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What qualifications should a grant writer have? 3 Must-Haves to look for

If your organization plans to hire a grant writer soon, you may have already spent time searching the internet for job descriptions before you landed here. The internet is an exceptional place to learn more about the types of education and experiences to look for in a great grant writer. This article will hopefully be another resource for you.

Qualifications a great grant writer does NOT have to have

First, there is no grant writing degree that a grant writer must have because grant writing is not a field of study at most universities or colleges in the United States. However, some schools have started to offer grant writing courses and a certificate of completion.

Next, a grant writer does not need a license in most states because they do not have to take a test to prove their knowledge before working as a grant writer. Some states, like Pennsylvania, require grant writers to register as fundraisers or fundraising counsel. This is an administrative, not educational, requirement.

Last, there is not an official set of work experiences a grant writer must have to be successful because a grant writer wears many hats in an organization. The grant writers I know come from a variety of occupations and backgrounds. For example, some grant writers have a degree in journalism or writing. Get their first job at a nonprofit, and naturally succeed in the grant writer role because of their writing skills. Other people come into grant writing from a technical background like psychology, engineering, biology, or public health. They were probably asked to help someone apply for a grant and were surprised at their success and passion for the field.

So, if I can’t hire a grant writer based on their education, what CAN a nonprofit look for to keep from getting burned?

I hear this question a lot, and it always surprises me how many nonprofits have had at least one bad experience with a grant writer. To stop this from happening in the future, I suggest you let qualities be your qualifications. Then give them a paid project that shows if they have and how they use these qualities before you hire them.

The qualities your organization should look for in a grant writer will depend on your organization’s culture, needs, and the people who make it up. The grant writers I admire are Detectives, Cheerleaders, Interviewers, Storytellers, Salespeople, Big Thinkers, Dot Crossers, Word Magicians, Advocates, and Project Managers. I could go on, but I think you get the point. Do any of these qualities stand out to you?

If you are looking for a grant writer that can build a grant culture in your organization and hit the ground running on the first day of the job, there are a few key qualifications I suggest you consider.

3 Qualifications a great grant writer SHOULD have

Qualification #1: Curiosity

The first key qualification is curiosity. When writing a grant, a person must be able to ask questions like, “What does the grant funder want to achieve” and “What is the funder not saying in the application that I should see”. A naturally curious person will be able to brainstorm on these ideas or put time into researching the answers. Curiosity can help the grant writer ask your implementation team questions like, “Why does doing our program this way work so well”. They will also be able to explore ways to improve your program’s grant readiness by asking questions.

Qualification #2: Great Interviewer skills

The next key qualification is being a great interviewer. A grant writer uses their interviewing skills to pull answers from your team that lead to compelling applications. With the right interviewing skills, a 15 to 25-minute meeting can yield 90 percent of the Who, What, When, Why, Where of the application. These are the framework of the grant proposal. A grant writer is also able to pull out great “sound bites” by listening to their team member and watching their facial expressions and body language. Just like a good journalist, a grant writer with good interviewer skills knows when to press a little more to get the Golden Nugget, and when to back off.

Qualification #3: A Desire to Learn

Did you know that just about ANYONE can get good at grant writing with enough practice? That’s right. I don’t think you have to be naturally good at it. Grant writing is a taught and learned skill. As a grant trainer, I have worked with hundreds of people that were mystified by grants at the start of the class. But they felt a little more confident by the end. However, once they started to practice, many of my students were able to secure significant grant awards within months. I don’t mention that to give myself a pat on the back. I mention that to say, anyone who puts their mind to it can be a good grant writer OR become a better grant writer. So, I think the final and most important qualification for a grant writer is that they like to learn.

As best practices and application styles change, a good grant writer will be able to stay flexible and interested in learning new ways of perfecting their craft. There are a few standardized tests grant writers can take to show they are a mastering the profession. The Grant Professionals Certification Institute’s (GPCI) Grant Professional Credential (GPC) is one of those indicators of learning that you can look for.

Now you have my recipe for hiring impressive grant writers.

Grant writers are not special unicorns, born with grant writing abilities. Grant writers are people from various backgrounds and educational and professional experiences. However, I think if you look for someone that has #1: Curiosity, #2: Great Interviewer Skills, and #3: A Desire to Learn you will find the perfect grant writer for you.

Need more help? Please check out a sample of the job description we use here at Sidnae Global Research for our writing team.

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