Carolina is a member of the Global Grant Writers Collective. She joined after spending hours and hours of time scouring the internet trying different grant writing certifications and courses. The Learn Grant Writing team knew her learned experience was wisdom that must be shared with others. We’re publishing her review she offered to write so you can have the best information possible when deciding where to learn about grant writing.
Carolina's Review of Grant Writing Courses
I have a Doctorate and left a very high-paying field due to family circumstances. I still wanted to give to the common good and saw grant writing as a force multiplier. I set out to learn how to write grants and break into this fascinating, fulfilling, and meaningful profession.
I’ve read five books and will review four online courses in my quest to break into grant writing. I did the due diligence and spent lots of hard-earned money and found only one course led to true success. Want my review of the four courses? Let’s get to it!
Discover Grant Writing as a Career
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Grant Central USA (Rodney Walker)
I am not out to bash anyone, but as a consumer, I feel it is important to share my experience with Grant Central USA. This was the only red flag experience I had.
After I paid my money, a video popped up saying, “Congratulations”. No receipt, no email with instructions, nada. Ever. This turned into a three-month headache (unanswered emails, no response from phone calls) as we worked with our credit card company and lodged a complaint with the BBB to stop persistent credit card charges.
Caveat emptor! Or, in layman's terms: “let the buyer beware”.
The University of Washington, Tacoma
Who wouldn’t want a certificate from a University, I thought?
This was for a combination package of two online courses (each with its own certificate). The total cost for both courses was $259.
The first course, Introduction to Grant Writing, described a very basic overview of the relationship between nonprofits and funding sources. It outlined six stages of grant writing. The Advanced Grant Writing course simply went deeper into the six stages. It did a nice job of explaining the logic model.
The courses were fairly engaging and interactive with games and such. However, it didn’t move the needle for breaking into grant writing. Maybe if you were already an in-house grant writer it would strengthen some aspects of writing, like the logic model, but I was entering a new field and needed more than the intermediate writing mechanics of a grant application. I thought it would be better to join a group and have some community, so I next tried my regional Grant Writers Association…
P.S. Check out this blog post about deficit-based versus strength-based writing for our explanation of logic models.
My Regional Grant Writers Association
I joined my regional association to learn and hopefully gain people connections. They have webinars and host monthly meetings. While I have gained tidbits of information here and there and have met other grant writers, there is no cohesive path for a new grant writer to learn the field to actually break into grant writing.
Folks are friendly enough and will answer direct questions through listserv emails or monthly meetings, but I didn’t gain any real mentoring or knowledge on how to write grants. I did not gain traction on breaking into the field. This association is probably best for those grant writers who are established with clients and mostly want connections or access to occasional regional flavored webinars.
The Final Two Courses
The last two courses to review and compare are Learn Grant Writing (Meredith Noble) and Grant Writing Master Course (Holly Rustick). After a few general comments, I will compare two main areas: education and community. Recall that my main goal was to break into grant writing as a career, not just learn about it.
There are so many names for grant writing courses out there that it’s easy to confuse what’s what, so I will simply refer to the courses as Holly Rustick’s course or Meredith Noble’s course. Easy peasy.
Grant Writing Master Course (Holly Rustick)
I first signed up for Holly Rustick’s course for the price of $697. Holly Rustick is a very sweet person! Holly Rustick definitely has a proven track record for writing grants! Her course has lots of videos and many templates. It includes a Facebook group. I thought this was going to be it!
Since I had also joined a regional grant writers association I reasoned that between the two, I was finally going to break into grant writing! But I had better be sure because there was no refund and no trial period if I didn’t like it . I didn’t gain the success I was after from Holly Rustick’s grant writing course.
I concluded that Holly Rustick’s course could be useful if you already have clients as a freelancer or you are an in-house grant writer. But I had no clients, and her course does not address how to get them. So, I was smarter but still a batter up standing at home plate.
Learn Grant Writing (Meredith Noble)
My last ditch try was Meredith Noble’s course, the Global Grant Writers Collective. It should have been my first try!
If this was the best course, why didn’t I go for it first? One main reason is that from her early emails and YouTube videos, I was under the impression that I would not fit into the group’s culture. What I perceived was a group of super young women who loved all things outdoors.
I could not have been more wrong. I am happy to see that current marketing has done a better job of reflecting the amazing diversity of community members in the Collective. I’m not just talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion (that’s certainly there too), but there are folks with and without professional degrees, stay-at-home-moms and dads, retirees, in-house grant writers, and freelance grant writers. There are artists, musicians, farmers, healthcare professionals, lawyers, college students, civic employees, and more.
Note that with Meredith Noble’s Course there is a limited-time refund possible when very reasonable requirements are met versus a no refund policy with Holly Rustick’s course.
Holly Rustick’s course: It is suggested to do one module per week. I completed everything in two days. The teachings were all done by Holly, and she gives a good overview of grant writing. There is a good general discussion of the different types of grants (Federal, State, foundations, etc).
There is a good general discussion on finding grants using Google, grants.gov, etc. There is a good discussion of the importance of looking for alignment between the funder’s mission and the nonprofit’s ask (what they want to fund). The course offered useful templates as well as discussion about nonprofit organization structure. Holly also discusses in a general fashion the topic of becoming a freelance grant writer.
