Harford Grant Academy graduates first class

Harford Grant Academy, a 12-week program that provides training in grant research, proposal development, grant-writing skills and grant management, graduated it first class on Dec. 5. It is believed to be the first of its kind in Maryland, according to its organizers.

The academy was founded earlier this year by the Community Foundation of Harford County, Harford County Department of Community Services, Harford Community College and Harford County Public Library to assist area nonprofits in increasing their capacity for fundraising and resource development. The academy is supported in part by the Dresher Foundation.

While there are one- and two-day training programs in Maryland on grant writing for development professionals, none have offered ongoing support/resources or hands-on funder research and proposal development that is offered by the Harford Grant Academy, according to organizers.

The Academy kicked off its program in September with eight students in the first class. Students attended five, 2.5-hour sessions at the HEAT Center and Harford County Public Library and completed three online classes through Harford Community College's "Ed2Go" program.

In-person classes focused on topics such as grant funding from the funder's perspective, role of nonprofit management in grant development, persuasive writing, funder research, and reporting and documentation. Guest speakers included Eric Brenner of the Maryland Governor's Grants Office as well as representatives from the local chapter of the Grants Professional Association, Dresher Foundation, Catholic Charities and St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center.

The online classes focused on "A to Z Grant Writing," "Get Grants" and "Advanced Grant Proposal Writing." The online classes were comprised of 12 lessons, and each lesson took about two hours to complete.

The inaugural Harford Grant Academy class members were Pastor James Axel, Family Life Center; Julie Chmura, The Arc Northern Chesapeake Region; Bethany Hacker, Harford County Public Library; Mary Leavens, The Humane Society of Harford County; Michaelann Meehan, Habitat for Humanity Susquehanna; Angela Peaker, Village at Lakeview Neighborhood Network Community Center; Tiffany Robinson, Harford County Department of Community Services; and Lisa Wright, Upper Bay Counseling and Support Services.

Through its graduates, Harford Grant Academy hopes to develop a local network of trained grants professionals to staff and support the academy in the future and to provide support and feedback to nonprofits throughout Harford County.

"The collaborative effort and vision of the Harford Grant Academy's founding leadership is something that other counties will want to replicate. It will become a model of what can be achieved to increase nonprofits' capacity throughout the state," said Eric Brenner, director of the Maryland Governor's Grants Office. "The Community Foundation of Harford County deserves particular praise for going beyond grant making to embrace the leadership-building role that the best community foundations in the country should all aspire to."

The next class of the Harford Grant Academy, with 16 members, will meet in September 2013. Application information will be available in the spring from the Community Foundation of Harford County at http://www.cfharfordcounty.org.

"Participants in the Harford Grant Academy learn fundamentals that carry over into all areas of the development field," said Tamara W. Zavislan, executive director of the Community Foundation of Harford County. "Our hope is that the Academy will help provide effective and efficient philanthropy in Harford County."

The idea of starting the academy came about during a conversation earlier this year between Zavislan and Beth Hendrix, director of Harford County Department of Community Services. They shared an interest in helping area nonprofits become more competitive in seeking support from regional funders.

The Harford Grant Academy builds on local resources, such as Community Foundation of Harford County's Nonprofit Resource Center and the Foundation Center Cooperating Collection at the Bel Air branch of the Harford County Public Library.

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