Should you hire a professional grantwriter?Strong grant proposals must adhere to each granting organization's guidelines while communicating your social mission in creative and compelling ways. This is no easy feat — and sometimes calls for professional help.
Consider the options
If you're in the market for a grantwriter, you have three options:
- Write the proposal yourself (or ask another staff member)
- Hire a grantwriter as an employee
- Contract a professional writer or agency
The best choice for your organization will depend on your size, staff and work experience. For some organizations, hiring a professional grantwriter can prevent both headaches and wasted time. Others may not have available capital, but will decide to invest in an in-house program by taking time to train a current staff member.
Benefits of working with a professional grantwriter
A professional grantwriter will save your organization time and energy. Consider the benefits:
- Outside perspective and experience. Working with a grantwriter will mean more eyes on your work, ready to catch mistakes that might lead to a rejection. The writer will bring his or her own body of knowledge to the table, and might even be able to shed new light on your work. Plus, it's always helpful to have someone from outside your organization evaluate your mission and proposal.
- Increased proposal saturation. As a general guideline, you'll need to apply for approximately three times as many grants as you hope to win. However, many organizations simply don't have the internal resources to reach this level of proposal saturation on their own. Bringing in an outside writer can help increase and diversify your reach.
- Professional editing. An experienced grantwriter will focus and polish your proposal, which may result in more successful applications.
Drawbacks of working with a professional grantwriter
If an outside grantwriter can increase your odds of securing grants, what's the catch? Here are some reasons you might want to reflect before seeking outside help:
- Expense. Hiring a professional grantwriter can be expensive. For some organizations, the cost is prohibitive.
- Lack of institutional memory. Someone new to your organization won't know when you filed your last application or if your materials are up-to-date. Professional writers can quickly be brought up to speed, but expect a grace period as they adjust to your nonprofit's culture.
- Divided attention. Most freelance grantwriters work with multiple clients at the same time, so you might not get the writer's undivided attention — although a professional writer will be able to juggle all of this and make sure you get everything you need.
The bottom line
If you choose to hire a professional grantwriter, look for someone who's a good fit for your organization. Ask for references and examples of the writer's work. Make sure you're comfortable with the writer's approach and his or her willingness to listen to your concerns and take your feedback into account. Consider asking the writer to sign a short-term contract so that you can test the relationship before investing.
Resource Associates: To hire or not to hire a professional grant writer?
The Grant Experts: Tips on hiring a grant writer
Professional Grant Writers: What new nonprofits need before hiring a grant writer (2016)
Blue Avocado: In search of unicorns: Finding & hiring grantwriters, part 1 by Jan Masaoka