If you're like most people, when you think of a grant writer, you probably think of someone who simply writes grants. That might make you wonder, "Is hiring a grant writer worth it?" And while grant writing is certainly a key service that professional grant writers provide, it's far from the only one. In fact, a good grant writer can do a lot to help your organization succeed in its funding efforts.
We've put together a list of some of the value-added services that go beyond just writing grants. Check it out!
Hire a grant writer to get ready to go after grants
A grant writer can help you determine if your organization is ready to go after grant funding. Before writing a single word, proper preparation can help you address any vulnerabilities a grantor might be concerned with before you spend time and energy applying for a grant.
This can include things like developing your case for support, conducting a feasibility study, or creating other necessary materials. They may also be able to give you an assessment of your financial and accounting practices, and whether funders would consider them adequate to fund, given how many other nonprofits they've worked with. If you've applied for grants before without success, they can evaluate your grant writing and let you know if improvements can be made.
Given a better understanding of the grant workflow and how your nonprofit organization should prepare, you can make preparations and adjustments to improve your success rate before you even begin writing a proposal. Give your nonprofit ample time to prepare to seek grant funding.
A grant writer can help you save time finding grants
Many grant writers are proficient prospectors who can help you search for and find grant funds that are well aligned with your organization's needs and capacity. Numerous searchable database options list millions of grant opportunities, and for a new nonprofit they can be expensive and overwhelming to use. Working with a writer with a proven track record with these resources and the grant funding landscape expertise can save you tons of time trying to make sense of everything on your own.
If your nonprofit budget is a bit tight, working with someone who already has a subscription to one of these paid databases can also help you save precious funds you don't have to spend on expensive monthly fees. Expect to pay between 2 to 3 months worth of subscription fees when hiring a prospector to find a list of grants for your nonprofit.
A grant writer can help you navigate leading grant databases including:
Did you know? Many experienced grant writers will subcontract with a point person who specializes in prospecting and is exceptionally efficient at research and finding grant money for a flat fee. A professional grant writer will do this because they know finding grant money is so time consuming, and, rather than waste time, they want to focus on writing proposals. You should do the same and consider working with a prospecting specialist to find grants. Then you can do the writing on your own, or hire freelance grant writers to help you with the grant writing and application.
Hire a grant writer to set up your grant writing library
After spending hours honing each sentence in a beautifully crafted grant proposal, it makes sense to reuse your nifty narrative assets to save time drafting your next grant proposal. Efficiently locating and repurposing just the right snippet of text is a skill a professional grant writer can help you and your team to develop. Utilizing this technique efficiently begins with organizing your materials so they can be accessed and searched easily by any writer or person on your team. A grant writer can walk you through how to create a grant proposal library that makes sense for your organization.
Given how many nonprofits most grant writers have worked with, each with their own grant writing process, a professional grant writer will have direct experience building cost effective strategies to organize your previous proposals in a centralized way where any staff person can find the information needed.
One of the keys to meet deadlines and getting cheap grant proposals out the door is to reduce the amount of time it takes to write grants. If you get to the point where your library is so well organized that it takes almost no time to search for and assemble a grant proposal, you may even be able to work out a flat rate when you hire a grant writer with strong writing skills.
A grant writer can help you develop your grant writing and application strategy
Grantseeking is active and evolving pursuit that is never quite finished. Organizations early in their grantseeking journey should be focused on winning their first few grants, those in a middle phase should be focused on diversifying their grants, and advanced grantseekers should strive for larger grants, perhaps from national level grantors focusing on a large geographic area, to keep pace with rapidly expanding programs and need for funds.
The right writer can serve as strategic consultant to help nonprofit organizations understand where they are along this continuum, and how to plot a course to reach the next milestone. If you hire someone with the cheapest fees, they may not be someone in high demand for these additional valuable services, but you also don't need to spend a ton of money to work with excellent grant writers with deep expertise.
