Should Your Nonprofit Hire a Grant Writing Consultant [in 2022]
Leading a nonprofit organization is rife with complexity. There is project management and community engagement taking up the majority of your days. And the outward-facing efforts are the noticed efforts.
However, so much takes place behind the scenes as well. The financial sustainability of your nonprofit is a less visible, but arguably more critical component of your leadership responsibility. How do you maintain the fiscal health of your nonprofit? Often, this is accomplished through grant funding. This article will dive into the benefits of hiring a grant writer to bolster your grant funding strategy.
Why Should Your Nonprofit Hire a Grant Writer?
Nonprofit leaders are familiar with the critical role grant funding plays in their budget. However, as a nonprofit leader, you know how time-consuming and challenging grant writing can be.
It’s common to consider whether you should hire a grant writer. We think that hiring for grant writing services is a great tactic to save yourself time and often, money. Here are our top five reasons to hire a grant writer:
Most often, grant writers are hired on an as-needed basis rather than as full-time employees. This strategy gives your nonprofit flexibility to manage costs associated with seeking grant funding.
Grant writing consultants are often willing to stay connected to your organization while only working according to your grant strategy. Having a resource at the ready to write grants when applications are open is a strong strategy for efficiently utilizing your limited fiscal resources. It’s also likely that the opportunity cost of you spending the time to write grant applications yourself far outweighs the cost of hiring this service.
There are benefits to being intimately familiar with the grant application process. Grant writing consultants are engaged in this process regularly and may bring a better understanding of best practices.
While you may spend hours familiarizing yourself with the grant process, a grant writer can dive right into the writing and activities that move you toward a completed application. A skilled grant writer will know how to get your application noticed by the reviewers; they will be able to successfully articulate your nonprofit vision and give you the best chance at funding.
3. Writing is Hard
It is no secret that sitting down to write any kind of response to a grant inquiry is challenging. Grants require a strong grasp of technical writing, which is not something that all nonprofit leaders feel adequately prepared to take on.
You need to be able to tell your story in a compelling, succinct way that simultaneously checks all the requirements of the funding proposal. A grant writer can take your plan and submit an application that will present as professional and thorough as possible. You, meanwhile, can continue focusing on the current needs of your organization.
4. Better Chance of Funding
Grant writing professionals are just that: professional. Writing grants is what they do, so they likely have some knowledge and expertise to back them up. Having a grant writer complete your grant proposals gives you a higher chance of funding success. Whether it is the cost of your time to write or the cost of a grant writer to write, your return on investment may be higher if you lean on the experts.
5. Growth and Improvement
Although tangent to the actual funding application, the process of working with a grant writer can provide an opportunity to reflect upon your nonprofit. A grant writer will ask you questions about your nonprofit vision and mission that may allow for consideration of where you are in achieving your goals.
Grant writers have the benefit of an unbiased perspective when looking to write for your organization; thus, they may ask questions or bring to light new considerations as you move your work forward.
Pros and Cons of Hiring a Grant Writing Consultant
If you are contemplating hiring a grant writer, it can be helpful to consider the pros and cons of doing so. Utilizing some of your nonprofit resources to engage with a professional grant writer needs to pay off.
Pro: You Won’t Have to Write
Those who have completed multiple grant writing processes know that writing the application can be daunting. Being a nonprofit leader does not mean that you are also a gifted or interested writer. An obvious benefit to those not crazy about writing is that a grant writing consultant will compose the prose for you.
Writing takes time. A lot of time. As a nonprofit leader, you certainly do not have hours of extra time in your day. Many resources recommend upwards of 120 hours dedicated to write a grant.
Writer’s block is a real phenomenon and having passion and knowledge of your nonprofit will not always get you through this hurdle. A grant writer is in the profession of writing. They are not immune to the effects of writer’s block; however, they know how to move past the block to write the grant and save you that headache.
