Instructor: Tim Whitney
Length: 1.5 hours
Content: 17 lectures
Target audience: Freelance writers interested in adding grant writing to their skill set and staff at small or new nonprofits
Course Link: Grant Writing for Nonprofits and Freelance Writers
The course Grant Writing for Nonprofits and Freelance Writers is the first of several Udemy courses related to grant writing and proposal development that will be reviewed as part of the Peak Proposals blog.
Udemy offers more than 30,000 courses on a diverse range of topics, from yoga to accounting. Unlike lynda.com, which is membership based, Udemy's courses are purchased individually and range in price from free up to $300, with an average price of $75/course. Udemy offers significant discounts periodically--such as 40% off select courses--which you can learn about if you register with them. Once you purchase a course, you will have lifetime access to it.
Grant Writing for Nonprofits and Freelance Writers is directed toward new or inexperienced grant writers. The course is primarily about creating boilerplate text, which is text you can use, with a little tweaking, over and over again for different grant applications. The course includes actionable tips on how to write clear and persuasive boilerplate text that will "make your case" for funding; Mr. Whitney demonstrates the principles in action by showing sample boilerplate through the lens of a fictitious nonprofit.
The course is divided into four major topics:
Think Like a Funder
Finding Foundation and Government Funders
Successful Applications Start to Finish
In the section on boilerplate, Mr. Whitney goes through nine standard proposal "components." He provides an overview, approach, and sample language for each one. The boilerplate sections covered are:
Mission & History
Philosophy & Approach
Statement of Need
Description of Programs
Partnerships & Volunteers
Governance & Leadership
Grant Writing for Nonprofits and Freelance Writers is designed to be hands-on. Mr. Whitney introduces a section, such as "mission and history," and then asks viewers to pause the course to write a mission and history section for their nonprofit organization. For new nonprofits, these exercises will be particularly valuable. If you are disciplined enough to work through all the writing exercises, by the end of the course, you will have the core building blocks of a grant application ready to go. For freelancers wanting to expand into grant writing, the course will be extremely useful as an introduction to the common elements of grant applications and how to approach them.
Although geared for beginners, for more experienced grant writers the course is still worth a look because it can be valuable to hear tips, such as how to connect with local and state funders, which reinforce or complement the approach you are already taking. If you feel the course is too basic for you, you may still find it valuable to review with the goal of recommending it to others at your organization who are less experienced with the grant writing process.
If you are a grant writer or freelancer for a small nonprofit headed by a director who is inexperienced in grant writing, you might want to encourage her to take this course. The course could help her understand how grant writing works, so she is in a better position to contribute to, and review, draft applications. It may also help her to appreciate some of the challenges you face as the organization's grant writer.
Regarding finding funders, the course covers this briefly, spending roughly 12 minutes of the 90-minute course on strategies to identify funding options. The funding section includes solid information and shows Mr. Whitney's experience with different kinds of funders. He reviews the various types of foundations (small, large, corporate); provides a short overview of government funding; and discusses what to expect from each kind of funder in terms of the application process, relationship building, and reporting burden.
The central focus of the course, as mentioned above, is the detailed walk-through of each component of the boilerplate "kit." Other strengths include clear narration and graphics; concrete suggestions on how to approach each section of a standard grant application; practical guidance on how to research funding options, particularly at the local level; and a quick overview of how to build a budget. The course also includes a list of things to keep in mind when completing a grant application. Like the rest of the course, this list is practical and includes basic--but important--reminders about following the application's directions and answering questions in the order in which they are asked, which is sound advice but often difficult to keep in mind.
Bottom Line: Grant Writing for Nonprofits and Freelancers gets a "thumbs up" and is highly recommended for those new to grant writing. The instructor, Tim Whitney, comes across as knowledgeable and experienced in the subject matter. He explains concepts clearly; provides helpful tips and sample text; and has practical, actionable suggestions on how to craft boilerplate text and search for, and work with, funders. While marketed for beginners, the course could be a great review for more experienced grant writers interested in learning "best practices" from a senior grant writer.
If you are interested in taking a sequence of courses to build your skills, Grant Writing for Nonprofits and Freelance Writers would be an excellent follow-on to the lynda.com course, Nonprofit Fundamentals, by Leslie Crutchfield. Nonprofit Fundamentals gives an overview of the nonprofit world and how nonprofits are structured, but only briefly touches on how to pursue grants from foundations, government sources, and corporations. Grant Writing for Nonprofits and Freelance Writers picks up the story by providing viewers with an idea of what kind of writing tasks and information they'll need to gather if they decide to apply for grant funding. If you are new to the nonprofit environment and think you might be interested in securing grant funding, Nonprofit Fundamentals followed by Grant Writing for Nonprofits and Freelance Writers would provide an excellent orientation on how to begin.
Additional Resources: If you are interested in learning more about the standard sections of grant proposals and how to approach them, there are several books on the market that may be helpful to you. One book to check out is The Only Writing Series You'll Ever Need - Grant Writing: A Complete Resource for Proposal Writers by Judy Tremore and Nancy Burke Smith (Adams Media, 2009).