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Top 15 Grant Writing Courses + Tips from Experts on Getting Funded

Author: WildApricot
May 16, 2023
🕑 14 min read

Grants are a staple of the nonprofit world—after all, a tight grant proposal gives you the opportunity to bring in serious cash from reputable funders. So if you want to learn the language of grant writing, then investing in grant writing courses is a no-brainer!

Wondering how to find the best grant writing courses?

Check out our handy guide, complete with tips from the experts on how to apply what you learn in your courses! Plus, we’ve got a list of our 15 favorite options—including 4 of the best free online grant writing courses out there.

What is a Grant?

A grant is a financial award that’s given to an individual or organization to help fund a specific goal. Grants can be awarded by the government, a foundation or a private company—and are given with zero expectation for it to be paid back! Often, they’re used to either support operations or fund a specific project.

The first step in grant writing is putting together a grant proposal. This is the document where you introduce the funding body’s jurors to your organization, pitch your project and explain how you’d use the grant to achieve your goals.

While the term “grant writing” is commonly used, it’s actually a bit of a misnomer! The proposal is what you write, and the grant is the award you actually receive.

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How You Can Benefit From Grants

Researching granting bodies and writing out proposals might seem like a lot of work, but it’s well worth doing!

Nonprofit grants can help you:

  • Start your nonprofit. When you’re just starting a nonprofit, it pays to have some funding behind you. 30% of nonprofits end up shutting down after 10 years—winning grants early can cover those start-up costs, and let you jump into the industry on stable footing. 
  • Advance your mission. In order to advance your mission, you’re going to need to invest in program and operations costs, membership management software and more. Grants cover the costs of meeting your goals and supporting your beneficiaries.
  • Expand your sources of revenue. Having diverse revenue streams keeps your nonprofit running even if you lose members or don’t reach your fundraising goals. Grants bring you one stream closer to financial stability!
  • Launch new projects or initiatives. Along with general operating grants, there are TONS of project-specific grants out there for you to explore. With the right grant, you can cover the expenses required to make your newest initiative possible—without dipping into the coffers.

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How You Can Benefit From Grant Writing Courses

So now you know why grant writing is helpful—here’s what the best grant writing courses can do for you:

  • Learn how to research and find grant opportunities. Knowing where to find relevant and valuable grants is just as important as knowing how to write them!
  • Boost your writing skills. If you don’t want to hire a grant writer, grant writing courses can certify you for the job. Not only can you use those skills for your nonprofit—you can also get paid as a grant writer for other organizations. 
  • Understand what funders look for. A huge part of grant writing is learning the language. A great grant writing course will teach you what will impress funders and bring in that non-dues revenue.
  • Write compelling cover letters. There will be lots of applicants going in for the same grant as you! A compelling cover letter is what’ll make you really stand out from the rest.
  • Effectively identify problems and strategize solutions. Sometimes the work of grant writing can highlight gaps in your proposal. A course will give you tips on managing those moments and tightening things up without too much fuss.
  • Learn how to create SMART goals. Ah, who doesn’t love SMART Goals? While you might understand the framework, grant writing courses can show you how to apply it. For example, you can learn what content is actually relevant to your grant proposal!
  • Create a budget plan and narrative. No matter how great your cover letter is, your budget is what sells how you’ll use the money itself. It’s essential to learn what costs are reasonable, appropriate and relevant to your grant proposal.
  • Meet grant deadlines. Deadlines sneak up on all of us! With grant writing courses and a bit of practice, you can learn to manage your time and write proposals without rushing.

How Much Do Grant Writing Courses Cost?

When you’re starting a nonprofit with no money, you want to be sure that every single investment is worth it. Luckily, there are lots of free online grant writing courses that cover the need-to-knows of winning grants.

Paid courses often cost anywhere from $100-$500 dollars, though you can find some in the $20-$50 range here and there. (We’ve got a great list below!)