Pro: Grant Writers Know Grants
If you hire a grant writer, you’ll receive help from someone well-versed in the grant writing process. They know the structure and expectations of grants from their experience responding to grant opportunities many times over. Request for proposals can sometimes not be written in an engaging and readable way, so hiring a professional grant writer can also serve to help you understand what is expected to complete a grant application.
Instrumentl can help support both newer and more experienced grant writers, since we’ll output a set of unique matches based on your nonprofit’s projects. These matches will feature active grant opportunities your organization can start applying for.
Grant writers, through both the success and denial of their prior grants, have a feel for the expectations of reviewers. A strong grant writer should be able to write in a way that sets your application as one to notice. You can focus on leading your nonprofit, a grant writer can focus on knowing how to write successful grants.
Hiring a grant writing consultant gives you the flexibility to meet your needs. You have the ability to contract writers specific to each grant rather than hiring a full-time employee. This can save you time and money if you do not have sustaining tasks within your nonprofit for a more permanent position.
A consultant will come with specific skills and knowledge related to grant writing. This provides flexibility and efficiency of your resource allocation in your nonprofit. You can have a smaller, dedicated funding item for grant writing by hiring a consultant over a full-time employee.
Using a consultant also provides you with the ability to part ways if they fall short of your expectations. If you have an employee not meeting expectations, the process to fire can be cumbersome and more difficult than separating from a consultant. It is also much easier to work with a variety of consultants to find the best fit for your organization. A full hiring process and employment contracts do not tend to allow you to easily change directions.
Con: No Guarantee of Funding
It is critical to note that hiring a grant writer does not guarantee your grant will be awarded. In fact, most grant writers have a failure rate higher than their success rate. That is the reality in the unpredictable world of grant funding. Although hiring a grant writer may give you expertise and understanding of the grant process, be sure you are willing and able to commit fiscal resources without an assurance of subsequent success.
Con: No Organization History
Some nonprofit organizations are able to contract with a grant writing consultant on an ongoing basis. Over time, this continued relationship will help the consultant develop a general understanding of the nonprofit. But this is often the exception. More often, your nonprofit will hire a grant writing consultant on a temporary basis. The grant writer will not have in-depth knowledge of your organization and will need you to provide some details throughout the grant writing process.
Most experienced grant writers understand this dynamic and will be able to get pertinent information without asking a lot of your time. This exchange can be even more efficient if you use Instrumentl, you can bring prospecting, tracking and management of your grants to one place.
Hiring a grant writing consultant is not cheap, especially if you want to hire someone with experience and competence. And, as we mentioned before, hiring a grant writer is not a guarantee of success.
While a grant writing consultant may save your nonprofit money in comparison to a full-time employee, there is still a risk related to cost. If you have an existing employee that has the skills to write grants and the time to dedicate, utilizing their capacity may be more cost-effective. Conversely, don’t expect an inexperienced employee to be able to jump into grant writing quickly and successfully.
Whether you reassign an existing employee or hire an outside consultant, don’t be caught off guard by the cost of writing a grant.
How to Find a Grant Writing Service? What to Look for?
Deciding to hire a grant writing service is just the start. You also need to know where and what to look for as you begin your search for the right fit. Just like with any service, you need to be mindful that not all grant writing services are created equal. You will need to know not just how to find a grant writing service, but also what to look for when comparing options.
How to Find a Grant Writing Service
Grant writing services are in high demand. You should be mindful of this demand and give yourself ample time to seek and hire your grant writing consultant. There are a number of places to look for grant writing services. The two most common places to look are on freelance websites and through professional associations.
Freelance Websites: Websites like Fiverr and Upwork offer a platform for freelancers to connect with organizations and individuals looking for a variety of services. You can post your specific needs relating to grant writing services as well as your general budget. Freelance grant writers will see your request and have the opportunity to respond with their proposal for services. Both Fiverr and Upwork centralize the payment portion of these contracts, which streamlines some of the details of contracting for services.
