Should You Hire a Grant Writing Consultant?
April 28, 2016 Lynette Garet Business Basics 0 Comment
A Grant Writing Consultant Could Make the Difference Between a Winning Proposal and Failure
Eventually, your non-profit will wonder whether to hire a grant-writing consultant.At first blush, it might seem more cost effective to utilize existing staff, but grant writing is a time-consuming effort that requires more than a passing knowledge of research and writing—grant applications can be a long and detailed process.
In non-profit organizations, the demands of the very programs you wish to fund often limit dedicated staff time. The proposal’s narrative portion can take as much as three hours per page to write in addition to the time required to find and research appropriate grants, to gather and provide supporting data in the correct format and to complete the application forms. Professional grant writers have the specialized skills and resources to carry out the work.
A qualified professional grant writer brings objectivity and a broader network to bear and can help your organization diversify your funding portfolio. A grant writer can also help your non-profit:
- Create innovate programs
- Fill service gaps
- Expand programs, especially for underserved populations
- Address public issues
Asking other organizations about whom they have used in the past is perhaps the easiest, if not most reliable way to find a grant writer. There are also a number of professional grant writing associations:
- Association of Funding Professionals
- Association of Proposal Management Professionals
- Center for Non Profit advancement’s VendorBank (an online resource)
- American Grant Writers Association
- National Grant Writers Association
However you find your candidate, you’ll want to be sure you have the right writer for your non-profit. A professional will understand your reasons for and provide clear answers to your questions. Ask your candidate about any professional credentials and references she holds. Ask for a list of previous grants written in the last 3 – 5 years, including status (awarded, denied, pending) and amounts. Ask to see the most recent proposal to evaluate its quality; does your candidate appear to have a good command of the written language, are there typos or formatting errors?
Finally, be sure to ask if your candidate wrote the grant herself or whether she was part of a team. If she was part of a team, what was her role? Sadly, claims to be a grant writer are exaggerated, at best. Verify the work done was solely the candidate’s work.
Does your candidate have a fee schedule? If so, is it hourly or flat rate? Be wary of a candidate who wants a percentage of any award—it signals potential problems. Fundraising professionals, including grant writers, consider a percentage-based fee unethical.
If you are a new non-profit organization, you’ll want to have stable funding, a clearly stated mission and goals. You’ll also want to have a few successes under your belt.
When you decide to hire a professional grant writer, you’ll want to hire someone as soon as possible. Even in the early stages, a grant writer can help you define the scope and goals of your grant applications, outline and prioritize tasks and identify potential grantors. Hiring someone later in the grant application process can mean, best case, an interrupted application process as the writer gets up to speed. Worst case, you may find you’ve taken the wrong approach to the application and wasted valuable time and resources.
It’s not always immediately clear whether your non-profit can afford a professional. You may also have a board member or volunteer who is an experienced grant writer. What you save on fees may not pay for lost staff productivity or a failed application. Careful analysis of your program goals and resources will make your decision clearer, if not easier.