If you don't have the time or money to travel to a grant writing workshop, an online course can be a great option. There are many reasonably priced courses to choose from and several offer lifetime access to the content.
This post is a review of Federal Grant Writing 101, a course offered through Udemy. Udemy offers 35,000+ courses on a variety of topics. Course prices range from free up to $300. Federal Grant Writing 101 is one of several grant writing courses listed on Udemy. At the time of this writing the other courses include:
Grant Writing for Nonprofits and Freelance Writers (see the review here)
The instructor for Federal Grant Writing 101, Dr. Browning, wrote the book Grant Writing for Dummies. Although you don't need the book for the course, the book and the online course complement one another. You may find it useful to have a copy of the book to refer to after taking the course.
Here are the course specs:
Course: Federal Grant Writing 101
Instructor: Dr. Beverly Browning
Length: 1.5 hours (48 sections, mixture of videos and written content)
Level: Listed for all levels
Target Audience: Those new to the federal grant process
Release Date: 2012 (updated in 2014)
Dr. Browning is Vice President for Grants Professional Services at eCivis Inc. In addition to Grant Writing for Dummies, she has written a number of books related to grant writing including the following, all of which can be purchased on Amazon.
The course has 12 sections which are divided into 48 lectures, 14 of which are short videos. The other sections consist of materials to review online and in some cases download as PDFs for later reference. Through Udemy, you get lifetime access to the course.
The course sections are:
Section 1: Introduction to Federal Grant Writing 101
Section 2: 2014 Updated Information on the Grants.gov Registration Process
Section 3: Grant Research
Section 4: Understanding the Guidelines and the Peer Review Process
Section 5: Finding Relevant Demographics
Section 6: Researching and Writing the Statement of Need
Section 7: Winning with the Program Design
Section 8: Summing Up Your Needs - Implementation Strategies - Evaluation Plan
Section 9: Developing the Budget
Section 10: Filling in Required Forms
Section 11: Understanding Submission Requirements and the Course Review Summary
Section 12: Examples of Funded Grant Applications (one foundation grant, one government grant)
Of the 12 course sections, three (1, 11, 12) do not include instructional content per se. The first section is Dr. Browning's welcome message, in the 11th section she provides a recap of the course, and in the 12th section she provides excerpts from two funded proposals. Sections 1, 11, and 12 together contain six of the 48 course lectures. At the listed course price of $49, the cost breaks down to a little over $1 per lecture. Although some of the lectures are light on content, the course is reasonably priced for the amount of information you receive. Additionally, Udemy frequently offers significant discounts so you may come across a deal to purchase the course for as little as $10-15.
As an instructor, Dr. Browning is clear and engaging. Her video presentations are focused, do not contain "fluff" content, and she doesn't bore you by reading the content of slides to you. She's also encouraging, telling the viewers in each video to keep going, that you're doing great, etc. She comes across as confident in her topic and optimistic in your ability to master the world of U.S. government grants.
The course listing says it is appropriate for "all levels," and to an extent this is true. Regardless of your experience level, you may find some new tips, particularly around proposal formatting. However, the course does seem targeted primarily toward those not only new to federal grants but also relatively new to grant writing in general.
Much of the course consists of an introduction to the basics such as an overview of www.grants.gov, the official website where you'll find postings of U.S. government grant opportunities. Because of this focus on introductory concepts, if you've already responded to a few government opportunities, you may find the course too basic for your needs. In addition, although Dr. Browning does review a sample RFA and its major sections (and how they translate into the corresponding proposal pieces), she doesn't go into a great deal of depth, instead focusing on general strategies. Given that the course is only 90 minutes long, Dr. Browning does not have a lot of time to go into a lot of depth, but if you are seeking a course that covers in detail how to write a proposal, this course may not be for you.
Who Is the Course for?
Federal Grant Writing 101 would be a great course for anyone who has never written a federal grant proposal before and is unsure where to look for grants or what to expect. It would also be a good course for organizations new to federal funding seeking an orientation to the process. Related to organizations, the course received an update in 2014 to include recent changes to the grants.gov registration process. This section will be particularly valuable to organizations going through the grants.gov process for the first time.
Even if you have experience preparing government grants, the course can be a good refresher and source of practical tips. For example, Dr. Browning has a way of formatting her proposals to maximize the amount of usable space that may be helpful to proposal writers of all levels. She also discusses how to develop a logic model and provides an example in the course handouts.
Getting the Most from the Course
The course is listed as 90-minutes long. Of these 90 minutes, the video portion of the course takes up about 60 minutes. While it may be tempting to breeze through the remaining content, to get the full benefit of the course, it is worth reviewing all of the content, including written materials and referenced websites. One of the ways to squeeze the most out of the course is to spend time familiarizing yourself with the content on the government websites referenced by Dr. Browning. She provides links to several government websites, offers a preview of the type of information you'll find on them, and offers shortcuts that can help streamline your online research.
Bottom Line: Federal Grant Writing 101 is an affordably priced course offering solid tips on how to navigate grants.gov, read an RFA, and organize a proposal. The course is highly recommended for those new to government grants and seeking a general orientation to the process. For those with some experience preparing government grants, the course is recommended as a refresher and a source of new tips and tricks. For both beginners and more experienced proposal writers, the course is worth considering, especially when Udemy offers it at a discounted price (which it often does) of $10-15.