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5 Reasons You Should Not Hire A Grant Writer, Consultant, or Freelancer

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At SGR, we receive emails at least once a week from organizations that want to hire a grant writer agency to help them meet their revenue goals. After working for eight years, we have seen that there are many reasons why an organization should not hire a grant writer, even when they would benefit significantly from external support. Below are our top 5 reasons why you should rethink hiring a grant writer, freelancer, or consultant, at least for now.

1. Your entire staff are volunteers

Over the years, we have found that an organization that does not have paid staff has stressed and overworked volunteers. In these instances, grant writing can feel like a time-consuming luxury. There is also pressure to get grant funds in the door 'right now,' but grants take six months or more to make a decision. It can also be demoralizing for your staff to see you pay an external company while they work for free. If your staff is volunteer based, hiring a grant writer consultant or freelancer might not be for you.

2. You have less than six months of cash reserves or operating revenue. 

As previously mentioned, getting a response from a funder can take 6 months or more. This means the grants you apply for today may likely not come to you until next year's budget cycle. What we have seen is that paying for a grant writer can become a difficult to manage operational expense, that you may be on the hook for. This leads to having to cut back on other essential services or programs or even risking the financial stability of your organization. If you have less than 6 months of operational cash or if a grant writer will account for more than 5 % of your operational budget, hiring a grant writer consultant or freelancer might not be for you. 

3. You do not have time to work with an external grant writer.

 There are many reasons why an organization cannot fully take advantage of its grant writer. For a startup nonprofit, you may work a full-time job and run your nonprofit full-time. Larger or more established organizations may often have the founder or the Executive Director as the point of contact. However, these individuals are frequently very busy with executive tasks or may have to travel during critical grant writing deadlines. They would benefit from delegating grant writing oversight to one or more other individuals on their team. If your organization has less than 5-10 hours per month for grant writing communication, collaboration, and oversight, hiring a grant writer consultant or freelancer might not be for you.

4. Funding expectations or needs are unclear. 

Most smaller nonprofits understand how critical grant dollars are to their mission. However, we have found that more well-funded organizations want and can win grants, but we need a clear focus on what they need it for, how much money they need, and why the community should pay for it. As an experienced grant writing agency, we can often work around this "strategy" issue through motivational interviewing, a technique that helps individuals identify their goals and motivations. We also meet with staff, and help leaders focus on what's currently getting funding at monthly writing team meetings. We focus on helping organizations prioritize their funding needs because industry reports recommend writing 3-4 grants for focus area to ensure a favorable decision. If your organization does not have a clear focus on your top 3 funding needs, hiring a grant writer consultant or freelancer might not be for you.

5. You need a designated in-house grant coordinator or manager. 

Pre-award, not having a dedicated staff person to interact with your grant writer can cause you to miss deadlines or submit incomplete or underdeveloped applications. Your grant writer will have a lot of questions about your program design and may also try to work with you to enhance the project to make it more attractive to the funder or to meet funding requirements. But your grant writer is not designated to make decisions for your organization, they need your input, and they need your ownership of the process. 

Post-award, you need a person who will respond to the potential funder's request for information or sign award contracts. It is very painful for your grant writer when you submit a grand-slam award-winning proposal, get all the money you hoped for, and then… lose the grant because you forgot to sign the grant award. Or lose a highly coveted grant funder because you had limited time to build a relationship with them or respond to their requests for information. The bottom line is if you are not able to dedicate an in-house person to be a champion for your grant writing program, hiring a grant writer consultant or freelancer might not be for you.

What Should You Do?

As you can see from the list, there are quite a few reasons why you should think twice about hiring a grant writer. But if your staff is compensated, you have cash reserves for grant writing, you have 5-10 hours per month to focus on grant writing, and your grant writing needs are precise, then hiring a grant writer consultant or freelancer might just be what you need.

If you are interested in learning more about how Sidnae Global Research can help your nonprofit secure more grant WINS, please take our simple survey, and we will get back to you within 2 business days.

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