For almost two years now, Trudee Wynn has been bringing in the dough at Rend Lake College. It is not the baking kind, nor is she amassing a personal fortune. She is writing grant proposals for the public, two-year community college and doing so quite successfully.
Technically, Wynn is the RLC Resource Development Specialist, reporting to the Executive Director of the Rend Lake College Foundation, Pat Mitchell.
She emphasized, however, the distinction between the two functions. Grant writing is not fund-raising, which is more like what the Foundation does.
So what exactly is a grant? A grant is a monetary award given by a funder. Wynn does the legwork and completes the grant paperwork, either in the form of an application or a proposal, which is a written request asking for money from entities such as a government agency, a foundation or a corporation.
There are several sources to look for these type of funds, such as Federal and State governments, private and corporate foundations, local organizations and private businesses.
According to Wynn, the grant request may be submitted in the form of an application or a proposal. The difference? An application is supplied by the funder, whereas a proposal is more of a free-flowing grant request.
Now that we have determined what a grant is, what is next?
First, the grant-writer takes a closer look at the organization. What programs are strong? What new programs need funding? Who can be our new funding partners?
"We really look at ‘How is Rend Lake College going to benefit from this project?" she said.
At the present time, for example, Wynn is working to find matching funds for a new Applied Science building on the Rend Lake College Ina campus. The state has earmarked funds for 75 percent of the project, leaving RLC to provide the remaining 25 percent.
She also is searching for money to construct a track for the two-time National Championship Warrior Cross-Country team.
"There’s not a lot of grant money out there for that sort of thing," she admitted. "But they really deserve to have their own track after bringing the young program to such national prominence after only three years in existence."
The challenge, she said, is trying to find the right grant to fit the need and then making the necessary adjustments to make it fit.
Another invaluable tool in the grant writing community is the use of networking - the web and several list-services, as well as others in similar positions at community colleges.
"Sometimes, I get hung up and I’ll call my counterparts, tell them what I’m trying to do and, hopefully, they can lead me in the right direction," she stated.
The college also has great relationships with the Southern Illinois Collegiate Common Market (SICCM) and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, partnering with them on several grants. There is a lot of cooperation with high schools in RLC’s eight-county, 13-school district.
Political connections at both the State and Federal levels are important, also. For example, Wynn indicated, a local representative may serve on a subcommittee integral to a project. He/she can let the right people know what is going on and that the project is coming through the pipeline.
Rend Lake College has a long history of grants, including programs such as AmeriCorps, Upward Bound and Child Care Resource and Referral. And Wynn has a well-qualified cast of supporting players, who are intimately involved with those programs and know the script.
"For FY03, total grant funding at Rend Lake College will exceed $4.5 million," she boasted. "We ave many grants which roll over but you still have to do the paperwork."
With belts tightening everywhere, and taking into account Illinois’ budgetary shortfalls, competition is likely to get tougher. Many sources have reduced the amount of money they are granting. That means Wynn has to work even harder at getting new grants or renewing old ones.
One of the hardest aspects of being in the grant business is the personnel involved. Many people’s jobs hang in the balance when you are talking about grant-funded programs.
"If the grant does not get renewed, these folks are out of jobs," she said. Because of that, the waiting game is one of the biggest stressors for her.
Likewise, there is an upside to writing grants.
"I tell Pat [Mitchell], being in this position, you really have your hand on the pulse of the college and the direction in which it is going," said Wynn.
"It’s exhilarating!" she added, citing specifically, the big projects in the works and new curriculum coming to RLC.
Wynn gets the opportunity to meet and work with many different people. The job requires much teamwork, because she has to get those involved who know the programs and their needs.
She lauded those faculty members who continually are looking for ways in which to improve the quality of education students receive at Rend Lake College through the use of grants for new equipment and opportunities for field study.
Wynn, whose background is in accounting, said no one really goes into grant writing. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.
Wynn is married to former Benton Ranger and SIU Saluki hoops standout Matt Wynn, who is now the Head Boys Basketball Coach at his high school alma mater. They have two children, Bailey and Gehrig.
Things are looking pretty good for the partnership of Trudee Wynn and Rend Lake College, with many exciting grant projects on the horizon for both.