So you’ve come to the realization that your nonprofit needs a little help with grants. Maybe you just need a few proposals written or maybe you need a full-blown strategy created. Either way, you’ve decided to hire a consultant to help out. Great! But now what?
There are lots of grant writers in the world, but that doesn’t mean they’re all worth your time and money. How do you find a good one? What questions should you ask? What’s a reasonable amount to pay?
Ugh…. the thought of vetting a billion people and possibly getting a dud is enough to make you want to hide under your desk, right?
Well, never fear. By reader request, I’m giving you a short primer on where to locate a quality grant writer, what to look for, what questions to ask, and what to expect when working with a pro. I’m also including a freebie at the end of this post with some questions you can ask that will help you vet potential grant writing candidates.
STEP 1 – Where do you find great grant writers?
My recommendation is to look through the online directory of a professional association such as American Fundraising Professionals (AFP) or Grant Professionals Association (GPA). AFP will have grant writers, but they will also have traditional fundraising consultants who do not write grants. But over at GPA, everyone’s a grant writer. That’s why I recommend you start there.
Check out this short, 3-minute video for a tutorial on how to use GPA’s Find a Consultant Directory
Of course, you can also ask colleagues for recommendations. They will be able to give you detailed information on why they loved their consultant.
STEP 2 – How do I determine which one is a good fit?
There are lots of great writers out there, but not all will be a great fit for YOU. So how do you go about weeding them out and finding your new grants BFF? It doesn’t need to difficult. Just follow some of these quick pointers:
- Find someone who specializes in your field so they won’t have as much of a learning curve. For example, if you are an arts org look for someone who regularly works with arts orgs.
- Find someone who has been writing grants for a while. My recommendation is that they need at least 5 years under their belt of successfully writing grants in order to know the ins and outs of writing, research, and strategy. Of course, more is better!
- Ask questions about their prior experience with organizations and/or programs like yours, experience with different types of grants, and their approach to working with clients.
- Ensure they are communicative. How quickly and thoroughly do they respond to emails, voicemails, and questions? (note that it is not reasonable to expect them to be “on-call” at all times. However, they should respond to calls and emails promptly during working hours and should be dedicated to ensuring you get your questions answered and understand everything thoroughly.)
- Personality counts. Especially if you envision working with someone long-term, you want to make sure that you can work together amicably. Ask yourself, is this someone I could grab coffee with? Is this someone I can work with for the next 1-2 years if needed?
STEP 3 – What is reasonable to pay a grant writer?
Fees for grant writing can vary widely depending upon a number of factors, including area of the country, what type of grant you want, how long or complicated the project will be, the grant writer’s level of expertise, and a slew of other things.
That being said, typically you see grant writers in the United States fall somewhere in between $45 – $100 per hour. Most charge hourly rates, although some will charge flat fees in certain circumstances or for certain types of work.
If that price range sounds a bit high to you, consider this: a contracted grant writer is offering you a level of expertise and training you can’t get with your current staff and they must cover their own costs (internet, postage, phones, insurance, etc.).
Sure, you can find cheaper grant writers, but as with many things in life you usually get what you pay for so choose wisely.
Another thing to note: It is considered unethical to only pay a grant writer if a grant is awarded. This directly conflicts with the ethical standards of both GPA and AFP. After all, there are many, many things that affect whether or not a grant is awarded and not all of them are a reflection on the quality of the writing.
Your grant writer put in the time and effort to write the grant so regardless of the outcome, you need to pay them. Good, ethical grant writers will not agree to work with someone who stipulates that a project must be funded in order to be paid.
STEP 4 – What should I expect when working with a grant writer?
This will vary from consultant to consultant. However, there are some things you can and should expect from anyone you work with:
- Clear communication throughout the entire process
- A detailed contract which outlines an estimated timeline, project deliverables, payment schedule, and other important information specific to your project
- Prompt communication
- Collaboration. The grant writer will need to ask lots of questions and will likely be requesting data, past grant proposals, and other documents. Expect to spend some time gathering this information, talking with your consultant, etc. Likewise, they should be open to spending whatever time is necessary walking you through what they are doing and why as well as the editing process. The better the collaboration, the better your chances of having a solid grant proposal.
- Invoices and receipts for your payment records
- They should be able to provide a detailed breakdown of how they spent their time on each project. This way, you can see that you are being billed fairly and you can also better estimate costs for future collaborations.
I wish you luck in your search for a great grant writing consultant. I’ve included a free printable below to give you a little more help with this search. And of course, you can always feel free to get in touch with me! I am always interested in new clients and if I’m not the best fit for you I can usually make a great recommendation.
Download this free printout to get 5 Critical Questions to ask your next grant writing consultant