Is a Grant Writing Certificate Worth It?

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Published:

July 27, 2021

Last Updated:

September 18, 2023

“Should I get a grant writing certificate?” is a question you may have asked yourself this past year.

Scrolling through job postings, it is clear there is a market for both freelance and full-time grant writers. However, with so many postings available with varying requirements, you may be wondering if you’re even qualified!

In this article, we’ll help you understand if you need to be certified to write grants, why these certifications exist, and explore some grant course options you may find valuable.

By the end, you’ll be able to answer whether or not a grant writing certification is right for you.

Let’s dig in.

10 Best Lessons from 10 Grant Writing Experts

How to Decide if a Grant Writing Certificate is Worth It

Certificate

Deciding if a grant writing certificate is worth the time and money has many facets. And, like any continuing education or effort to advance your marketability, it is important to consider both the potential dividends and drawbacks to investing your time and money to acquire this certificate.

The following decision matrix can help you make your choice. And don’t worry if you’re not sure how to answer some of the questions—we are going to walk through them in a lot more detail throughout the article.

At the end, review the matrix and see how you score. If you’re mostly high/medium and yes, then it may be worth it to pursue a grant certificate.

Criteria Importance Certificate worth it?
Is it relevant to your career goals? High, Medium, Low Yes/No
Will it enhance your education? High, Medium, Low Yes/No
Will it provide industry recognition? High, Medium, Low Yes/No
Will it enhance your skills? High, Medium, Low Yes/No
Will it provide networking opportunities? High, Medium, Low Yes/No
Do you have the time to invest? High, Medium, Low Yes/No
Can you afford it? High, Medium, Low Yes/No
Is it worth the financial investment? High, Medium, Low Yes/No


However, if you score mostly low/medium and no, a grant writing certificate may not be worth it.

At the end of the day, your time is finite, so be sure to only invest in areas that are meaningful to you. If you already feel like you know all there is to know about grant writing, then a certificate in grant writing may not be for you.

However, if you still think there are things left for you to learn to master the art of grant writing—and no one is available to teach you at your organization, then it may be worth it for you to invest in a grant writing certification. In the next sections, we’ll cover more to help you make your decision.

Do Grant Writers Need to Be Certified?

Certified

The short answer: no.

Becoming a grant writer does not require any formal certification or specific degree. Most organizations and companies looking for grant writing support are looking for the skill and knowledge of grant writing, not a certificate.

In fact, most postings for grant writing do not list a certification under any of the expected qualifications.

Most job postings for grant writing list qualifications such as:

Some nonprofit organizations will also ask for familiarity with their particular industry; however, that is not listed as often. The most common needs tend to fall with knowledge of government grants or having a background understanding of nonprofits. A good grant writer can write for any organization and any project.

With the right tools, any grant writer can find good fit funders for a particular project. Instrumentl can be helpful when identifying good fit funders for grant writers of any experience level.

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Why Do Grant Writing Certifications Exist?

Certification

So, if most companies don’t ask for a certification, why do you see so many options to get one? Grant writing certifications aren’t necessarily a complete waste of time or money.

For many starting out in grant writing, these certifications can offer much needed grant writing training and skill development. Many courses offer a variety of resources and information on how to write grant proposals. There are technical components to grant writing strategy that certification programs cover as well.

You may find that completing a grant writing certification also provides a small edge in your listed qualifications when compared to others that might apply. Additionally, some certificate programs will focus on specific types of grants.

For example, if you intend to work primarily in the government sector, having a program that supports learning more about government grants could help hone your skills. If you are looking at non-profits or other specific industries, you can find similar options available.

There are also more robust and comprehensive programs to earn a grant writing certificate that cover a broad spectrum of information. Many of these programs are offered through colleges and universities on a semester or annual schedule and can be taken for higher education credit in addition to your certification. These grant writing programs will provide a much broader scope of learning.

Grant Writing Certification Checklist


Here’s a quick checklist to help you decide if a grant writing certification is right for you. Read through each of these questions carefully and reflect as you consider whether a grant certificate is worth it.

  • Do I know my career goals related to grant writing, and will a certification align with those goals?
  • Have I thoroughly researched the grant writing industry to understand the prevailing standards and requirements? Here’s a helpful look at a day in the life of a grant writer.
  • Am I confident in my current level of grant writing skills and knowledge? Do I know my strengths and areas for improvement? Here are 11 things you need to know about grant writing basics to help you get started.
  • Do I have practical experience in grant writing, or do I need formal training to enhance my skills? You can check out some grant writing tips and resources here to assess your baseline comfort level.
  • Have I explored alternative avenues for learning and skill development, such as workshops, courses, or mentoring? Instrumentl has some great grant writing classes you can take.
  • How familiar am I with the specific grant writing techniques, best practices, and strategies required for success? Not sure how familiar you actually are with grant writing best practices? Check out this post to help you decide.
  • Have I evaluated the potential benefits of a certification, such as increased job prospects, career advancement, or higher earning potential? We share more about if grant writing is a good career in this post. 
  • Am I seeking professional recognition or credibility within the grant writing field that certification may provide?
  • Have I assessed the financial investment required for obtaining a certification, including program fees, study materials, and potential time off work?
  • Are there networking opportunities available through a certification program, and are they valuable to my career aspirations?
  • Have I spoken to grant writing professionals or mentors who have pursued a certification to understand their experiences and insights?
  • Do I have the time and commitment necessary to complete a certification program successfully?
  • Have I considered the potential long-term impact on my career growth and opportunities if I don't pursue a certification?
  • Are there specific grants, projects, or organizations I am interested in working with that prioritize or require a certified grant writer?
  • How competitive is the job market for grant writing positions, and will a certification give me an advantage?

