How to make grant magic

MAGIC explanation

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at a conference hosted by the North Carolina Council of Resource Development (NC CORD). 

My presentation was titled “How to Make Grant Magic,” and I livened up my slides with photos of the Mill Mountain Star, plenty of Harry Potter references, and a GIF of the bewitching Debbie Reynolds in “Halloweentown.” 

But most importantly, I framed this hour-long talk around inspiring books (my magical ingredients)… as well as the key drivers of engagement.

This was a serendipitous accident.

In the weeks leading up to the conference, I volunteered to serve as facilitator of Virginia Western’s Campus Engagement Workgroup. As part of my research for that role, I stumbled onto a blog post by DecisionWise, a longtime consulting company based in Utah, which recently published the book “Engagement Magic: Five Keys for Engaging People, Leaders, and Organizations.”

Their acronym was absolutely perfect for my presentation theme:


Meaning: Does your job provide you with a sense of meaning and purpose?


Autonomy: Do you have the freedom to choose how to best perform your job?


Growth: Are you feeling challenged and stretched in your work?


Impact: Does your work have any impact on the success of your company, the people in your community, the world, etc?


Connection: Do you feel like you belong with your colleagues and your organization? 

In their blog post, DecisionWise explains these key drivers are based on two decades of research and over 12 million employee survey responses.

They resonated with my own experience (and were easy to remember), so I aligned my presentation draft with the magical acronym. I gave examples of how the grants office aims to foster these key drivers of engagement, either during the grant development process or through grant awards themselves. In each section, I grounded my anecdotes with book suggestions that have inspired my thinking (many of which I have discussed on this blog). 

For example, when I talked about the grants office’s role in fostering more connections across campus, I suggested reading “The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters.” I have found this book by Priya Parker helpful, whether I’m facilitating work meetings or hosting my daughter’s birthday parties. 

I also asked the 20 or so session attendees (almost all of them grant professionals across North Carolina community colleges), to share a book that has inspired their work. Their suggestions included:

  • “O Great One!: A Little Story About the Awesome Power of Recognition” by David Novak
  • “Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT” by Paul Marciano
  • “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl
  • “The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles” by Julie Andrews Edwards

Below are all of the books I mentioned during the presentation.

collage of books

Please share your own recommendations … or any thoughts you may have for the Campus Engagement workgroup. Email or call 857-6084.

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, October 2019

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About Stephanie

Stephanie SeagleStephanie Ogilvie Seagle has served as Grant Specialist at Virginia Western since 2016, but she prefers her honorary title: “Chief Joy Officer.” Stephanie spent most of her career at The Roanoke Times, a daily newspaper, where she served in various news and features roles including “Shoptimist” shopping columnist. She earned a bachelor’s degree in integrative studies at George Mason University and a master’s of arts in liberal studies at Hollins University. Stephanie is a mom to one human daughter and multiple chihuahuas … and is obsessed with reading nonfiction, Halloween, and crafting glow necklaces inspired by the Mill Mountain Star. Glow Roanoke!