Grant writing certifications, which build your credibility as a professional grant writer, typically cost closer to $500-$2000 to receive. Is a grant writing certificate worth it? In the United States, the average salary for grant writers is around $50k—so we’d say you can make that investment back pretty quickly!

10 Tips for How to Write Grants—From Real Grant Writers!

If you want to learn how to write grant proposals, the best thing you can do is consult people who’ve won grants!

Here are some words of wisdom from a nonprofit fundraiser, an executive director and a creative writer who won a grant for a solo project:

1. Speak to others who have written grants

Connecting with people who have experience writing and winning grants can give you an idea of if your project is a good fit. They can guide you through the process, set expectations and help you avoid common pitfalls.

Avi Silver, who won a Canada Council for the Arts Council New Creations grant in 2021, says: 

“How did I learn to write a grant? I asked! I connected with friends and colleagues who previously received grants (and even worked as jurors in previous years!), and their insight was invaluable. I won a 25k grant on my first try!”

2. Look for examples and guidance

Take Avi’s advice from above and apply it here as well—if you know past grant winners, ask them if you can check out their past proposals. Depending on the type of grant you’re applying for, there are often supports available from the granting bodies themselves.

These organizations want to give people money. It’s not cheating to ask questions that will help your application be stronger!

3. Give yourself plenty of time

Your proposal is going to take a few drafts to get right. Make time for revisions and feedback from others, as well as the space you need to just think things through. With time and practice, grant writing will become easier and feel more formulaic!

Take some advice from this great interview with Stachen Frederick, Executive Director of Frontlines:

“One of the things I tell people is to learn the common elements of a grant. If you have a project idea, put your project idea and your framework under those common elements. When grants come up, it’ll be easy to copy and paste [certain common elements]. I have written a grant in one night because I already know what funders are going to ask.”

4. Read the guidelines & learn about the granting body!

The quickest way to lose a grant is to ignore the guidelines. Make sure you actually qualify for the grant in question, and do some research on if the organization you’re approaching is a good fit with your own nonprofit.

Rebecca Simkin worked as a fundraiser for twenty-six years, successfully winning numerous grants from charitable foundations and governmental programs. Before retiring, she spent thirteen years fundraising for Evergreen Hospice in Markham.

She suggests: “Don’t forget to do your research and make sure that your letter is addressed by name, to someone at the granting organization, preferably the chairperson or secretary.”

5. Focus on your mission, vision and goals

You founded your organization based on a mission and set of values. Let those be the framework of your grant writing. In many ways, writing a grant proposal is similar to turning a supporter into a member!

Really show the granting bodies why funding you is worth it! Honing in on the heart of your organization—or in my case,the project—not only reaches the jurors, but it can also keep you focused on what you really want.” – Avi Silver

“Also I’d suggest if you get a rejection, apply again in several successive years. The people reviewing the applications get to know your organization and see that you’re serious.” – Rebecca Simkin

6. Differentiate yourself and tell a compelling story

While writing grants is different from writing fiction, everyone loves a good story. Get the jurors invested in your organization’s story—that’ll inspire them to want to be a part of its happy ending.

“One of the things I would say as well is that people don’t think a lot about how they stand out. 

When I think about BrAIDS for AIDS, for example, I could confidently say there’s no organization in the world utilizing hair as a tool for HIV engagement.

So when I have funders ask me why they should give me funding when there are other Black-led organizations doing HIV and AIDS work, we can say we have a totally different demographic because we are focused on people who are into glam—they want to get their hair done and whatnot. And we introduce the HIV, AIDS, and sexual health pieces within that.

So ask yourself: How are you unique? How are you different? That is something that you have to put forward in your value proposition.”

Stachen Frederick

7. Write clearly, simply and directly

Don’t make things overly complicated! The folks who work for granting bodies are going to read through a lot of applications—getting right to the point will save them time and help them focus.

“I’ve always tried to help others understand that grant writing is a human interaction. Yes, you’re writing a document, but this reaches a person on the other side of the table.

