A Master of Social Work degree provides the opportunity for graduates to gain extensive training in grant writing and proposal development, honing this valuable skill for a potential future career as a development professional.
In the competitive funding landscape of the social service sector, there is a growing demand for skilled grant writers at non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and research centers across the country.
Working as a Development Professional in Social Work
Individuals with strong writing skills and a penchant for transforming social service programs into compelling narratives should consider using their MSW degree toward a career as a development professional.
Working in the field of development, social workers are able to apply their grant-writing, program evaluation and assessment, and relationship-building skills toward the creation of funding portfolios for their place of employment.
Development professionals secure the grant funds and donations that enable social service providers to carry out their important work. Development professionals are often from an integral part of an organization’s leadership team, strategizing on future directions and goals.
These positions also allow for a great amount of creativity and often include exciting relationship-building opportunities that take place outside of the traditional office environment.
A development professional’s responsibilities fall into the following three principal areas of work:
Proposal Development and Grant-Writing
This area of work is the crux of a development professional’s focus.
Development professionals must seek out funding opportunities, develop program or project proposals that fit the funder’s aims and requirements, and write the grant proposal to be funded.
Specific activities in this area include:
- Developing a database of funding opportunities through research, building connections to funders, surveying past funding sources
- Working with the leadership team to strategically determine which funding opportunities will be sought and what programs to propose
- Developing program proposals that include measurable outcomes, timelines, and present a compelling need for the program’s services
- Writing funding proposals, or grants, according to funder specifications
- Staying on top of deadlines, supplemental materials requirements, and communications to ensure that grants are submitted correctly for review
Liaising with Funding Sources
Once grants have been secured, funders generally require grantee organizations to stay in frequent contact and submit reports on their progress.
Reports are often requested annually but may be more or less frequent depending on the funding source.
Some funders conduct site visits to the organization as well. Development professionals will take charge of many tasks in this area, including:
- Staying in regular communication with funders, and developing deep relationships with them to increase potential for grant renewals
- Coordinating site visits and ensuring that funders are able to see firsthand the impact and importance of programs and services being carried out with grant money
- Meeting with program personnel to gather data and anecdotal information about progress and challenges
- Writing and submitting reports presenting the program’s accomplishments to the funders, and addressing how goals were met
- Writing reports for the public that summarize program activities
- Attending events and meetings held by funders
To diversify funding sources, development professionals often incorporate strategies for individual and corporate donations into their fundraising plans.
Thus, another key aspect of a development professional’s work is to cultivate donor relationships in a variety of ways.
These tasks might include:
- Maintaining donor databases and reaching out to them (by phone, email, in person) regularly in request for support
- Attending social events to connect with current or potential donors
- Sending out newsletters and updates on organizational accomplishments to keep donors engaged
- Reaching out to potential corporate sponsors
- Planning donor appreciation events
- Planning and coordinating fundraising events, encouraging donor attendance and involvement
- Spearheading organization-wide donation or fundraising campaigns
Use Your Social Work Skills as a Development Professional
For social work graduates looking for a non-traditional career path that employs social work skills and competencies and creates impact at the organizational level, a career in development is a promising choice!