Professional Associations: another place to find grant writing services is by searching professional grant writing association websites. The American Grant Writers’ Association provides grant writing services for organizations that have over a $50,000 annual revenue history. They also have a directory where you can verify certified grant writers which can be useful if you find a grant writer through a freelance website. The Grant Professionals Association also has a searchable database of certified professional grant writers.
You can also contact us at [email protected] to get a list of partner grant writers and consultants you may want to work with.
What to Look for in Grant Writing Services
Forbes summarized a list of characteristics their nonprofit council reported they look for in grant writing services. Their list included:
- Writing skills
- Relationship-building skills
- Evocative writing
- Storytelling skills
- Understanding of impact
This list encompasses what many nonprofit leaders see as the most critical needs when looking for a grant writer. Pulling from that list, we extrapolated on a few key characteristics you should look for when hiring a grant writer:
Data: In general, a firm grasp of data is critical for a skilled grant writer. Being able to articulate your request in writing is only part of most grant applications. An ability to make your request fully visual often requires the skills to utilize data in a way that sells your funding ask. Data used effectively can augment and support the rest of your application.
Writing: It may be obvious, but it is important to note that strong writing skills are a necessary characteristic of a grant writer. Writing for grants is simultaneously technical and narrative. Grant writers must be able to tell your story while effectively fulfilling the technical requirements of the grant application. There is an underlying persuasiveness that needs to be emphasized in your proposal. This dynamic can be difficult to accomplish with a novice writer.
Relationships: Having people skills and strong relationship-building skills will make working with your grant writing consultant much more efficient and enjoyable. Grant writers with an ability to interact and build relationships will learn about your nonprofit more authentically. This shared passion for your work will translate into their ability to write successful grant applications on your behalf. A consultant that struggles to build these relationships will write a proposal that merely checks the boxes, and you may have a less compelling story within your application as a result.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Grant Writer?
So now you know that you’d like to pursue working with a grant writing service, and you know where to look and what to look for. The one thing left to consider is the cost. We here at Instrumentl dove into all of the facets of the cost of hiring a grant writer in a previous blog post. Here are some key takeaways relating to cost as you start your search for a grant writer:
Cost is a Wide Range
Beginning grant writers may charge as little as $20 per hour while the most experienced writers can charge upwards of $150 per hour. The standard hourly rate for grant writers would fall between $30 and $75 per hour. For an intermediate grant writer, expect to see fees between $40 and $60 per hour. Consultants within that range and with a portfolio of prior work likely have expertise they can offer to your grant writing efforts. Of course, if you want to engage with a consultant that has more experience and a high success rate, you may need to consider higher hourly costs.
Other Cost Structures
While engaging with a grant writer through a freelance website will most likely be on an hourly basis, there are other fee structures you might come across.
- Federal grant writers may charge a flat rate per application.
- Grant writing consulting firms will have an hourly rate that includes a package of services; they often bring management and oversight resources as well as grant writing.
- Retainer fees are another common fee structure to come across. You might be able to engage with a consultant that allows you to have them flexible and available as-needed for a small, ongoing fee. Then, when they write for you, you will pay an additional hourly fee for those services.
When deciding whether to add grant writing services to your financial strategy, consider your budget and your goals before setting out to secure a contract. Knowing what you have available to dedicate to grant writing will allow you to hire a consultant that fits your needs and your budget.
Wrapping Things Up: Should Your Nonprofit Hire a Grant Writing Consultant [in 2022]?
Nonprofit leadership is multifaceted, and strong executives look for ways to be efficient and effective in their fiscal strategy. One way to accomplish this is through hiring a grant writing consultant. Your time is valuable. In this article, we outlined five reasons to hire a grant writer as well as the pros and cons of that decision. We also covered where to find grant writing services and what you should expect to pay.
If you hire a grant writer and want to give them access to the best tools for prospecting, organizing and tracking grants, try Instrumentl for free for 14 days.