If you’ve hung around fundraisers enough, you’ve probably run across the CFRE certification–Certified Fund-Raising Executive. But did you know there is a similar certification just for grant writers? It’s called the Grant Professional Certification, or GPC.
If you’re considering studying for the GPCI certification, read our guide to learn more about the examination, fees, and 5 study tips to help you crush the exam.
Grant Professional Certification: Everything You Need to Know
The GPC is offered by the Grant Professional Certification Institute, a sister organization to the Grant Professionals Association, founded in Kansas in 1988. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) accredited the Grant Professionals Certification Institute (GPCI) and the GPC in 2019.
Today, the Association is an international body for grant writing professionals, providing education, dissemination of best practices, and advocacy on behalf of the profession.
Core Competencies Under Test
The GPC’s core competencies were developed by a team of subject matter experts and are updated annually. The test is made up of two sections—a writing evaluation, and a multiple-choice test.
The writing exam assesses your ability to respond correctly to a grant-related prompt. The prompt is identical for each candidate and is answered electronically.
Each writing sample is evaluated according to six rubrics:
- Making a persuasive argument (34%)
- Organizing ideas appropriately (22%)
- Conveying ideas clearly (18%)
- Using information provided (12%)
- Use of conventional English (10%)
- Following formatting (4%)
The 150-answer multiple-choice exam is also weighted to reflect overall professional competencies. Each question offers four possible responses. The exam probes the candidate’s:
- Knowledge of how to prepare, build and submit an effective proposal (24%)
- Knowledge of strategies for developing a compelling program and project strategy (22%)
- Knowledge of how to correctly research, determine, and match funding resources to meet the organization’s needs (11%)
- Knowledge of organizational development regarding grant seeking (13%)
- Knowledge of nationally recognized standards of ethical practice (10%)
- Knowledge of post-award grant management to inform effective grant design and development (8%)
- Knowledge of methods and strategies to cultivate and maintain relationships between funders and nonprofits. (7%)
- Knowledge of practices and services that boost the professionalism of grant writers (5%)
There are two pathways to determine your eligibility to test for the GPC. The first is for people who have only completed an associate degree or have no degree other than their high school diploma. The other is for those who have at least a bachelor’s degree.
Both require a total of at least 120 points out of 170 points possible, including a complete resume, letters of recommendation, documentation of grant writing experience, continuing education related to grant writing, and verification of volunteer experience.
The Grant Professional Certification Institute has a strong commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Because of this, candidates cannot be discriminated against based on race, color, creed, age, gender, national origin, religion, disability, marital status, parental status, ancestry, sexual orientation, military discharge status, source of income, or any other status protected by applicable law.
Fees & Scholarships
Like any certification, the GPC is an investment in your career. Current members of the Grant Professionals Association pay a fee of $639. Non-members pay a fee of $875.
Recognizing these fees may be paid for out of pocket rather than by the candidate’s employer, scholarships are available to cover all or part of the certification fee. Applications for scholarships open on April 1 each year and close on April 30. Awardees will be notified in June. Scholarships are managed by the Grant Professionals Foundation.
Apply here for a scholarship.
How to Register
Start the process to obtain your GPC by taking GCPI’s Eligibility Survey. If you are determined eligible, you’ll be directed to the payment portal to pay the exam fee. GPCI will then e-mail you an eligibility packet. Once you return the packet, you’ll be emailed a voucher number to use at the time you take the test. It’s that simple.
5 Amazing Study Tips to Succeed in Achieving Your GPC
Here are some easy GPC exam prep tips to help you rock your exam.
GPC Study Tip #1. Take Advantage of Udemy
For $14.99 you can take a class on Udemy about how to nail your GPC exam’s multiple choice questions. The class includes two practice tests. The same instructor also offers a related class for $17.99 that offers 70 downloadable resources with 5 hours of on-demand video.
GPC Study Tip #2. Utilize GPC’s Accepted Education Training Providers List
GPCI does require continuing education for both your initial GPC exam, as well as when you renew your certification every three years. While you don’t have to retest, you do need to meet certain qualifications, which include a minimum of 105 hours of profession-related activities. Of that number, 60 must be related to continuing education in the field.
