How to Choose a Grant Writing Consultant: 5 Key Factors to Consider
Grant writing is more than just a process—it is a skill. And like any skill, it must be perfected with time and practice.
But between juggling your regular responsibilities and the work you do for your nonprofit, you might not be able to polish your skill to the level needed to apply for grants, especially the most competitive ones.
In this article, we will go over what you need to know when searching for the best grant writing consultant for your nonprofit so that you can find the right person with the right skills for the job.
Does My Organization Need A Grant Writing Consultant?
Before discussing some of the things you should take into consideration when hiring a grant writing consultant, you must first evaluate whether or not you should be outsourcing this aspect of your fundraising strategy.
One of the first things you should ask yourself is whether you can afford the investment. As we mentioned before, grant writing is a skill, and grant writing consultants are professionals in their field. As such, their time and expertise will cost you money.
Consider these questions:
Which is worth more to you—the time you’ll have to spend working on the grant writing, or the money you’ll have to spend on the expert?
Do you believe you’ll have a good return on investment?
Could you, or someone else who works with you at your nonprofit, handle this job?
How familiar are you with the grant writing process?
Do you have the internal bandwidth to handle this process?
There are no precise answers to these questions that will dictate whether or not a grant writing consultant is the right choice for your nonprofit, as that all will be dependent on your organization’s specific circumstances. These are just a few factors you should take into account when making your decision.
5 Main Things to Consider When Hiring a Grant Writing Consultant
Now that you’ve evaluated whether or not you need outside help with grant writing, it is time to establish some criteria to consider when hiring a consultant.
1. Evaluate the Costs
As we have mentioned before, one of the main things you must take into consideration when looking for the best grant writing consultant is the cost.
Different consultants will have different rates, and different nonprofits will have different budgets. You must evaluate your own needs, you must come up with your own budget, and you must see whether the consultants you are looking at fit within those parameters.
Do your research into some of the grants you’re likely to apply to and how much money you would get if you won. How much of that money would you be willing to invest into a consultant?
Again, only you know your nonprofit’s needs and your budget, so be sure to be careful when evaluating the costs of this decision.
2. Look at their Experiences
As you would with any other person you are hiring to fill a position, take a look at your potential grant writer’s experience. When evaluating different consultants, consider these questions:
How long have they been working as a grant writer?
Do they have any certificates?
Have they worked with nonprofits similar to yours in the past, in either size or mission?
Answering these questions will not only help you find a competent grant writer, but also a grant writer that is right for your nonprofit.
Remember, though, that professional writing experience or academic credentials do not necessarily translate into proficiency at grant writing. While there are many crossover skills between a freelance copywriter and a grant writer, the two are not the same, and grant writing requires a certain level of expertise that a copywriter might not necessarily have.
Similarly, just because one is well-versed in applying for federal research grants, it does not mean they are able to go through the process of applying for a corporate grant.
Naturally, this will factor into costs. More specialized and experienced grant writers are more likely to charge more for their services. You’ll have to consider whether the expertise they bring to the table will be worth the extra cost.
3. Analyze their Sample Work
If at all possible, request to view samples of the potential grant consultant’s work to see if they are a good fit for you and your nonprofit.
Preferably, you should ask for samples that are, in some way, similar to the work you expect them to do for you. Look for samples of their grant proposals for nonprofits that are similar in size to yours, that have a similar mission, or proposals sent for grants that are as competitive as the ones you’re hoping to land.
Besides the quality of the writing and professionalism displayed in the sample package, try to see how the grant consultant portrayed the other nonprofits by doing some research. Did you think the proposal accurately portrayed the mission of the organization that hired them? Or did you feel like the writing was generic and shallow?
Remember that for all their expertise, the grant consultant will not have the same intimate knowledge about your nonprofit and your mission as you do. For this reason, it is important to see if they have the skills to confidently convey the heart of your organization in a proposal.
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Just as you would for any other job, consider asking your potential grant consultant for references from previous clients.
Should you be provided with references, here are some questions you can ask them:
How was it working together with the grant writing consultant? Were they professional? Did they meet their deadlines? Did they keep you informed of how the process was going on their end? Were there any problems in communication?
Do you feel like they accurately represented your nonprofit? Did they have an understanding of the problems you’re trying to tackle? Did they ask you questions when they were unsure about something?
Did they explain to you what you can expect from them? And was that explanation accurate? If not, how so?
Have you worked with other grant writing consultants before? And if so, how did this particular one compare to your previous experiences?
What was something unexpected that you enjoyed about working with this grant writing consultant? What about something you wish could have been handled differently?
Questions like these can help you get a better understanding of who it is you are looking to hire and whether they’re a good match for your nonprofit.
