Educator teaches grant writing — A do-it-yourself alternative

Nonprofits and educators are always looking for ways to increase funding for their programs, but many of them lack the skills to write the grants to secure those funds, leaving them to use some of their much-needed resources to pay someone else to do it. Jonathan C. W. Jones meets those needs through his workshops designed to give educators and nonprofit leaders basic and essential grant writing skills.

Jonathan C. W. Jones and wife Sabrina MSR News Online

Jones, born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, has been an educator himself for over 10 years. He is currently a special education teacher, but for the past several years he has also been quite successful at writing classroom education grants. So successful, in fact, that his wife encouraged him to pass the skill on to others.

“I’ve been doing that for just a little bit over a year now,” he says, of his grant writing presentations and workshops. The workshops are part of S&J Creations, which is a family-run business. One arm of the business is Body Love Products, through which his wife sells a line of Shea butters and body scrubs products.

The other arm of the business is the grant workshops. The workshops are held in different locations across the Twin Cities. “We want to keep it open to both the Twin Cities areas, and we don’t want to limit [participants] to just one location. But at the same time, I want to go where I have an idea that there are individuals who want to take advantage of this, as well.”

This includes locations like Northside Economic Opportunity Network (NEON) in North Minneapolis where he’s held several workshops. “Because we are a minority-owned small business, we are very conscious about who we like to work with, and promote. So we’ve been very strategic about working with other minority-owned organizations and businesses in an effort to promote them, as well.”

Students of grant writing workshops (Courtesy of Jonathan C. W. Jones)

He offers multiple courses in an effort to match the skill level and experience of participants: “We have a Grant Writing 101 [workshop], and that’s really for beginning grant writers who have never written a grant,” he says. “It’s about a three-hour workshop. It gives them kind of the basics behind grant writing.”

The next level of workshops is the Essentials Workshop, for those who have written grants before, but want to hone their skill. He brings in other professionals to share their knowledge with participants.

The third workshop is called the Tailored Grant workshop, tailored to help the writer in securing a specific grant. Several workshops were held during the month of April at Golden Thymes Coffee & Café in St. Paul. These are smaller one-day workshops of approximately 10 people.

“It’s tailored because I have a system that I use when I apply for grants.” This consists of rephrasing all the required components of the grant as questions. “That’s typically how I approach all of my grants…by having that template [and] working through all of those questions.”

People who sign up for this workshop provide the information on the grant they are looking to pursue and a copy of the application. Along with the parts of the grant outlined and rephrased as questions, “At the tailored workshop, they will have time to actually start writing their narratives, and then they will share it with their peers.”

Jones says that at a previous workshop his panel of experts included members from the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits who came to share their knowledge. For the tailored workshops he asked them back “to kind of critique and actually pull apart that writing narrative…and [participants] get feedback from them.”

The objective of securing funds, however, ends with writing the grant. Beforehand, the writers must know when and where to file the application. Jones has this covered through the resources he makes available to all workshop participants on where and when to go after the grants that best fits their programming.

“There is a whole host of resources on my actual page with direct links to either pages and or documents so that people can download [applications] as well. And likewise for educators, I have a whole host of local grants for classroom teachers or educators in general and resources they can access for applying for their grants.”

The next Grant Writing 101 workshop will be held at Golden Thymes Coffee & Café, 921 Selby Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104 on Saturday, August 19. For more information, go to or email


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