Instrumentl is proud that some of our partners, including DH Leonard Consulting and Dr. Bev Browning, are on that approved list. Find some of their workshops and trainings for free on our resources page.
GPC Study Tip #3. Go to YouTube
YouTube offers a treasure trove of free training to help prepare you for your GPC certification exam. GCPI has its own YouTube channel which you should take advantage of.
They also have a library of interviews with people who have earned their professional grant writing certification which can offer insights and tips, as well as “31 Days of GPC,” an awareness campaign they run annually.
GPC Study Tip #4. Seek Out a Virtual Study Group
If you’re already a member of the Grant Professionals Association, you can ask your local chapter if there is a virtual study group planned. Or you can create your own group with people in your area.
GPCI offers a free, downloadable virtual study guide, thanks to the first nationwide GPC virtual study group in 2018. The guide also offers a list of available resources to help with your studies.
GPC Study Tip #5. Visit GPC’s Social Media Channels.
Like many organizations, the Grant Professionals Association posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (@GPANational). Join their Facebook page, connect on LinkedIn, and read their tweets to stay up to date with insights, information, and educational opportunities galore.
Top GPC Mistakes to Avoid in Your Exam Prep
Mistake #1: Thinking you know it all
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the grant writing industry; don’t assume you can walk into your local test center and nail this examination with little or no study.
The Grant Professionals Certification Institute makes sure the test stays up-to-date and relevant. Some of the sample questions are intentionally murky, providing a fictional scenario and then a variety of multiple-choice answers. It really does pay to study.
Mistake #2: Not having enough professional development hours for your application
If you don’t have the required continuing education hours to qualify for the GPC exam, hold off until you do. Unlike the CFRE and similar certifications which issue credits for participation in a class, the GPC asks you to document actual hours of continuing education and study. That includes self-study.
Mistake #3: Not having a GPC mentor or peer group
The ongoing support of a mentor or peer group can’t be underestimated. Some of the competencies you’ll be asked to demonstrate may be things you’re not familiar with.
For instance, if you’ve never completed an application for federal funding, you may find yourself stumped for correct answers. Having a mentor or a peer group can bring new insight and provide a resource to tap into for more information.
GPC FAQ: Quick Recap
How often is the GPC test offered?
The GPC test is offered every month of the calendar year. There is a three-month lag between the time you take the exam and when you’re notified if you passed or failed. If you fail one part of the test, there is a retake fee charged.
How much does the exam cost?
If you’re a member of the Grant Professionals Association, you’ll pay $639. If you aren’t a member, the exam will cost $875.
How long are my GPC scores good for?
Candidates need to recertify once every three years. You won’t need to retake the test, but you will need to certify that you’ve completed the required hours of continuing education and professional development.
Do I need to pass both writing and multiple-choice sections to receive my GPC?
Yes, you must pass both sections, which make up the entire exam.
Do I need a college degree to qualify to take the GPC exam?
No. The pathway for someone without a college degree is a bit more detailed, but the exam is open to high school graduates, those with an associate degree, honorably discharged military veterans, and graduates of technical schools.
How will others know I have achieved certification?
If you earn your GPC, your name will be released on GPCI’s website. You also can use “GPC” after your last name on business cards and correspondence.
Your employer may also opt to send out a news release or other announcement. Finally, your name will be added to GPCI’s online directory of certified grant writing professionals.
Wrapping Up: Time to Study!
Ready to roll up your sleeves and start working on your Grant Professionals Certification?
GCP exam prep takes some time and effort. The two-part test analyzes your writing ability as well as your competency in making a persuasive case for support, proper referencing and research, the ability to create a logic model, your success with describing outcomes and outputs, and following each funder’s requirements rigorously.
Like every certification program for different professions, a professional grant writing certification requires comprehensive study before taking the test. Studying with a cohort of other grant writers can be useful to make sure you understand the exam’s questions.
If you don’t yet have a GPA membership, or there isn’t a local chapter in your area, you can download a literature review of suggested study materials or a study e-book here. It’s also helpful to review GPA’s code of ethics.
Achieving your GPC sets you apart from the crowd, indicating your dedication to the grant writing field, as well as your competence.
Maintaining your GPC (you can recertify after three years) is also important and means that you’ve stayed abreast of changes in the field, volunteered for another nonprofit, and are dedicated to your own professional development.