Certificate Programs for Grant and Fundraising Professionals


Are you looking to break into the grant or fundraising profession? Do you have some experience in these areas but need to build credentials? Whether you are looking to learn the basics, or solidify existing skills, certificate programs are a good way to bolster your knowledge and resume at the same time. They require far less investment of time and money than a degree program, yet enable you to walk away with concrete, marketable job skills. After all, the one thing nonprofits will always need is help in securing funding.

If you are looking into certificate programs for grant proposal writing and fundraising, here are some ideas to get you started. We have divided these into two categories: learning opportunities that offer certificates, and exam-based professional certification.

Learning Opportunities Offering Certificates

The Grantsmanship Center

Based in Los Angeles, The Grantsmanship Center has a long and storied reputation for training individuals in the art and science of grant proposal writing. In the “before times,” the Center offered in-person trainings in various cities across the United States on selected dates. The pandemic prompted a shift to online training, thus opening up wider possibilities for individuals previously constrained by geography to gain new competencies. 

They offer several training programs throughout the year, each of which includes a certificate of completion for successful participants. The Grantsmanship Training Program covers the fundamentals of getting funded, including program planning, utilizing research tools, drafting compelling proposals, and establishing partnerships. The Program combines training, exercises, reading, and group work over the course of five days. Those with less time to spare may choose to take Essential Grant Skills, which teaches the basics of crafting a successful grant proposal in just two days.

If you are looking for a challenge and are ready to dive into the realm of government funding, Competing for Federal Grants will teach you the essentials in five days. Once you’ve won an award, Grant Management Essentials will help you to ensure that your project stays on track and that you are adhering to grant regulations. 


Started in a cabin in the woods in Alaska over twenty years ago, GrantStation is widely known for helping grantseekers secure funding by maintaining extensive databases of funders and hosting live webinars on a range of grant-related topics. GrantStation’s newest offering is a certificate program titled Level UP - Accelerate Your Proposal Writing Skills, which starts in February of 2022. Hosted by Alice Ruhnke, founder and owner of The Grant Advantage, this program is limited to only ten participants, who will be immersed in the grant proposal process through lecture-based learning, interactive structured activities, and personalized feedback on assignments. Participants will walk away with a solid understanding of how to draft an organizational background, write a compelling statement of need, and develop a process and outcome evaluation, approach, and budget. Best of all, each participant will receive a certificate from the Grant Professionals Certification Institute (GPCI) and a one-year GrantStation Membership.

If you are looking to fund a specific project or program, you might consider attending GrantStation’s other new (non-certificate) course, Level UP – One Project: One Strategy, which starts in March of 2022 and is hosted by GrantStation’s CEO, Cynthia Adams. Also limited to ten attendees, this course helps participants develop a funding strategy for a specific program or project through four structured sessions, assignments, and one-on-one consulting with Cynthia. Participants are also eligible to receive GPCI continuing education credits.

Spark the Fire Grantwriting Classes

Founded by Allison Shirk in 2013, Spark the Fire Grantwriting Classes teaches proposal writing classes nationally, with a focus on organizations located in the northwestern United States.

Their flagship course is the online Certificate in Grantwriting, which covers the fundamentals of proposal writing and grants management. Examples of topics covered include organizational readiness, different types of funders, prospect research, various aspects of the grant proposal, and building relationships with grantmakers. The course includes individualized assistance in developing a grant proposal for a specific nonprofit organization. Those selecting the Executive Certificate in Grantwriting option will also benefit from two coaching sessions.

For entrepreneurial individuals, the Certificate in Grantwriting can be bundled with The Business of Freelance Grantwriting course.

Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy is recognized for its degree programs in philanthropic studies, as well as its research on various topics related to the world of philanthropy.

Through The Fund Raising School, the University offers three certificate programs related to development: the Certificate in Fund Raising Management, Certificate in Fund Raising Leadership, and the new Certificate in Digital Fundraising. The Certificate in Fund Raising Management explores topics such as planned giving, major gifts, capital campaigns, and sustainability, while the Certificate in Fund Raising Leadership examines the concept of philanthropy, the art and ethics of fundraising, and effective leadership. Courses in the Certificate in Digital Fundraising program span from the fundamentals of capturing donations on social media to more advanced digital fundraising strategies and techniques.

To qualify for a certificate, participants must complete either three or four specified courses through the Fund Raising School. While all of the courses for the Certificate in Digital Fundraising are offered online, the courses for the other two certificates are offered either online or in-person at specific locations, which vary by course and date.

Exam-Based Professional Certification

Grant Professionals Certification Institute

For those with some experience, the Grant Professionals Certification Institute (GPCI), established by the Grant Professionals Association (GPA), offers the Grant Professionals Certified (GPC) credential to individuals who demonstrate proficiency in certain competencies. In order to sit the exam, candidates must meet eligibility requirements through a points system based on their education, experience, professional development, and community involvement.

The exam itself includes a writing component and a multiple choice section aimed at assessing the candidate’s skills and competencies in the grants profession. Skills tested include, but are not limited to, developing a grant application, program and project design, grant research, organizational development, and ethical practice. Candidates may prepare for the exam by doing a literature review, purchasing a study guide, or participating in GPCI accepted education programs.

Those interested in the exam should first take the online eligibility survey. Additional information on the exam registration process is available on the GPCI website.

Certified Fund Raising Executive

The Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification aims to bring “confidence, ethics, and professionalism to the fundraising profession worldwide.” The CFRE certification process, which consists of a written application and a written examination, is designed to assess knowledge and skills in best practices in ethical philanthropic fundraising. Getting certified is one way that fundraising professionals may be able to improve their career opportunities and earning potential, while staying on top of the latest trends in the fundraising field.

Potential candidates must first complete the online application in order to establish whether they are eligible to sit the exam. Eligibility is determined by a points system based on the candidate’s recent participation in educational programs, professional practice, and professional performance. Successful applicants will then be emailed an Authorization to Test notice.

The CRFE Examination covers the following domains: 1) Current and Prospective Donor Research; 2) Securing the Gift; 3) Relationship Building; 4) Volunteer Involvement; 5) Leadership and Management; and 6) Ethics, Accountability, and Professionalism.

Applicants can download the Candidate Handbook to learn more about the eligibility requirements, exam content and registration, and resources to aid in exam preparation.

Of course, these certificate programs represent only a handful of opportunities open to grant and fundraising professionals looking to develop their careers. If you are interested in exploring additional certificate programs and other professional development resources, visit GrantStation’s PathFinder library and perform a customized search, or browse the available resources by category.

Action steps you can take today
  • Click on the links above to learn more about the certificate programs mentioned in this article.
  • Visit GrantStation’s PathFinder library to learn about other certificate programs and discover a host of professional development resources.