5. Ask them Questions
With so many different factors to consider, it can be easy to forget that you can ask the grant writing consultant questions on all the things we’ve discussed so far.
If the cost seems a bit too high for your budget, ask them if they are open to negotiating. However, remember that negotiations are a compromise. In other words, when negotiating, you are willingly letting go of certain services that the grant writer provides in exchange for a price that better fits your budget.
Do not simply ask for a lower price without being willing to accept a less thorough service—not only is this expectation unrealistic, it can be insulting. These are professionals with expertise that you do not have, and so, their skills and experience should be treated with respect.
If they are not very experienced or have not worked with nonprofits similar to your own, ask them how they plan on tackling this project. What do they see as their biggest obstacles? Do they have a good understanding of your mission?
Was there anything from their sample work that stood out to you? Was there anything their references said that you’d like to have clarified?
Do not be afraid to brainstorm a couple of questions before your conversation. By taking their answers into consideration along with all the other research you’ve done so far, you can better see if they are the right fit for your organization.
How to Find the Best Grant Writing Consultants for Small Nonprofits
When it comes to finding fundraising help, never underestimate the power of word of mouth.
For smaller nonprofits whose budget is a bit tighter, it can be a good idea to rely first on word of mouth. Look at your network and ask if anyone knows of professional grant writing consultants that they can recommend. If you have contact with other nonprofits of a similar size to yours, ask them if they have used a grant writing consultant before, and if so, who they recommend.
Another option is to use freelance platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr. These platforms allow you to post listings with your budget, and different freelancers will send you proposals with their credentials if they are interested in working together. You can also browse through their freelancers’ profiles and send invitations to the ones you think would be a good match for your nonprofit.
How to Find the Best Grant Writing Consultants for Large Nonprofits
If your nonprofit is larger in size and you have a larger budget to work with, there are a few more options available for you.
While you can still follow the same steps mentioned above, you can also try looking at agencies such as Grantwriters.net or Allied Grantwriters to see if they have someone who would be a good match for you.
Because more people will need to be paid when you hire a contractor through an agency, the cost will be higher than if you were hiring a freelancer. That being said, reputable agencies tend to vet their writers, which means most of these writing consultants have already been through a quality check.
Another option would be to use job boards such as Indeed or Zip Recruiter. You can post the contractor position there and wait for the grant consultants to apply. Idealist.org, a job board focused solely on nonprofit jobs, is another great resource.
The Pros and Cons of Hiring a Grant Writing Consultant
Now that you know when you should look for a grant writing consultant, what things to consider when hiring one, and how to find them, it is time to make your decision.
While you’ll have your own personalized pros and cons list based on your needs and your research, here are a few other ones to consider.
An Expert’s Experience – Undoubtedly, the biggest pro of hiring a grant writing consultant is their experience. As we have mentioned already, grant writing is a skill, and a grant writing consultant is well familiar with the grant application process, the requirements, and conventions.
They know how to follow the rules while also making their work stand out from the crowd. For this reason, they are more likely to get the job done better than you or another staff member in your nonprofit who is newer to grant writing.
Saved Time – You are a busy person who has to juggle a myriad of responsibilities. Applying for grants is a process that, in order to be done well, takes time to get it right. While looking for a grant consultant may seem like a lot of work, at the end of the day, it will save you tons of time by letting the professional handle the application, and as a result, you can focus on what you do best.
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Costs – This is perhaps the biggest con and the one that will influence your decision the most. Because hiring a grant writing consultant involves hiring a professional in their field, it will naturally cost a lot of money that, depending on the size of your budget, you might not be able to afford. While having a professional will save you time and stress, you must consider whether that will be worth having less funds for your cause.
The Consultant Does Not Know Your Nonprofit – This is something we hinted at previously, and something worth considering. You are the expert on your nonprofit. The grant writing consultant is not.
While some philanthropic causes can be easy to understand, some are more complex, making it harder for an outsider to properly talk about its nuances. The fact that the grant writing consultant is an outsider is one of the biggest drawbacks to hiring external help, and you must evaluate whether that drawback is big enough to outweigh all the benefits their expertise will bring to the table.
Wrapping Up: How to Choose a Grant Writing Consultant
Grant writing is difficult. It is a difficult skill and a difficult process, both of which take time and experience to perfect.
If you’re already juggling too many responsibilities, you might not be able to properly dedicate the effort needed to secure more funds for your nonprofit in this manner. That is why grant writing consultants can be such an incredible resource.
With this article, we hope we were able to give you some tips on how to find not just the best grant writing consultant, but the best one for your nonprofit.
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