What I do when I teach is ask: if somebody knocked at your door and asked you for $1,000, what questions are you going to ask this person? 

Then think of that person—who is on the receiving end of your grant application—as the one asking those questions.”

Stachen Frederick

8. Outline an action plan

Just like a fundraising plan is essential to reaching your goals during a fundraising campaign, an action plan is what proves you can use your grant effectively. This is an opportunity to build some trust!

“I would suggest that some content showing your organization’s track record and some numbers will show you have what it takes to accomplish the program’s aims, as well as showing how your organization’s aims fit and the program fit.” – Rebecca Simkin

9. Create a realistic budget

When you put together your budget, make sure that where the money is going actually makes sense! The thesis of your proposal isn’t “this is a good project”, it’s “this project will benefit from being funded by this specific grant.”

“Some things to consider when doing a budget: It is legitimate to include a portion of your organization’s rental and administrative costs as well as any promotional costs, printing for flyers and such, as well as worker hours. Think of everything you will need to make the program work, even snacks!” – Rebecca Simkin

10. Get feedback

Once you’ve written your grant proposal, connect with those previous winners again. They can help you iron out any last minute kinks—and also build up your confidence!

“I was lucky enough to get feedback from four different friends who had won grants, one of which had won the same grant I was applying for! The feedback they gave me wasn’t on the project itself, but on how the proposal itself was structured and presented. Grant writing really is its own medium, and feedback from those who understand it makes all the difference.” – Avi Silver

11. Proofread and have someone review

Proofread, proofread, proofread—and then send it to someone else to find any last tiny things you’ve missed! Check in with your team or board members for help. Your secretary is used to cleaning up meeting minutes and paying attention to detail, so they might be a great person to approach.

The 15 Best Grant Writing Courses

Now that you know how valuable grant writing courses can be, you might be wondering which ones to choose. There are LOTS of options out there, so we’ve narrowed it down to our 15 favorites.

The 4 best free (online) grant writing courses

If you’re on a budget, taking free grant writing courses will give you the basic information you need without going overboard!

Grant Writing Basics for Beginners: What You Must Know Before You Start Writing Grants

Skillshare is an online learning community based in the United States for people who want to learn from educational videos. Through a paid subscription, all courses are available for free. These courses aren’t accredited, but they help you build the skills you need to try something new!

Teresa Huff’s Skillshare course is 50 minutes long, and designed for people who have never written grants before. She’s a professional grant consultant, and breaks the information down into 10 lessons. And if you like what you learn, she also offers other grant writing webinars!

Price: Free


Instrumentl has a whole library of free grant writing courses, plus regular live webinars! These webinars happen roughly on a weekly basis, and come with time for questions. If you enjoy working with them, you can also check out their grant management software.

Price: Free

Grant Writing and Crowdfunding for Public Libraries – University of Michigan

The University of Michigan lets you audit this free grant writing course for free, with the option to pay $49 for a certificate. It’s self-paced, 4 weeks long and about 2-3 hours per week of work. Public libraries are hugely important to local communities—if that’s your organization, this isn’t an opportunity to pass up!

And if you run a different organization that’s connected to literacy or community space, the audit might still be worth it for you. There’s lots of overlap in grant writing skills, and all information is good information.

Price: Free is a website dedicated to—you guessed it!—learning about grant writing. They have multiple courses, coaching opportunities and certifications, but if you’re just getting started, their free 7 step class is a great way to go.

If you find the course valuable and want to learn more, they have a whole book dedicated to becoming a grant writing master.

Price: Free

The 4 best affordable grant writing courses

If you’re looking for affordable online grant writing courses, Udemy has ongoing sales that are worth taking advantage of. Similar to Skillshare, Udemy has 210,000 online video courses about a variety of subjects, plus new additions published every month. Plus, there’s a 30 day money back guarantee.

Four of our favorites are:

Grant Writing Master Class

Stephanie Tanner’s course is designed specifically for writing grants for nonprofit organizations. It has 9 sessions and 27 lectures, and is just over an hour in length. Plus, it comes with 11 articles to read and 18 downloadable resources!

