemed like a really good fit from our end of it.”
At the end of January 2004, Shook began working on the UWIS grant which desired funding to host school groups for an Earthkeeper’s Day in the spring of 2005. The day would include a conservation officer leading kids in activities such as a tour of Roush Dam and lessons in boating safety and soil and water conservation. Shook’s grant was submitted in October to Ecolab. A month later Shook and McNew learned that all of the requested funding had been approved.
In her research, Shook had to learn the specifics of the UWIS organization, talk to local school officials to assess the community need for such a program, find data to support that need, design measurable outcomes for the grant, and solicit letters of endorsement.
One of the most important lessons Shook learned during this tough assignment is that grant writing isn’t all about the money. “It is important to have integrity throughout the whole grant writing process,” Shook says. “You have to present it truthfully, do good research, and actually do what you say you’re going to do with the money.”
She also learned that patience is key throughout the long, challenging process. “To start working on a project at the end of January and not see your results until November is a pretty overwhelming experience,” Shook explains. “You just have to persevere and maintain a commitment to excellence whether you get funded right away or if you have to keep looking for a new funder.”
Shook looks forward to attending the Earthkeeper’s Day at J. Edward Roush Lake in the spring of 2005. The children will be sure to enjoy the culminating results of hard work and perseverance.