While your experience may vary, budget enough to pay anywhere from $35 to $150 an hour, which is the market rate to hire a skilled writer. Grant writing is just the beginning of what you're hiring these amazing experts to help you with.
A grant writer can connect you to other experts and resources
Grant experts are very community-centric folks! Many earn grant writing certifications, belong to professional associations, and participate in grant writer forums, and continually seek to improve their grant writing. In doing so, they form grant writer networks spanning every possible subject area, grant type, and geography and can often refer you to another grant writer if the first person you speak with doesn't have availability or the specific type of experience you're looking for. They may also be able to share helpful resources, such as guides, best-practices, and other troves of information to help you.
Grant writer groups can be found on most social media platforms and with a quick search for 'grant writer association' or 'local grant writer group'. Other organizations that may have a grant writer network could include community foundations and organizations that offer assistance with grant applications.
Grant writers can help you develop a proposal that stands out from the rest
Now let's talk about the writing! A grant writer is certainly someone with exceptional writing skills which they leverage to win grants. Grant writing is different from other forms of writing because it requires a special balance of effective storytelling and use of facts and figures. Only when the story, the data, and the request for grant money are in alignment will the work pay off.
Some times a nonprofit will hire a grant writer because the grant writer is a little bit more removed from the story they are telling, which allows them to write grants that truly highlight the organization in the best light. They can step outside of the nonprofit and its daily business to see the big picture the grant writing must describe.
Here's a list of grant writing tips grant writers can help with:
1. Start with a strong introduction that grabs the reader's attention
2. Clearly state the purpose of the grant and how it will benefit society
3. Outline your research plan and explain why you are best suited to carry out this project
4. Describe your team and their qualifications
5. Make a case for why your organization deserves funding
6. End with a powerful conclusion that leaves the reader inspired
Hire a grant writer to help you track and report on your project's progress
A professional grant writer can also help you after you win a grant! Congratulations, you've got the money, now what? Grant reports sometimes have a strict reporting process a nonprofit must follow to show how the money they've been awarded is being used and what outcomes have been achieved.
The grant writer who helped you win the money in the first place is often an excellent resource to help you track progress, compile data, and write reports that satisfy the requirements of your grantor. This is extremely valuable because it can free up time for other staff members to focus on their work rather than grant reporting. One of the most common reasons why nonprofits hire a grant writer is simply to save time.
Grant writers know how to navigate the grant application process
The grant application process is not always straightforward. Especially if you're new to it, the paperwork and requirements can be daunting.
A professional grant writer has gone through this process many times before and knows what to expect. They know how to gather the required information and put together a complete application. This includes knowing which materials to include, such as a budget, photos, or letters of support.
They also know how to submit the application properly so that it isn't rejected before it's even read. Many online grant applications require specific formatting and have character limits for each section. A grant writer knows how to follow these instructions to give your nonprofit the best chance at being awarded a grant.
Here's a list of common mistakes a grant writer can help you avoid:
1. Not reading the grant application instructions carefully
This seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many people try to wing it. Grant applications often have specific instructions for each section, and if you don't follow them, your application will likely be rejected without being read.
A grant writer will take the time to read the instructions carefully and make sure that your application is formatted correctly and complete before submitting it.
2. Failing to provide all the required information
In addition to specific formatting requirements, most grant applications will have a list of required materials that must be included in order for your application to be considered.
A grant writer will make sure that everything on the list is included in your application before submitting it. This includes items like a budget, photos, letters of support, or a business plan.
Failing to provide all the required information is one of the most common reasons why grant applications are rejected.
3. Making careless mistakes, such as typos or incorrect dates
This is another common mistake that can easily be avoided. A grant writer will proofread your application carefully before submitting it to make sure there are no typos or other mistakes that could cost you the grant.
4. Writing a generic essay that could be used for any grant application
Many grant applications will have specific essay questions that must be answered. A grant writer will make sure to tailor your essay responses to each individual question, rather than using the same generic essay for every application.
Answering the questions specifically and showing that you've done your research on the grantor will increase your chances of being awarded the grant.
