"When I first signed up for this class, I didn’t know exactly what it entailed. I thought that it was a simulation of grant giving and that the money was make-believe. Having $10,000 worth of real money to give out to real community organizations was not only intimidating, but also exciting. Our class realized the big responsibility we had, and we responded in a mature and thought-out way.
Like many new topics, we started the class learning about the basics of the grant process. We studied both sides of the procedure, how to write a successful grant, and how to decide which grants are the most worthy. This was very interesting to me because while I’ve had an internship with a nonprofit organization, I never got to see this side of the business. It is such a challenge to write a grant that is not only well planned and executed, but that can successfully compete against other organizations that may be providing the same resources.
We had many professionals come in to speak to our class. They all offered different and interesting perspectives on the grant process. While some of them were on the grant writing side, others, like us, were in charge of awarding money. We learned key tips to remember when writing a grant, like spelling and grammar, and having a proposal with a real need. We also saw how different organizations prioritize the needs of the community. This was extremely helpful to our class because none of us have ever had the power to award this amount of money. One of our main concerns was trying to decide which organization was more worthy. As an International Studies major, I know that all of this information will be extremely important to my future. Gaining this knowledge puts me ahead of the game, no matter how slightly.
Another aspect of the class that I enjoyed was visiting a winner of last years grant. By doing a site visit, we were able to see exactly how the money was used and the big impact that it had. The winners were so enthusiastic and grateful and knowing that we would give other organizations the same feelings this year was exciting.
One of the most difficult parts of this process was reading all of the proposals. Cortland County is a relatively small county in New York and after reading all of the proposals that were sent in, I couldn’t imagine being in a bigger county. It was hard to evaluate them because I had never done it before. After going through the first couple, I realized that I wasn’t being critical enough because all of the ones I had looked at had very high rankings. If I kept up at that pace, there would be no differences between any of them. I went back through the ones I had evaluated and spent more time thinking about various aspects. I was surprised by some of them because they were not well written. You would think that if you are applying for a grant that you apparently need so much you would make sure that it was absolutely perfect. When reading and ranking the programs, I also thought about what types of needs the community has. After we individually evaluated the proposals, we then ranked them within our peer panel. The peer panel was helpful because we were able to discuss different aspects that we liked about each organization.
The hard part of the class came when we had to actually sit down as a class and figure out what organizations we wanted to award money to. I had no idea how stressful and time consuming the process would be. We had debates and arguments, and were forced to put our own emotions and pride aside so that we could reach a fair decision. At the end of the process, not everyone was satisfied, but we feel that we picked the best group.
I am so happy that I signed up for this class. We were able to make a true difference in our community, while gaining professional experience. I work at one of the organizations we funded, but in a different department, and to know that I personally had an impact on their programs is a great feeling. In the future, if I have excess funds, I would love to be able to personally aid the community and world I live in. Throughout this class I have made new friends, gained new skills, and solidified that fact that the international studies major, and a potential career in the nonprofit sector, is right for me.