When the pandemic forced Dekalb County schools to transition to online learning, the system used part of a $3.8 million grant from the federal government to pay for Chromebooks and wireless hotspots for students.

Another grant, pursued by the Dekalb County schools in partnership with the Georgia Department of Education, covered resources teachers needed to improve literacy among elementary school students.

“Coming from the classroom myself, I know that it’s very helpful to write grants to obtain those extra resources rather than everything coming out of pocket,” said Marcia Oglesby, grants and partnership development coordinator for the Dekalb County School District said.

Oglesby has taken three grant writing courses offered by the UGA Center for Continuing Education. She took the first course after the district moved her into a position that included grant-writing responsibilities. The district has since added a second grant writer, and much of Oglesby’s time now is spent helping teachers learn to apply for grants.

“I was able to gain information from the [Georgia Center] courses to provide more professional learning for teachers,” she said. “They gained some valuable information that they could use in applying for their own grants.”

More often, public service organizations are depending on grants to pay for programs once covered within their budgets.

Increasingly, prospective grant writers have turned to the Georgia Center for Continuing Education to develop grant-writing skills.

In FY 2013 and FY 2014, the grant writing certificate program was offered through the Georgia Center twice a year, drawing about 50 participants each year.

It grew incrementally, with a third and fourth class offered each year based on demand.

In FY 2021, which ends June 30, the Georgia Center offered eight grant writing programs, with 163 registrations.

“Not only have the number of offerings doubled, but additional delivery formats (times) are being offered,” said Stacy Jones, director of the Georgia Center. “The goal of the offerings is to ensure that anyone who is interested in taking the program can find a course and time that work for them.”

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For nearly 25 years, the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education has helped grant writing professionals build the skills they need to successfully apply for corporate, foundation and government funding.

The Grant Writing Certificate program offered through the Georgia Center teaches essential information needed to write a successful proposal, such as characteristics of fundable proposals and how to analyze requests for proposals. Participants learn how to write letters of intent and inquiry, describe programs and their implementation, and design measurable goals and objectives. The certified grant writers leave knowing how to craft an executive summary and abstract, develop evaluation methods with outcomes and impact, and draft a program budget and narrative.

Sheila Garcia-Wilder, senior grant writer for Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, said the certificate program honed her skills so that she was more efficient in writing proposals.

Garcia-Wilder had written four grant proposals over eight years before earning the Grant Writing Certificate from the Georgia Center. Within four months of completing the certificate she wrote four more proposals.

“The courses affected my ability to work faster,” she said. “The federal grant I’m currently working on is difficult — probably the most difficult I’ve written — but I pull up my University of Georgia manual that I received with the course. It’s like my handbook. It helps me organize a template to give to the team members so they can give me information that I want or need to help write it.”

Grant money has become a necessity for many organizations that depend on a strong economy.

During the pandemic, the demand for employees with commercial drivers licenses (CDLs) increased because consumer supply companies needed to get their products to stores.

Robin Patterson-Hill, who works for the Georgia Department of Driver Services, was able to use grant money she had secured to quickly get more commercial drivers on the road.

Patterson-Hill completed the Georgia Center’s grant writing program in November 2020. Since then, she has written grant proposals for $475,000.

“With the pandemic, one of the big things was making sure that the supply chain kept running,” she said. “When we started the grants, the wait time for someone to get [CDL] certified was six weeks. We now have a specific team that goes out and helps decrease the amount of time. That gets more qualified CDL drivers on the road.”

The added benefit of the certificate program is that those who complete it have the knowledge and the materials to help others hone their grant writing skills. Both Oglesby’s and Garcia-Wilder’s job responsibilities include passing on the skills they gained through the Georgia Center courses to their colleagues.

“What we have established in the metro area is the Metro Atlanta Collaborative,” Oglesby said. “All of the counties come together—people with common goals in grants and partnership development departments. Even though these grants are competitive, we try to help each other because we are coming together in a common purpose, which is helping the students in this area.”

Find more information on grant writing courses through the UGA Center for Continuing Education at https://www.georgiacenter.uga.edu/courses/grant-writing-nonprofit.