5. Not following up after submitting the application
After your grant application is submitted, it's important to follow up with the grantor to make sure they received it and to thank them for considering your nonprofit.
A grant writer can handle this follow-up for you so that you can focus on other things. They will also be able to answer any questions the grantor may have about your application.
6. Waiting until the last minute to apply for grants
One of the biggest benefits of hiring a grant writer is that they can help you plan ahead and stay organized throughout the year.
They can help you create a calendar of deadlines for the different grants you want to apply for and make sure that you have all the required materials well in advance.
7. Applying for grants that you're not eligible for
There are thousands of grants available, but not all of them will be a good fit for your nonprofit. A grant writer can help you research and find grants that you're eligible for and have a good chance of being awarded.
They can also help you avoid wasting time and resources applying for grants that you're not eligible for.
Here are steps to follow to hire a grant writer
So, are you convinced that your grant writing and organization as a whole can benefit if you hire a grant writer? We sure hope so! It's one of the best long-term decisions an organization can make in order to boost its funding and ensure budget stability for the nonprofit. Here are some steps that give you an overview of the process of hiring a writer:
1. Determine what your specific needs are
Before you start looking for a grant writer, it's important to take some time to think about what your specific needs are. Do you need help with the entire grant process from start to finish?
Or do you just need someone to proofread your applications and make sure they're complete and error-free? Knowing what you need will help you find the right writer for your organization.
If you're not sure where to start, you can always ask other nonprofits in your area for recommendations.
They may have already gone through the process of hiring a grant writer and can give you some insight into what to expect.
2. Do your research - there are many qualified grant writers available, so find the right one for you
There are many different ways to find a grant writer. You can search online, ask for recommendations from other nonprofits, or contact a grant writing agency.
Once you've compiled a list of potential writers, take some time to do your research. Read through their website and look at examples of their work.
You should also contact them directly and ask any questions you have about their experience and process.
Make sure you feel comfortable with the writer and that they seem like a good fit for your organization before moving forward.
3. Request proposals and interview a few candidates
Once you've narrowed down your list of potential writers, the next step is to request proposals from each of them.
In the proposal, they should include information about their experience, process, and fees. It's important to read through the proposals carefully and make sure you understand everything before making a decision.
After you've reviewed the proposals, it's time to interview the candidates. This is your chance to ask them any questions you may have and get to know them better.
It's also a good opportunity to see if they're truly passionate about your cause and whether they would be a good fit for your organization.
4. Make a decision and sign a contract
After you've interviewed the candidates, it's time to make your decision. Once you've chosen a writer, you'll need to sign a contract that outlines the scope of work and the fees.
Then you can start working with your new grant writer to create a successful grant strategy for your nonprofit!
5. Follow up with the grant writer to ensure that the project is on track
Once you've hired a grant writer, it's important to stay in communication with them and make sure the project is on track.
You should schedule regular check-ins to see how the process is going and if there are any changes that need to be made.
6. Thank them once the project is completed!
Most grant writers love their work and get lots of satisfaction from helping great causes to succeed in their missions. When you win a big grant award, make sure to include your grant writer in notes of gratitude and appreciation as part of the team.
To share some final thoughts, a grant writer should be able to help you write excellent grant proposals, but overlooking all the other important ways they can help a nonprofit or small business to improve grants outcomes is a mistake to avoid.
A highly experienced grant writer will have worked with dozens of clients and produced hundreds, if not thousands of grant proposals, which gives them particularly valuable process insights that can save time and win more funding for your work.
Additionally, a good grant writer will also have a network of other experts they can connect you with, whether you need help with your budget or developing evaluation metrics.
Finally, don't forget that a grant writer is also an excellent project manager and can help keep your team organized and on track throughout the grant process.
What do you think are the most important qualities to look for in a grant writer? What could you use help with to improve your grant writing? Let us know about your experience with grants and if you have other questions about why a nonprofit would hire a grant writer.