Finally, you get a certification of completion to show off your credentials.

Price: $40, often 50% off

Basic Grant Proposal Writing for Nonprofits

Ken Goldstein has over 15 years of experience teaching grant writing proposals, and his course has been taken by over 1000 students. It comes with 3 hours of on demand video, assignments to test your knowledge and 15 downloadable resources.

This grant writing class also comes with a certificate of completion.

Price: $90, has been up to 78% off

Advanced Grant Writing: Understanding What A Funder Wants

Professor James Smith Chairs a number of funding panels and is actually responsible for making grant funding decisions! His course is about 3 hours long, with 17 lectures, special assignments and 3 downloadable resources. 

Price: $35, often 43% off

Grant Writing: Keys to a Successful Proposal

With nearly 1500 ratings with an average score of 4.4 / 5 stars, Richard Feenstra’s course is a star on Udemy. It’s a bit over 2 hours long, has 3 downloadable resources and teaches you the skills you need to conduct quality internet research on grants.

Price: $140, has been 83% off

The 3 best grant writing certifications

Is a grant writing certificate worth it? If you’re looking for how to become a grant writer, or simply how to boost your credentials, we’d say yes!

Here are 3 of the best grant writing certifications:

Nonprofit Ready

Nonprofit Ready offers a free certificate program that can be used for CFRE Continuing Education Credits. Its courses cover the entire grant cycle, so you can get everything you need in one easy place—without ever spending a penny!

Price: Free

Remember Not only do they have free courses, but they also have paid certificates designed to help you set up a career as a grant writer. These certifications are on the pricier side, but also come with solo and group trainings, writing classes and a whole network of grant writers to access.

It’s advertised as being “cheaper than a graduate degree and infinitely more effective”!

Price: Payment plan of $500/mo. for 12 months OR $6000/year up front

AGWA Certified Grant Writer Series

The American Grant Writers Association has a Certified Grant Writer Series that comes with:

  • Program Development and Proposal Writing (PDPW) Online Course  
  • Certified Grant Writer® Review Online
  • Certified Grant Writer® Examination Online
  • Annual Individual Membership in American Grant Writers’ Association

The credible association has over 1200 active members, and tons of resources if you’re looking to become a professional grant writer.

Price: $999.00 USD

The 4 best online grant classes

The best grant writing courses are ones that can be taken from the comfort of home!

Our favorites are:

Nonprofit Ready

Yup, these folks again! A free program that comes with a legitimate certificate that you can get entirely online is just too good to pass up. All you need is a Nonprofit Ready account, and you’re set to get started.

Price: Free

Introduction to Grant Writing – University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

If you want to take an online college course, the University of Wisconsin has open enrollment for their grant writing class. You don’t have to be a student, but if you are, passing successfully can give you a credit towards your Continuing Education Certificate.

Price: $150

AGWA: Grant Writing for Nonprofit Organizations for Foundation and Corporate Grants

This online grant writing class from the American Grant Writers’ Association is as thorough as they come. It covers researching grant opportunities, preparing a proposal and Letter of Inquiry (LOI), as well as preparing budgets for Foundation and Corporate Grants for project/program support. 

It’s designed for staff, board members, and volunteers at charitable 501c3 Nonprofits Organizations and Private Educational Institutions. Typically, it takes up to 30 days to complete.

Price: $499

Grant Writing & Funding – Grant Writing Master Course

Grant Writing & Funding offers a master course in everything grant writing related! The class is taught by world-renowned grant writing expert, Holly Rustick, who has secured millions of dollars for nonprofit organizations around the world.

It comes with 39 videos, 30 checklists and templates, sample foundation and federal grants, a grant writing certificate and more!

Price: $697

How to Write Grants that Shine

We hope this guide has shown you why grants are such a key part of non-dues revenue! With the help of the right grant writing courses, you can become the expert your organization needs for your next big project to come to life.

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