Technical communication and non-profits:
What kinds of documents are needed?
An interview with Anne Ganey
by Lee S. Tesdell
As a technical communication instructor I get excited about non-profit organizations in south-central Minnesota. I see possibilities. I see internships. I see service-learning projects.
For service learning project assignments, students have written technical documents for the Waseca Neighborhood Center, the Open Door Health Center in Mankato, the Committee Against Domestic Abuse (CADA) in Mankato, and the student chapter of Habitat for Humanity at MSU. Students have written a policy document, created a new website, updated another website, written brochures, and revised Power Point presentations.
What about our technical communication graduates? From their vantage point do non-profits offer anything? Should graduates look at non-profits for jobs? Do technical communication skills match up with the needs of non-profits? As an instructor of technical communication I know about pedagogy and service learning, but what about potential employment?
I turned to a professional in the Mankato community for answers to these questions. Ann Ganey, an experienced independent grant and proposal writer in Mankato, offered her insights.
Anne sees a close relationship between the skills that technical communication graduates possess and the skills that non-profits need. I asked Anne about the following skills: website development, writing grants, writing instructions, researching funding sources, or writing marketing materials. She writes that all of these are needed skills at non-profits, and continued, "Website maintenance is often overlooked and a real need of any organization."
Anne says that it all starts with experience: "It's best to get some experience first. Writing and grant writing are skills that take time, practice and attention to detail. Starting with a non-profit internship where you can develop some experience and even write a small grant that gets funded is best."
Where can graduates look for positions? Anne says that students can look for jobs with "With any non-profit, with United Way, through MSU's Center for Non-Profit Management in Urban and Regional Studies."
As for the future, "As long as non-profits and their programs are primarily grant funded, there will be a need for writers. Also, with the amount of data being generated in this information age, writers are needed to translate that data into short, meaningful pieces for practitioners in the field to use."
Anne is an optimist about technical communicators and non-profits. It appears that non-profits may warrant a second look as our technical communication students look for internships and workplace positions after graduation.
Technical communication students can begin to survey the non-profit landscape here:
- University of Iowa's resource center:
- University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota's resource center:
- Online nonprofit job centers:
Bowdon, Melody and J. Blake Scott. 2003. Service-Learning in Technical and Professional Communication. New York: Longman.
Ganey, Anne, "Hello from MSU", E-mail message to Lee Tesdell, March 2, 2004.