Courses on proposal development and grant writing are difficult to get right. Sometimes they give too much of an overview and fail to provide practical guidance. At other times, they are too focused on a particular type of grant to be of general use. The course reviewed in this post, Grant Writing for Education released by lynda.com, has achieved the right balance. Although oriented toward educators, the majority of the content applies to grant writing in any field.
If you haven't heard of lynda.com, briefly, it is an online learning company. The majority of the courses on lynda.com focus on tech-related topics, but lynda.com also offers courses on business topics. The site is membership-based with both monthly and annual subscription options. You can try out lynda.com by signing up for a free 10-day trial.
Grant Writing for Education is one of two courses on proposal writing recently released by lynda.com. A second course on proposal writing that has been recently released is called Writing Proposals (see the review on our blog). Writing Proposals, has some general guidance, but its focus is on business proposals. Grant Writing for Education is the course to choose if you are interested in educational grants; it's also the better course if you are interested in writing grants for a nonprofit organization. Grant Writing for Education includes examples and introduces a proposal framework that will sound familiar to you if you have experience working on government grants.
Grant Writing for Education by Karl Kapp
Course: Grant Writing for Education
Instructor: Karl Kapp, EdD
Length: 1 hours 57 minutes
Content: 4 sections, 23 segments
Level: Tagged as appropriate for all levels
Target Audience: Course targets educators, but anyone interested in pursuing U.S. government funding would find it helpful
Cost: Requires lynda.com membership to view (or participation in the free trial period)
Course Link: Grant Writing for Education
Released: March 12, 2015
The course has four sections:
- Before You Start Writing
- Understanding the Request for Proposal (RFP)/Solicitation
- Anatomy of a Grant Proposal
- Common Mistakes
The course instructor, Karl Kapp, is a professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA. Dr. Kapp is an experienced presenter and does an excellent job of covering the material at a pace that allows for note taking while moving quickly enough to hold your interest. Dr. Kapp comes across as someone who is not only well-versed on the topic of grant writing, but also as someone who is genuinely interested in helping course participants master the grant process.
If you're just starting out as a grant writer, you need practical guidance. Dr. Kapp's course delivers, answering questions such as, Where do I look for grant money? What can I expect during the grant writing process? and What problem areas do I need to be aware of?
What You'll Learn
By the end of the course, you'll have an idea of:
- Where to look for project/research ideas
- Where to find potential funders
- Preliminary research you should complete before starting the proposal writing
- The standard sections of an RFP
- Tools you can use to capture and track proposal requirements
- How to approach the budget so that your project is the right size and positioned to make an impact
- How to find collaborators
- How to make your proposal more reader-friendly and responsive to the RFP
In the first section of the course, "Before You Start Writing," Dr. Kapp reviews the benefits of pursuing grant funding. Two benefits are the personal or professional recognition that can come from receiving a grant. He observes that "needing money" is not, on its own, a reason to pursue grant funding. You must have a compelling idea, a solution to a problem, and a belief that your team has the experience and resources to make an impact.
Throughout the course, Dr. Kapp underscores the need to do your research before you jump into writing a grant application. Preliminary work includes choosing and developing your project idea, understanding how your project fits with other work in your field, and identifying the appropriate funding source. Once you identify who you'll approach for funding, next you need to research the funder's mission and goals.
The second section of the course reviews the main sections of an RFP. Dr. Kapp provides suggestions on how to review the RFP and note of the proposal's requirements so you don't lose sight of them during the proposal process. If you have access to the course exercise files (the exercise files come with a premium membership to lynda.com), you can download his two templates related to the RFP review process. One template is a sample matrix to capture the proposal's requirements and note where and how you've met them. He also provides a one-page guidance sheet to summarize information such as the project's desired solutions, activities, and outcomes.
In the third section, Dr. Kapp reviews standard proposal sections such as the front matter; summary; evaluation, dissemination, and sustainability plans; and appendices. For the budget section, Dr. Kapp provides an overview of what the budget should include and how the budget and narrative complement one another. For additional information, the exercise files include a budget template. For those unfamiliar with evaluation plans, this section of the course will be very useful. Dr. Kapp reviews the different types of evaluations and provides suggestions on where to find evaluators.
In the last section, "Common Mistakes," Dr. Kapp spends twenty minutes reviewing common mistakes that can occur at each stage of the proposal process. Examples of mistakes include failing to research the funder adequately or creating a scope of work that is too ambitious. This section is less of a checklist to follow than a review of questions you should be asking yourself as you complete your preliminary research and draft the proposal.
Is the Course Worth Taking?
This course is worth taking, especially for those interested in pursuing government grants. Those new to grant writing will appreciate how clearly Dr. Kapp explains grant writing basics such as where to look for funders and how to review an RFP. The exercise files, which include sample letters and proposal language, contain actionable content and will be especially valuable to first-time grant writers.
The course focuses on government grants for education-related projects. If you are interested in foundation grants only, this is not going to be the best course for you. However, it could still serve as a useful introduction to grant writing and standard proposal pieces such as dissemination and sustainability plans. Additionally, experienced grant writers will appreciate the templates in the exercise file that may complement their existing tools for proposal development.