Here at Brown our semester is winding down. In fact, this project is due tomorrow… yikes! I’m going to stay on with UPP at least until the procession in the spring, but for the purposes of my class, I’m going to take a minute to reflect on what I’ve learned so far.
I entered in to my partnership with UPP with the goal of learning about grant writing. Suffice it to say, I doubt this will be the last nonprofit community organization I work with, and I figured it was high time I started learning about the process of fundraising. In exchange for letting me look on while they worked on their grant applications, I did some administrative things, and am using this blog to spread the word about UPP.
At this point, I’m still not a grant writing expert, but I did learn a lot about what it takes to keep a community-based organization running. Here’s what I learned:
- A lot about RIPTA, since my work with UPP took me off College Hill to the Southside, the Jewelery District, and Reservoir Triangle. Those of you associated with Brown know that our campus can become kind of like a bubble…I’m loathe to admit that in the past, I’ve gone weeks without leaving campus. Not so anymore, since UPP has given me a chance to apply my ivory-tower skills to some real-life situations.
- The first step in grant writing is to learn. Learn about your organization, the community you serve, and your funders. Most sources agree that thoughtful grant applications that show understanding of the needs of the community, the history and values of the organization, and the priorities of the funder are most likely to get funded. A successful program harmonizes community, organization, and funding source.
- Sometimes this harmonization involves some creative wordplay and diplomacy. Being tactful doesn’t mean being dishonest, it means you’ve taken the time to understand where your potential funders and community members are coming from, identify your shared concerns and emphasizing them. The exercise of identifying shared values and priorities can make your project a success, but can also be a site of community building.
- It’s important to keep community stakeholders abreast with your activities. UPP accomplishes this by sending out emails that update our supporters on our current projects.
Obviously, these aren’t the only things I’ve learned. I’ve learned a lot about the arts, working with schoolkids, drumming circles, Narragansett and native peoples’ history, community organizations in Providence (check out my resources page to link up with some of them), funders in Rhode Island, and the water quality concerns and history of Mashapaug Pond. Overall, this has been a really great opportunity for me to learn outside of a classroom, and I look forward to continuing to work with the Urban Pond Procession.