April 15, 2022

When to Hire A Grant Writer?

...the question really becomes: can you afford not to have a grant writer?

For many non-profits, having a dedicated grant writer is often seen as a luxury they can’t afford. But you may be leaving money on the table by not having a seasoned grants professional with a proven track record of success working for you.

And if you don’t have the bandwidth internally to take on the task, the question really becomes: can you afford not to have a grant writer?

What can a grant writing professional do for you? Let us count the ways…

You might need to hire a grant writer if:

…you need to find grant opportunities.

If you don’t have the staff, time, or resources to research and vet opportunities, a grants professional can definitely help you. We’re not going to lie: it’s a seriously tedious task. KDS invests thousands of dollars each year in tools and resources that help us navigate the philanthropic and government labyrinth of funding opportunities so that our clients don’t have to. We often suggest that anyone considering hiring a grant writer -be they staff or consultants – start this journey by investing in opportunity research and developing a calendar of deadlines. Investing in a grant writer can also ensure that you are on top of unexpected or new opportunities as they emerge throughout the year.

…you don’t have the time to do it right.

Writing a grant proposal takes time. A lot of time, And an attention to detail that most leadership and staff don’t have because they’re busy leading and doing the work of the organization. A dedicated grant writer can take the reigns and dedicate the effort needed to satisfy the proposal requirements and develop a competitive application. It’s not just writing: there’s collecting and staying on top of critical organizational documents, proposal planning and program brainstorming, working with your finance team to develop a budget, requesting and integrating key information and data, project management to make sure all the wheels are turning, and the final submissions.

…you need some “polish”.

Professional grant writers are skilled at the art of telling a story in the way funders want to hear it. It goes beyond being a “good” writer – that definitely helps, but grant writers know how to weave a story out of a combination of historical facts, emotionally-charged experiences, and (often) tragically boring data. They know how to make you stand out in a competitive sea of applicants by being organized and clear in the telling of the “tale” you want to tell. If you’re clear and compelling, funders are more likely to see you as a good investment of their funds.

Staff Writers vs Consultants

We may be biased here at KDS but we think grant writing consultants bring a lot to the table, be they short term or long term resources. If you are an organization that has never professionalized or formalized its grant seeking, a consultant can help you assess your readiness to seek and manage grants, develop internal policies and procedures around grant seeking and management, conduct opportunity research, establish “first contact” with funders on behalf of your organization, develop narrative, and get you started in your proposals and submissions. We can actually get your organization ready to bring on and support an on-staff grant writer down the road so that they can be as successful as possible for you.

Organizations also use consultants when they want to add expertise, bandwidth, or both to their grant seeking. Maybe you’ve done really well with private foundations, but haven’t quite figured out how to crack the federal funding nut yet. A consultant with demonstrated success in securing publicly funded grants can give you that expertise to compliment your team.

How much is this going to cost?

That’s a trickier question to answer. It depends. Really… it does, and on a lot of factors: where you’re starting from, what you’re trying to raise funding for and how much, where you’re located and the market rate for that area, and the level of expertise you’re looking for. We know of colleagues that have charged as low as $40/hour to as high as $150 an hour.

When you do your research, don’t be afraid to ask candidates about recent their recent successes. Ask if you can see examples of their writing (they’ll likely need to redact identifying and sensitive information). And definitely ask them about their process for developing a proposal. Keep in mind that there are a ton of factors that go into whether a proposal is selected for funding that are out of the control of the grant writer and that have little to do with the quality of the proposal.

NOTE: be aware that ethical grant writers NEVER work on a contingency basis, or ask for a success fee. That’s a HUGE no-no in our line of work. If someone propose that kind of fee structure, run for the hills!

Still not sure? Wanna talk it out? Reach out to us and we’d be happy to help you make an informed decision!