These questions are a great start to help you dive deeper into your motivations, helping you reflect on the pros and cons of receiving your grant writing certification.

Accredited Grant Writing Certifications vs. Other Certifications

Accredited

Deciding to improve your skill and knowledge of grant writing by obtaining your grant writing certificate may be a step that propels you forward in your career. If you decide to take this route, you might consider exploring the options for certification. Some programs are accredited while others are not.

Deciding if accreditation matters to you hinges on identifying your goals for acquiring the certification in the first place.

Consider the following justifications for completing your grant writing certification:

  • Jobs you are exploring require or prefer the certification
  • You have no prior experience in grant writing (and learn better with structured curriculum)
  • Prior grant work has not resulted in awarded grant funding

Any of these three reasons may have you looking for an accredited or more comprehensive grant writing certification.

Some examples of these longer duration and more highly regarded, accredited grant writing certification programs are:

1. Grant Professional Certified (GPC), $639 for GPA members, $875 for non-members


The GPC exam is based on a point system reflecting a strong background in education, experience, professional development and community involvement. This certification is supported by the Grant Professionals Association and offered through the Grant Professional Certification Institute. You can learn more about it here.

2. Harvard Online Grant Certification Course, $2,900


The Harvard Online Grant Certification Course is a program that often comes up when searching for grant certification programs. This course is highly esteemed and recognized. It carries the prestigious Harvard institution backing, proving it likely to stand out on resumes. It is a full term course, requiring multiple weeks and enrollment in one of a few Harvard extension school programs.

3. American Grant Writer’s Association, $999 for series


The American Grant Writer’s Association is really a hub of information and resources for grant writers, especially beginning grant writers. This is a great online grant writing resource whether you are looking to pursue a grant writing certification or just needing to hone specific skills in grant writing.

Their course Certified Grant Writer® Series is quite comprehensive and very popular for those seeking to earn a grant writer’s certification.

4. Fundamentals of Grant Writing, University of Georgia, $124


Colleges and Universities often provide some of the most comprehensive courses for grant writing. This seems reasonable, they are in the industry of education.

The Fundamentals of Grant Writing (also known as A-Z Grant Writing) program from the University of Georgia is highly regarded and carries a very reasonable price point.

5. Certified Fund Raising Executive Certification, $875


CFRE cites in their 2020 Compensation and Benefits Report that their certified fundraisers earn on average 7-15% more than their non-certified peers. This certification has both a written application and written examination component.

The CFRE also provides a handbook detailing requirements and more on their website. They state they are the only ANSI accredited certification for philanthropic fundraising professionals here.

6. Instrumentl, Free!

Instrumentl

Before you consider paying for training, make sure you check out Instrumentl’s free resources, including courses, comprehensive guides, and templates. We offer complimentary workshops with some of the industry’s leading experts on grant writing, nonprofit fundraising, and more.

These 60-minute sessions can show you what these expert practitioners have to offer, and if you like what you learn, you can purchase their books or courses to learn more. It’s a cost-efficient way to let you see what’s out there while adding valuable skills to your toolkit.

What are Commonly Recognized Grant Writing Certifications or Courses?

Certification

So you are thinking that a grant writing certificate might be worth it. Now what? It is important to explore grant writing certification courses and determine what fits best.

Some programs are longer in length like the ones listed above - often those associated with colleges and universities. Some programs can be completed during a lunch break.

There are a variety of other online courses in the case where accredited grant writing certifications are not a requirement in your search.

If for example, you’re looking for more of an online community, you may want to check out some of Instrumentl’s partners’ courses:

These Instrumentl partners are well-respected in the grant writing community for their years of experience in winning millions in grant funding.

In the case you’re simply looking for more grant training and not necessarily a full-fledged curriculum, you may find our free grant workshops valuable.

Every few weeks, Instrumentl hosts a grant writing educator or expert to teach on a particular topic related to grant writing. Our workshops are free regardless of whether or not you use Instrumentl.

If interested, check out our events calendar here.

Wrapping Things Up: Are Grant Writing Certifications Worth It?

Certified

There are many grant writing certificate programs available, both long and short, inexpensive and more pricey. Grant writing certificates are more commonly known amongst grant writers than potential employers.

Your ability to express your capacity and understanding of the grant writing process, and prior experience, will be what set you apart. Your time and budget are important, and spending either or both to gain a certificate that is not universally required or recognized may seem a bit of a risk.

So, is a grant writing certificate worth it?

The key to being hired for grant writing is to prove your ability to write grants. If you have a background in writing, especially grant writing, your portfolio will likely build the confidence for employers to hire you. You may seek certificate programs that hone in on specific types of grant writing rather than a broad survey of the concept.

If you do not have prior experience or knowledge of grant writing, a grant writing certificate program may be worth it to provide the learning and knowledge stack you need to be successful in a grant writing position.

Furthermore, a grant writing certificate may build on your understanding for writing to specific industries or topics. There are many grant writing certification options to choose from, so identify the one that fits your goals, time, and budget.

Ultimately, a grant writing certificate may not help land jobs in all situations, but a grant writing certificate may still be worth it.

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Instrumentl team

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Instrumentl is the all-in-one grant management tool for nonprofits and consultants who want to find and win more grants without the stress of juggling grant work through disparate tools and sticky notes.

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