Many nonprofit professionals first interact with grants by helping write a grant proposal. If you’re tossed into a grant writing project with no guidance or training (just the task of securing crucial dollars for your mission), what should you do?

First, remember that you’re not alone!

Grant writing is a fairly universal, shared activity among nonprofits. There are tons of resources and experts out there willing to share their insights and get you up to speed with a new skill set.

Online grant writing courses are the most popular options these days for their convenience and flexibility. If you want to learn grant writing, chances are you’ll look first for an online class—but how do you choose the right one?

Picking the right (or wrong) resource will impact your grant writing journey, either equipping you with the knowledge you need to succeed or setting you back with frustrating lessons misaligned with your goals or experience level. Let’s review the key considerations and features to look for.

Key Considerations When Choosing a Grant Writing Course

Before beginning your research and comparing options, start by narrowing the field. Think through these three key questions:

1. What are your grant writing goals? You likely fall into one of two main camps:

Your goal and situation will help determine which courses are best suited for your needs. For example, a freelancer would benefit from business tips that an in-house nonprofit staff member won’t need to spend time covering.

2. What is your skill level? Are you a complete beginner or somewhat familiar with the world of grants? Do you already have experience working on a grant proposal?

Prioritize educational content that aligns with your experience level when possible so that you’ll make the best possible use of your time. Most eLearning offerings today provide detailed lesson and curriculum previews to help you gauge their relevance to your experience level.

3. What is your budget? How much are you willing to put into learning grant writing? What do you expect from the resources/membership you purchase—just the learning content itself, or additional downloads, online communities, personal coaching, etc.?

Every organization’s and individual’s circumstances are unique, but it’s important to remember that high-powered grant writers are like revenue machines for nonprofits. Think of training as an investment.

Essential Content for Any Grant Writing Course

Any grant training materials you choose should align with the guidelines you established above. But what are the other baseline characteristics to look for in quality grant writing classes or training memberships?

Unless highly specialized or targeted to experienced audiences, online grant writing courses should provide you with a working knowledge of:

  • The grant landscape, including the types of grantmaking foundations and funders
  • How grants and the overall grant lifecycle work
  • The elements of a grant proposal
  • The general grant writing process

Different grant writing experts and vendors will have different methodologies for the proposal writing process. Prioritize those that break it down into specific steps, nothing too vague or general, and that provide tactical guidance along the way. A general instruction to “gather the information and financial data you’ll need to write the proposal” is much less helpful than a detailed walkthrough of what this data includes and how to gather it in an organized way.

Many modern offerings will also provide downloadable versions of their materials and helpful templates. Especially if you’re just starting your grant writing journey or grant seeking program, these materials can be invaluable for structuring your efforts in an easily repeatable way.

Elements to Look For in Standout Grant Writing Classes

Let’s say you’ve narrowed down your search to a handful of appealing classes—how do you determine which one truly offers the most value?

There are a few standout features and characteristics that can help you decide. Pick and choose from this list based on your needs and what’s available within your budget:

  • Free introductory classes. First, check if any of your top picks offer free first looks at an introductory class. Some comprehensive training curriculums like Learn Grant Writing may even provide free access to an entire abridged course on the essentials so that you can gauge if grant writing is the right journey for you before investing further.
  • Training for grant research. The process of finding and evaluating grant opportunities is its own subset of skills to learn, and some introductory courses may not cover it if they’re tightly focused on only the steps of writing a proposal. Learning how to research grants is critical for long-term success, so prioritize this content if possible.
  • Training for federal grant seeking. Similarly, pursuing grants from federal agencies requires more specialized training because the process is more complex. There are courses devoted solely to this topic, but comprehensive introductory training programs can also equip you with the knowledge you need to seek federal grants confidently.
  • Generally deeper expertise. Look for eLearning content that goes beyond just surface-level explanations and examples. Understanding the “why” behind different steps and methodologies allows you to master and more effectively adapt them to your own needs. How to develop an overarching Funding Strategy is a great example of a hard-won tip that you might miss in thinner training content.
  • Practical recommendations. Ideally, your training course will show you how to actually manage the grant seeking process as a whole. The logistics of grant reporting and project management are essential for successful programs (and your sanity as a grant writer).
  • Online community. Although not essential for success for all grant writers, an online community component can be extremely helpful, particularly for those launching freelance careers. Connecting with other trainees and experienced grant writers allows you to share tips, troubleshoot challenges, and gain a new level of accountability.
  • Certification. Many grant writing courses offer official certification upon completion. Take a close look at what exactly your top picks offer. Some may provide their own certificate of completion (which can still make a great impression on clients and LinkedIn visitors!) while others may also be approved providers from nationally-recognized fundraising organizations like CFRE. Consider your needs and how important certification is to you in both the immediate and long-term.

As with any new investment, it’s important to weigh your options and look for ways to maximize value. This list should help guide your decision but remember to keep your long-term goals in mind. Certification is a great example—if you’re not sure but think you might want to secure grant writing certification later on, it’ll make more sense to choose a certified course over one that isn’t so that you won’t need to backtrack.


Jumping into a new skill set or freelance career is very exciting, even more so when you feel equipped to thrive in it. Whether you’ve been thrown into a new project, proactively want to secure more diverse funding for your organization, or want to help nonprofits in your community, training is a must, and thankfully there’s an option for everyone.

Explore different roundups of top options broken down by category, like Learn Grant Writing’s overview of top online courses, to start your search. Keep the considerations and features listed above in mind as you explore. You’ll find the perfect solution in no time.