Meredith Noble’s course: the education component is engaging, wide-ranging, ongoing, and very granular compared to Holly Rustick’s Course. This is because in addition to all the video modules of the curriculum included in the membership and more extensive templates, there are regular Coaching Calls (usually biweekly) and Bonus Trainings. All are recorded for future viewing.
Holly’s ‘equivalent’ Facebook Q&A sessions are only monthly and only address general questions. This means you can ask questions about teachings you don’t understand, but you can’t ask specific questions on, say, a specific grant application you are having trouble with (Holly said she would have to charge money for that).
Contrast that with Meredith Noble’s Coaching Calls (live Zoom and recorded) where you are encouraged to submit detailed questions in advance on your grant applications (even Federal applications), funding strategies, interviewing techniques, sticky situations, you name it. All questions are thoughtfully read/researched ahead of time, so the answers are very detailed and useful.
Meredith Noble’s course continues to add Bonus Trainings often as live Zoom workshops that are also recorded for later review. Offerings have included; Working with Startup Nonprofits-What You Really Need to Know; Fiscal Sponsorships, Resume Writing, Power Prospectus Workshop, Instrumentl (a premiere grant research database), Federal Grants, and more. There was a recent addition of a Budget Workshop, complete with examples, detailed discussion, links to a useful organizing spreadsheet, and even practice questions!
This YouTube video covers what Instrumentl is and how you can use it to uplevel your grant prospecting. It’s our favorite, but we also have a blog post of a review of the top 10 grant databases so you can make the best choice for your needs.
A major educational difference is that while Holly Rustick’s emphasis is on how to write a grant, Meredith Noble’s course focuses on how to land clients, how to do funding strategies, how to write grants, and how to keep it all going with project management skills (also taught). Shall we say that Holly Rustick gives a slice or two of pie, but Meredith Noble gives you the whole pie?
This is the secret sauce: COMMUNITY! There is really no comparison between Meredith Noble’s course and what anyone else has to offer. Seriously.
Holly Rustick’s Facebook group: The two Facebook group live chats I viewed were heavily skewed to attendees interested in building up their nonprofit organization. The first chat I listened to had no questions on grant writing at all while the second chat had a couple of general grant writing questions. The rest of the questions were about how to build up your nonprofit.
This is not a criticism, but an observation that Facebook chat attendees skew to nonprofit organization talk. Perhaps they are also self-selecting since Holly Rustick also offers courses on building up nonprofits but only one Facebook group is used for both interests. That didn’t help me out, since I wanted to learn all I could about grant writing.
Further, I did not feel any real sense of community in the Holly Rustick Facebook group. I noted less than 20 Facebook posts in one month. Meredith Noble’s course uses the Circle platform for member communication. I counted 40 posts in one week, and that doesn’t even consider all the responses. Circle is also superior to Facebook for member communication due to the ability to have topics organized and a search function.
Meredith Noble’s community (the Global Grant Writers Collective) is robust due to the diversity of its membership, engaging, respectful, and fun. If you have a pressing question that doesn’t time well for the Coaching Calls, just post in Circle. Members have found teammates for the long haul or subcontractors for just one project. Grant writing opportunities are posted often. There’s even a monthly Book Club and opportunities to practice interview skills.
Meredith Noble’s curriculum, coaching, and community will lead to success if you put in the work. I have written my first grant, gained paid project work from others in the community, and spoken confidently with funders and nonprofit Executive Directors alike. I continue to learn and enjoy the support of the co-founders, coaches, and other members.
I have finally found real success and will continue to grow in this wonderful journey to make a difference to others. I will be able to scale up my freelance venture or join an organization if I choose. Working part-time remotely feels more like me, however, so I can enjoy my hobbies and tend my small three-acre homestead. The tools, knowledge, and support all exist in the Global Grant Writers Collective. I am earning while I’m learning and so can you. I’m not kidding!
Carolina's Big Takeaways
Grant writing is a force multiplier for the common good. I am passionate and excited to help others in this way.
In any field of work, it is essential to gain the best education including ongoing education in order to excel. I’ve learned that grant writing is a relationship journey, whether grant writer to nonprofit, grant writer to funder (though the funder relationship belongs primarily with the organization seeking the funding), or grant writer to other grant writers for community support and building teams.
Learn Grant Writing has absolutely the best community and the best and most complete online curriculum through the Global Grant Writers Collective.
Another major takeaway is that none of this happens without consistent effort from me! Without my actions, nothing is going to happen. That seems so obvious, but sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of.
My most important takeaway from this journey is that I have found a way to continue to give to the common good and I am deeply grateful for that. It’s really all about being a conduit so that those needing our help, whether folks or Mother Earth, can receive benefits through grant awards that will change lives and our planet. It will allow people and our environment to thrive, not just survive.
Grant Writing Resources
Keep reading our blog articles. Specifically, this one is a review of the top 10 grant databases, this one is a Collective member’s honest review of American Grant Writers’ Association v. Learn Grant Writing , and this one covers why you should consider starting a side hustle grant writing.
Also, don’t miss our FREE Class on Writing Grants in just 7 easy steps!