1. Do you have a requirement?
Do you need money for a project or program, but your revenue just isn’t coming in at the levels you are aiming for? If you have worthwhile programs, activities and services to offer but don’t know how to fund them outside of donations, grant writing is a viable option and hiring a professional is relatively an easy and affordable route.
2. Do you have someone on staff that can do it?
Do you have someone on your team who can handle it? You’ll need someone who knows how to write grants. What kind of writers do you have on staff, and how much time do they have available for the extra work it takes to write grants? Even if you are fortunate enough to have an experienced writer on staff, they will most likely not have the time due to other obligations. It could be a good idea to let them focus on their responsibilities and to use their skills to simply review the grant writer’s work before it is submitted to a funder.
3. Do you have the time to supply the grant writer with information?
It is wise to give the grant writer plenty of notice when asking them to write grants for your organization and you’ll need the time to gather and provide them with all the supporting documents the funder will require. If you are hiring a grant writer for the first time it’s natural that it will take them longer to write a grant for you as they are just learning about your organization. As time goes on you will find that they get faster and more efficient at writing grants for you as they have learned about your mission, programs and services. If you give the grant writer enough notice they will get your grant written in time for you to review and make any edits you would like before the grant deadline date.
Keep in mind that your grant writer may be juggling the work of multiple clients and although professional grant writers are used to that, give them ample notice if you want them to write a well thought out grant application for you. Writing grants takes time and consider more time will be needed if you want the grant writer to explore grant prospects as well.
Take a look at our calendar for some upcoming funding opportunities you may be eligible for.
4. Have other revenue streams been drying out?
Although some not-for-profits avoid grant writing as a revenue source because it requires a significant amount of time, this may no longer be an option. Covid continues to be an issue on many levels and relying on in-person events and networking with funders is far too risky. People have had enough of online events and are suffering from Zoom fatigue. Finding funding opportunities is more difficult than ever. Grant funds could be a source of revenue to explore instead of making a major investment in hiring a new staff member to write grants.
5. Is the grant writer you are hiring experienced and qualified?
Check out who your grant writer has previously worked for and see if they have any testimonials on their website endorsing their grant writing work. You can ask your grant writer if they are a member of the Association of Fundraising professionals. AFP members follow a code of ethics AFP Code of Ethical Standards and members promote high ethical behavior in the fundraising profession and act according to the highest goals and visions of the organizations they work for.
Grant writers who are AFP members also define the nature and purpose of any contractual agreement from the beginning, ensuring that there are no surprises. Furthermore, they will sign a confidentiality agreement with your organization and will not share privileged or sensitive information. They do not accept finder’s fees or contingent fees, nor do they accept salary or grant writing contracts based on a proportion of contributions.
You may also determine if they are a CFRE-certified fundraising expert. This accreditation is recognized all around the world and denotes a competent and ethical fundraiser. Find a CFRE
Hire a grant writer who has a track record of successfully locating and securing funds for relevant causes. Inquire if they’ve written case statements before. Have they conducted research, written grant proposals, and successfully applied to foundations, government agencies, and corporations? Do they have tracking systems in place? These are crucial inquiries to make.
You can also inquire as to how much experience your grant writer has and what their success rate is. This due diligence will provide you piece of mind when engaging a grant writer for the first time, especially if this is your first time.
6. Can we afford it? How much do grant writers charge?
Some organizations may be hesitant to hire a professional grant writer because of the cost, but in the long run, it may be more cost efficient for smaller and mid-sized not-for-profits.
Grant writers charge a wide variety of fees, depending on their experience and success record. Some charge by the hour, while others charge by the grant. Rates range from around $30 per hour on the low end to $100 or more per hour on the high end, with delivery times ranging from 5 to 30 days, depending on the grant’s difficulty. Other grant writers charge a flat fee per award, such as $1000.
Before proceeding, double-check the credentials of the grant writer. You must still pay them even if the grant is not funded. They should be able to provide you with a quote and an estimate of how long the grant will take to write ahead of time. That way, you’ll be able to assess if you have enough money in your budget to move forward.
When comparing contracting a grant writer to hiring employees, keep in mind that staff come with a salary, benefits, and paid vacation and sick leave. To make a fair comparison, make sure you consider all the expenditures.
According to AFP’s Compensation and benefits 2021 report (page 79), in Canada, the median salary for a grants manager was $73,000.00. Outsourcing grants management on a contract basis could be the cost-effective solution you are looking for.
Never agree to pay a grant writer a percentage of a successful grant. Legitimate grant writing consultants will never suggest this since it is considered unethical by their professional associations.
7. What types of grants opportunities are there?
Most organizations hope to supplement their revenue with grants from foundations, corporations, and the federal, provincial, and municipal governments. If your programs and services are a good fit, this makes sense. You can undertake grant research utilizing a variety of tools; however, most of them need payment, and you will need time to complete the research. Professional grant writers frequently use premium services such as Grant Connect from Imagine Canada. Imagine Canada – Grant Connect
Another suggestion is to look at similar organizations to yours and see who is funding them through grants. This information is usually featured on the organization’s website and in the media. You can also check out the funder’s parameters on their website including specific funding deadlines and the types of programs they support.
Has your organization written grants in the past for which you can reapply? This could prove to be an opportunity for additional funding.
You can also search foundations on the Government of Canada’s Charities listings page. Canada Charities Listings Page
You can conduct a basic search using the foundations Charity name. This will bring you to a quick view of the charity’s detail page. Scroll down and you will see what programs and activities they are involved with. If you scroll down further to expenses and you will see what charitable programs and gifts they are supporting and what registered charities and qualified donees they are giving to.
If you are a busy CEO, Executive director, board member or staff member with other responsibilities this work may be too time consuming and not in your wheelhouse so a grant writer may be the key.
8. What are the benefits of hiring a professional grant writer?
There are numerous reasons to hire a professional grant writer as a contractor to help your organization obtain the funds it requires. You may find yourself in need of some temporary assistance and wish to hire a grant writer to provide a service you don’t require on a regular basis or don’t have time to do during busier times.
Professional grant writers are skilled, therefore there is no need to train staff. Hiring a grant writer will save your organization money in the long term because you won’t have to pay for employee benefits, vacation pay, or utilize your time to onboard and manage staff.
This will also allow you to properly manage your workload while maintaining the freedom you require to focus on your purpose.
Grant writers use grant calendars and other methods to keep track of upcoming grant opportunities as well as the status of grants that have already been written. They can also research funding opportunities and keep track of them.
Do Gooders has put together a handy grants calendar.
Before you engage a grant writer, make sure to interview several of them and obtain estimates of their overall cost as well as the names of previous and present clients. If you’re starting from scratch, you can look for consultants on the AFP website or Google ‘grant writers’ in your area and review their websites for testimonials.
If you decide to tackle grant writing yourself, here are some grant writing tips from Do Gooders.
Kathleen Lemieux, CFRE
Empowering not for profits