Updated: Oct 25
You have decided to add grants to your nonprofit's fundraising activities, and now you need to figure out who's responsible for the work. Should you save money by doing it yourself, or is it worth it to hire a grant writer? This article outlines the merits and challenges of hiring a grant writer to help you decide which is best for you.
A grant writer is a person you hire to lead the activities that prepare your nonprofit for grants during the "pre-award" phase. Pre-award activities include considering how grants fit into your nonprofit's overall mission and fundraising goals; identifying grant opportunities; cultivating relationships with grant funders; and preparing, writing, submitting, and following up on grant requests. You may feel like anyone on your team can do this work. Still, it is beneficial for most organizations to hire someone to focus solely on these tasks because they take much time and require practice.
Now, let's walk through some of the benefits and challenges.
A Grant Writer Develops A Strategy: Grants are the lifeblood of many nonprofits. A grant writer can help you seamlessly integrate grants into your organization's operations. A grant writer also helps build grant readiness and create a plan for how to raise money to meet the identified needs. The benefit of grant writers is that they can work with leadership across various departments, such as programming, event planning, donations, and budgeting. The challenge is the cost of adding another person to your team. A full-time in-house grant writer may cost your organization $40,000 or more, depending on where you live, or between $50 to $200 per hour for a consultant.
A Grant Writer Builds Relationships With Grant Funders: Creating solid relationships with Grantmakers is essential to grant-seeking. However, building relationships can easily slip through the cracks when no team member is responsible for, or has time to complete, this critical task. A grant writer knows how to contact potential funders to request introductions or site visits tactfully. These meetings, led by a Board Member or the Executive Director, are a chance for the nonprofit to pitch its idea for funding. A grant writer prepares talking points based on their knowledge of the Grantmaker and keeps the meeting on track.
Cultivation is key to getting grants, but it continues after a grant is awarded or an initial rejection. The benefit of grant writers is that they continuously build bridges between the nonprofit and the Grantmaker by sharing newsletters, updates, and information. However, a downfall is that many grant consultants do not participate in relationship-building activities, and newer grant writers need time to build connections and confidence.
A Grant Writer Finds and Researches Grant Opportunities: Does your organization have an "apply for any grant we see" approach? If so, you are probably getting more rejections than you should. You can curtail this with a clear grant prospecting or identification process. A grant writer helps your organization determine which grants to pursue and which are "Duds." The "Duds" are grant opportunities that lead to nowhere and waste your time. Read "Why Was Our Grant Rejected: 5 Reasons and Solutions" and How to Find the Perfect Grant Opportunities for Your Nonprofit" for more info on grant research and how to improve grant success.
To sum up, grant writers thoughtfully research each grant opportunity and consider the pros and cons of applying and the chance of success. Time constraints and other factors may cause an in-house grant writer to apply for grants that are not the best fit. In addition, it may take time for a grant consultant to understand your organization's culture and the best grants.
A Grant Writer Improves Systems: Have you ever found yourself running out of time to apply for grants or spending too much time looking for required attachments? A grant writer can develop systems to make applying for grants easier:
A grant writer can create grant templates to speed up the writing process.
A grant writer knows how to make a file organization system so that you can quickly find grant applications, grant agreements, and other documents.
A grant writer's benefit is that they know what tools work well throughout the grant process, or they can ask their peers. Saving your organization time and money is essential when resources are limited. The challenge is that only some grant writers are skilled at creating systems or technology savvy.
A Grant Writer Leverages Best Practices: The keys to a successful grant application are understanding what the Grantmaker is asking AND knowing how to respond. A grant writer has gained this knowledge from experience and coursework. For example, a grant writer that has submitted several applications to a funder becomes better at aligning a project to the funder's interest and priorities. Or, a grant writer may have industry-specific knowledge that improves the project design or case for funding. Regardless of the area, grant writers benefit from using best practices to make grant applications stand out. A downside is that the grant writer you choose may need to be more skilled at working with your organization or the type of grants you seek. For example, a generalist may need more help from your program staff, and specialists may need to be more flexible to your nonprofit's changing needs.
As you can see, there are many positives to hiring a grant writer but also some downsides. A grant writer becomes skilled at the art and science of grant seeking, relationship building, and grant writing. But the downsides are that it may take time to understand your organization and how it works. As a nonprofit leader or its founder, you already know these things. If you have never tried to write a grant, give it a try! The experience will help you figure out if doing it yourself or hiring someone is better for you.
Decided to hire someone? Go to our article, How to find grant writers near me? Our 4 Favorite Job Search Websites OR...
Please consider working with us if you have decided to let someone else handle grant writing for your organization. SGR develops competitive federal grant application packages for our customers applying for grants or cooperative agreements with SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), HRSA (Health Resources Services Administration), ACF (Administration for Children and Families), and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Using our 7-step grant development process, you will never have to worry about your competitive edge or missing a deadline. Click here to learn more about our Government Grant Application Package development process.