What To Look For (And What to Avoid) In Grant Writing Training For Nonprofit Organizations
Blog Post by CharityHowTo Expert Diane H. Leonard, GPC
When talking with nonprofit professionals who are new to the grant writing field, or even those who may not be new to the field, but are focused on taking their grant writing career to the next level, one of the most common questions I am asked is about what key resources and trainings are that I would recommend.
Everyone has different learning styles: some of us prefer to learn via webinar; some prefer to learn via YouTube video; others prefer to learn via hard copy book; and last but not least, some prefer to go to a multi-day intensive to condense their professional development.
Then of course there is the learning of hands-on tactical approach which should be added to the amazing professional development opportunity of serving as a grant reviewer.
As a grant professional and trainer I know there is an overwhelming amount of information out there to help you on your grant seeking journey (sometimes feels like almost too much information as you try to wade through it), and I want to help you decide where to best invest your time and effort.
So, I’ve compiled a list below to help you decide what to look for and where to focus your time and effort (since nonprofit professionals always have a limited amount of both!) when looking to further your grant knowledge.
What to Look for in Grant Writing Trainings for Your Nonprofit Organization
Regardless of your preferred style of learning, or length of time in the field, when assessing the grant writing training and professional development opportunities that are available to you and your nonprofit organization, you should look for the following things:
Why it’s important: A GPA Approved Trainer has a minimum of 5 years experience as a grant professional, has provided professional references that verified their knowledge and presentation skills, and has provided course objectives and presentation formats that address the GPC competencies.
A GPA Approved Trainer is well-prepared, credible, and skilled in helping people build their grants knowledge base.
Whether it’s in grant research, writing, and management; project or organizational development; evaluation; or other key components of grant success. All GPA Approved Trainers abide by the GPA Code of Ethics.
Why it’s important: Each of the providers on this list have undergone an application process with GPCI® to ensure their training or education sessions adhere to areas of content necessary to maintain the GPC credential.
GPCI maintains an annual list of Accepted Continuing Education Providers. These are pre-qualified providers to offer training accepted by GPCI toward continuing certification and display the CMP Accepted CE Provider logo.
Why it’s important: CFRE approved organizations have had the content descriptions of their courses reviewed and pre-approved for continuing education points for both Initial Certification and Recertification. The CFRE Continuing Education Program helps candidates find educational offerings that will count for credit.
Trainings offered by members of the Grant Professionals Association/Association of Fundraising Professionals
Why it’s important: Members of the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) may be a GPA Approved Trainer while members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) may be CFRE Approved Trainers. Some members of GPA and AFP have sought both approved trainer status through both organizations due to their specialities.
Not all members choose to seek the approved trainer status with either organization as training is not a primary aspect of their day to day activities or business revenue.
Their trainings are still an incredible opportunity for you to participate in as regardless of whether GPA or AFP members, as members of both organizations abide by a specific (and similar) code of ethics.
You can feel confident that trainings offered by GPA and AFP members promote best practices aligned with these codes of ethics.
Trainings offered by individuals that are still active in the field itself providing hands-on grant writing/grant seeking support in organizations/with clients.
Why it’s important: Trainers that are still actively involved in the day to day work of grant seeking in some capacity will have more information and knowledge of trends and changing approaches in the field.
For example, significant changes have happened in the field in the past 10 years with online applications, but there are more recent changes related to online federal applications the past two years.
Trainings that are offered within a larger curriculum or offering of support.
Why it’s important: Taking multiple courses online or participating in in-person classes that are created with the same methodology and framework will ensure consistent best practices and takeaways from one course to the next.
For example, when you participate and enjoy a webinar like Federal Grants 101, perhaps now you want to take an intermediate course, so looking to Federal Grants 201, or later on the higher level Federal Grants 501 offered by CharityHowTo gives you the consistent learning that is building on the previous grant writing webinar(s).
This also gives you the opportunity to potentially participate in multiple trainings offered by a consistent instructor. While it is important to learn from a variety of perspectives and approaches, if you as an adult learner, find an instructor that is engaging for you, easy to follow, and answers questions in a way that resonates for you, continuing to take courses from that person is a great way to have engaging professional development.
That instructor may also make customized recommendations to other learning opportunities and resources that will be based on what they have learned by interacting with you through numerous training opportunities.
Testimonials and feedback are available for the specific trainer that will be providing your training.
Why it’s important: While most training organizations or individual trainers are not going to publish negative feedback about their training, you’ll want to look for numerous positive reviews available about the specific trainer that you will be attending a webinar by.
An abundance of positive comments from previous training participants isn’t a guarantee of alignment between your learning style and the style of the trainer, but it is a strong indicator to their appeal to a diverse audience.
Additional materials and/or follow-up support are available as part of the training.
Why it’s important: This looks different in each training setting. In the CharityHowTo Premium Grant Writing Webinars this looks like at least four or five “bonus materials” including templates, toolkits, and guides that are included as part of your registration fee.
With the Grant Membership Program this even goes a step further and means access to four hours of live video conferencing as “office hours.” For in-person trainings this often looks like a thumb-drive or Dropbox folder with follow-up materials and guides to support the implementation of what you have learned.
What to Avoid in Grant Writing Trainings for Nonprofit Organizations
Regardless of your preferred style of learning, when you are assessing the nonprofit grant writing training opportunities that are available to you, you should avoid training that guarantees grant funding success.
You might think that this is a bit obvious as no one can promise that as a result of a training alone, they can possibly guarantee success. And if you think that, you are correct.
Grant seeking relies on so much more than solid writing skills. Rather, grant seeking requires time researching a grant-maker, time building a relationship with a grant-maker, and then finally writing an application, there are so many factors out of your own control as the grant seeker that there is no course that can guarantee your grant seeking success.
Can they guarantee best practice based materials? For sure. Can they teach you best practice related practices and approaches to grant writing? Absolutely. Can they guarantee you will get the grant? Not a chance.
There is no guarantee that a training method, program, or individual trainer that resonated with one colleague will be a perfect match for another colleague or related topic. But I believe that using the list above about what things to look for when selecting a training will help ensure that you participate in the most meaningful grant writing trainings possible for your nonprofit’s professional development.
CharityHowTo Grant Training
And one final note, specifically if webinars are your preferred style of learning, be sure to look at the CharityHowTo Grants Membership Program.
Not only do you gain access to all of the live webinars, including grant writing webinars, and bonus materials with the Gold Membership, but you also gain access to FOUR HOURS of group video office hours each month to ask me grant specific questions to help move your organization forward.
About The Author
Diane H. Leonard, GPC is a Grant Professional Certified (1 of less than 400 in the world) and Approved Trainer for the Grant Professionals Association (1 of 20 in the world). Since 2006, Diane and her team have secured more than $58.5 million dollars in competitive grant awards for the clients of DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services. When not working with her team on grant applications for clients, Diane can be found in the 1000 Islands, out for a run, or drinking a strong cup of coffee.