Considerations When Hiring a Grant Writer

by | Feb 16, 2024 | Development/Fundraising, Grant Research, Grant Writing

 

If you’re a nonprofit leader, finding a great grant writer is like winning the lottery.

These grant writers transform your organization’s programs into written materials that move donors to write your organization a check. All while freeing up your time to focus on impact!

But grant writers come in more varieties than you might expect. Over in our nonprofit consulting community, The Hive, our members tend to specialize in working with different types of organizations. For example, one grant writer works primarily with arts and culture organizations, and another for national advocacy groups.

Different grant writers also work with clients in different ways. Some are partially embedded, providing a range of fundraising-related services. Others write your grant and offer invaluable guidance, but don’t provide long-term services.

So, how do you find the right grant writer for your organization?

 

Do You Need to Hire a Grant Writer or an Overall Grant Professional?

Before talking to grant writers, it’s important to understand the types of services you are seeking. Grant professionals can fill a variety of needs at your organization.

Writing grant proposals

Generally, when we talk about writing a grant, we’re referring to the letter of inquiry (LOI) and/or the proposal narrative. But some grant writers also coordinate the full package of materials submitted to funders. They may even complete online submissions for you. If you need it, you can also find grant writers who will write grant reports.

Researching grant prospects

Before you write a grant proposal, you need to find potential funders for your work. Many grant professionals subscribe to professional funder databases. Because they’re familiar with the data and the funders, they can conduct grant research that delivers a well-matched foundation prospect list—giving you a head start in fundraising.

Tracking and managing grant deadlines

While funders may sometimes ask for proposals with a quick turnaround, you should never be surprised by grant reporting deadlines. Grant professionals can help you set up grant tracking systems, and make sure everyone on your team knows what they need to do and when.

Coordinating funder updates and follow-up

Just like with individual donors, you need to cultivate your relationships with grantmakers. A grant professional who offers this service ensures you’re providing program officers and staff with regular updates about your organization’s work. Some fundraising professionals also help you prep for meetings with program officers.

Monitoring foundation strategies

Grant professionals tend to keep an eye on major announcements, leadership changes, and strategy shifts in the philanthropic sector. This extra insight can be valuable when developing your grants strategy.

 

What Makes a Good Grant Writer?

Grant writers’ primary job is to turn your program ideas into compelling narratives that will resonate with funder audiences.

This requires a special alchemy of skills. Grant writers must be strong writers, attentive to detail, able to meet deadlines, and understand how programs and organizations work and what funders are looking for.

Some grant writers have experience running and evaluating programs as well, meaning they can provide thoughtful questions about your proposed strategies, activities, and benchmarks. This can ultimately help you design even stronger initiatives.

 

Skills to Look for When Hiring a Grant Writer

When you’re hiring a grant writer, here are some key things to look for:

  • Experience with similar organizations: Some, though not all, grant writers develop a niche working with specific types of organizations. For example, some grant writers love working with locally based direct service organizations, while others work mostly with national groups.
  • Excellent writing skills: While experienced grant writers have long resumes of proposals written, some are just getting started. But newer grant writers will likely have relevant and transferable experience, such as writing newsletters, websites, or promotional materials. If you’re not familiar with the grant writer, ask for writing samples!
  • Familiarity with writing for different audiences: This is a skill few nonprofits ask about, but that is especially essential. Foundations are not a monolithic audience. For example, funders for direct service organizations are often quite different from funders for arts organizations. Great grant writers take the time to understand the audience you are appealing to.
  • Comfort with feedback: Grant writers hone the ability to receive and act on feedback. It’s worth asking up front how a grant writer prefers to receive your input and at which stages. For example, do they prefer comments on a document, line edits, or an email with your overall thoughts? Often, experienced grant writers will have a specific feedback process.

There is one thing we do not recommend asking grant writers about: their success rates. There are so many variables when it comes to whether a grant is awarded or not—and few of them have to do with the grant writer’s skill. If you’re curious about how much grant writers charge, check out our article on How to Determine Grant Writing Fees.

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Would it be helpful to know what you need to jump in and start working on most grant applications before you begin the grant writing process?

 

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