Updated: Apr 22
Would your organization be better off hiring a grant consultant or an employee? That is a great question.
Working with a grant consultant has similarities and differences with an in-house grant writer.
Whether a consultant or an employee, a grant writer is a person or company hired by your organization for pre-award grant activities, which might include finding and researching grants, developing a grant strategy, program design, preparing and executing, and submitting grant proposals, where a grant consultant and in-house grant writer differ is in how much they cost, and how they do their work.
Tasks And Responsibilities
A grant consultant usually only works on specific tasks and activities outlined in the contract. Contracts meet the consultant's and the organization's needs. It will usually specify the number of hours or projects for grant writing, the types of activities completed, and the frequency.
A job description created by the company outlines an in-house grant writer's role. In-house grant writers do the same actions as a consultant, often working across the agency to advance the mission. In addition, they may participate in outreach and other fundraising activities. For example, an in-house grant writer may help plan or work the annual fundraiser gala or golf tournament. A consultant may attend as a guest.
Hiring and Firing
A grant writing consultant often charges per project or hour to complete a deliverable. The fee is usually higher than the hourly rate of an employee. More information is in our article How Does A Grant Writer Get Paid? Consultants pay their taxes and benefits, set their hours, and pay for their training and professional development.
In addition, an organization can select a consultant based on a protected class, such as ethnicity or gender. Likewise, a grant consultant may have personal beliefs that guide the types of work or organizations they will support.
When hiring an in-house grant writer, an organization pays for salary, state and federal taxes, benefits, training, onboarding, and time off. Finally, an organization registers a new in-house grant writer with their state's employment agency and must comply with all federal, state, and local laws.
A grant consultant is fired based on the contract terms. An in-house grant writer may be fired based on state laws and the process outlined in your organization's "Employee Handbook" or similar document. An in-house writer may apply for unemployment benefits; consultants do not.
A grant writing consultant often requests more lead time on a project because they are working with several nonprofits and need more time to understand your organization. SGR requests 4 to 5 weeks for Federal grants and 4 to 3 weeks for Foundation. On the other hand, an employee focuses on writing grants for your organization and will likely need less time to prepare a grant application.
Once you find a suitable grant consultant and sign a contract, they can get started immediately, which may be beneficial if a grant you want to apply for is due within the next 1 to 3 months. They do not need to be trained. However, as part of your contract, you may ask the grant consultant to sign certain disclosures and take organizational training that is relevant to their work.
Hiring and onboarding an employee requires several steps and may take three or more months to find the right person and train them. Once hired, they must select a start date and complete the paperwork. They will need time to take the training your organization requires. They also need time to learn about your organization, their new position, and their coworkers.
A grant writing consultant typically acts as a ghostwriter. They may represent many organizations and will not directly contact funders or build relationships for your organization. However, an in-house grant writer can become the face of your fundraising team.
Finally, one of the most important things you can do when hiring a grant writer is to consider how much control you have over their work. Grant consultants decide their hours of operation, when they take a vacation, where they will complete the job, their process, the systems they use, and who will complete the work. If you decide to work with a consultant, you may need to trust they have developed the best process for their client and team.
Some consultants customize their approach for each project and client.
At SGR, we leverage years of business experience to design our process and select the systems we use. We share documents using collaborative tools and project management software, but some nonprofits prefer email.
Therefore, when selecting a consultant, consider how they work and when they are available.
When you hire an in-house grant writer, the organization decides these things. Of course, it would be wise to have flexibility to retain your employees, but ultimately you must determine what working conditions are best for your organization.
How to Make the Decision?
Suppose your organization seeks grant writing support to grow a specific area or project, and you already have someone on staff who can be the point of contact for communications. However, you have limited time and do not want to allocate additional tax funding to increase your team. Hiring a grant consultant may be the right choice for you. If you want to grow your team and invest in a newer grant writer or have more affordable compensation, an in-house grant writer might be the right decision. You can use our favorite websites to find a grant writer near you.
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.