Review of Udemy Course Grant Writing: Keys to a Successful Proposal by Dr. Richard Feenstra

Today's post is a review of the Udemy course Grant Writing: Keys to a Successful Proposal by Dr. Richard Feenstra. The course provides an excellent balance of content. Dr. Feenstra covers how to search for both government and foundation funding, he walks through the common elements of a grant proposal, and he offers suggestions on how to approach the writing process. Dr. Feenstra also provides an introduction to proposal budgets.

If you already have a general idea of the proposal process and want a more focused look at a particular aspect of the grant process, you may want to consider taking additional courses with complementary content. For example, if you are interested in learning the ins and outs of Grants.gov, the main website for finding U.S. government grants, Beverly Browning's Federal Grant Writing 101 course offers a good orientation. If you  want ideas on how to create boilerplate--draft text that you adapt for use in multiple proposals--the Udemy course Grant Writing for Nonprofits and Freelance Writers by Tim Whitney would be a great option.

Here are the course details for Grant Writing: Keys to a Successful Proposal

Instructor: Dr. Richard Feenstra
Length: 2 hours
Content: 22 lectures
Level: All levels (probably best for new grant writers)
Target audience: Organizations, individuals, and freelancers interested in learning how to write a grant proposal
Cost: $119 (Udemy frequently offers discounts so you may be able to purchase it for less)
Release date: 2012, updated in 2015 to include a sample grant proposal

Course Contents

Lecture 1: Welcome
Lecture 2: Getting the Most Out of the Course

Section 1: Grant Writing Basics
Lecture 3: The System
Lecture 4: Basic Principles
Lecture 5: Grant Writing Myths

Section 2: How to Write a Grant Proposal
Lecture 6: Overview - The Grant Writing Process
Lecture 7: Common Terms and Acronyms
Lecture 8: Introduction to Applicant Organization
Lecture 9: The Problem Statement
Lecture 10: Methods
Lecture 11: Program Outcomes
Lecture 12: Evaluation Plan
Lecture 13: Future Support
Lecture 14: Budget
Lecture 15: Writing the Summary

Section 3: Searching for Funds
Lecture 16: Private Funders
Lecture 17: Government Funds
Lecture 18: Social Media
Lecture 19: Using Alerts

Section 4: Course Wrap-Up
Lecture 20: Getting Started - Letters of Intent
Lecture 21: Learning from Rejection
Lecture 22: Congratulations!

Instructor

Dr. Feenstra has a PhD in learning and technology. His course is mostly video instruction (he appears in some videos, others are slides with narration), with only a few lectures consisting of text-only content. He does a good job at modulating his voice as he narrates, which helps to hold your attention, and his narration is easy to follow and well paced.

Dr. Feenstra has several courses on Udemy in addition to Grant Writing: Keys to a Successful Proposal:

Course Strengths & Highlights

One of the strengths of the course is that it provides practical, actionable tips on how to structure the proposal regardless of your topic, project, or the type of funder you are targeting. If you are not sure how to "sell" your idea to a funder, Dr. Feenstra's suggestions on how to frame your ideas will be useful.

A second strength of the course is that Dr. Feenstra breaks down how to approach the problem statement portion of the proposal, which is the section of the proposal where you describe the issue your organization/project is going to try to address. The course gives suggestions on how to structure the methods and program outcomes sections and the order in which you should draft the proposal elements.  Dr. Feenstra also covers how to create program outcomes and an evaluation plan (and the different types of evaluation), and offers suggestions on how to handle questions related to project sustainability or the future support for your proposed project. Dr. Feenstra not only introduces the common proposal sections, but he also provides the viewer with some ideas on what to write, how much to write, and how to organize the content. If you are a  beginning grant writer this level of guidance will give you an idea of how to allocate your time and what to prioritize.

Dr. Feenstra dedicates one of the lectures to the proposal budget process. Proposal budgets are not always covered in grant writing courses in much detail, probably because grant writers are usually not the ones in charge of budget development. The overview Dr. Feenstra provides will help orient those new to grant writing to the budget process and the common (and also sometimes confusing) terminology related to budgets such as indirect cost rate and how it is calculated.

As an example of the level of detail Dr. Feenstra goes into, in the last lecture in section two, "How to Write a Grant Proposal," Dr. Feenstra covers the summary (often called the executive summary), which appears at the front of the proposal. In his overview, he reviews what the summary section should include in general plus offers specific suggestions--essentially a formula-on how to write it. 

In the third section of the course, "Searching for Funds," Dr. Feenstra demonstrates how to look for funding opportunities offered by U.S. government agencies and foundations. He does this by showing how to search for opportunities using several resources including the government-managed website Grants.gov, a subscription database, and Google. Dr. Feenstra has several ideas for conducting donor research using free Internet resources, tips that will be particularly useful to organizations that cannot afford a donor database subscription.

In the fourth and final section of the course, "Course Wrap-Up," Dr. Feenstra  includes a document on how to structure a letter of intent and offers guidance on what to do when your proposal is rejected. As of 2015, this final section also includes a sample grant proposal.

Is This Course Right for You?

If you are new or relatively new to grant writing and want a comprehensive overview of the process from finding funders to structuring your proposal, this course is a good option. The course covers a little bit of everything but still has enough detail to help guide the writing process. For more experienced grant writers who already know how to identify funders and structure a proposal, the course may not be quite as useful.  However, the advanced grant writer may find it interesting to hear Dr. Feenstra's ideas on how to construct the proposal (i.e. the order in which things should be written) and his suggestions on proposal management, such as when to bring in reviewers, etc. Additionally, since grant writers often have limited involvement with the budgeting process, experienced grant writers may also benefit from his lecture on budgeting.

Bottom Line: Grant Writing: Keys to a Successful Proposal provides a comprehensive overview of the proposal process and would be a particularly useful course for the beginning grant writer or organization new to the grant process. The course may be most helpful for those interested in grants from foundations, although Dr. Feenstra does cover topics specific to government grants such as an introduction to Grants.gov. Additionally, in the budget section, some of what he covers regarding indirect cost rate applies specifically to government grants.  

Because the course is so comprehensive, it works as a stand-alone course on grant writing if you only have the time or resources to take one course. However, if you want to focus on government grants specifically, or are interested in learning more about building your core proposal content, you may want to consider taking this course in conjunction with other Udemy courses such as Federal Grant Writing 101 with Dr. Beverly Browning  and Grant Writing for Nonprofits and Freelance Writers with Tim Whitney