by Jason Rogers
You’ve decided to go for it. Made the leap. Closed your eyes and jumped.
You are officially an independent grant writer. Congratulations!
One of the very first client interactions you will have is the initial consultation. If you’re like most development professionals, you have plenty of experience with the skills associated with grant writing. You know all about researching grants, finding the right match, communicating with program officers, crafting strong and relevant narratives, and projecting outcomes. What you may not know is how to prepare for your first client consultation. As someone who has recently walked this road, let me share my experience (and suggestions) with you.
Do Your Homework
Put yourself in the shoes of the organization who is hiring you. How would you feel if your new grant writer showed up to your first meeting and didn’t know anything about your organization? It’s 2019, there is no excuse not to research the company that you are meeting with. Visit their website and social media or reach out to your colleagues to see if they have any insight to share. Familiarize yourself with the organization’s history, mission, and key staff. It may seem like a small gesture, but it will help you build rapport and confidence with your new client.
It’s likely most of your grant writing experience came as an employee of the organization for whom you were writing. As a development professional, you knew your company inside and out. During your tenure, you were able to collect all the information you would need to tackle any kind of grant proposal.
As a contracted grant writer, those days are over. Hopefully you will be fortunate enough to develop long-term clients, and eventually will gain an extensive knowledge of their organization, but for now, you are at the mercy of your client.
As a consultant, you are the solution-bringer, the expert who is here to streamline processes and ease the burden of your client. So, prepare them to prepare you. Compile a checklist of all the things you may need as you start creating proposals for your client. If you need some guidance, Funding for Good has a great (and free!) Grant Readiness Checklist right here.
The initial meeting is your first chance to really understand what your client needs and what they don’t. Come prepared to discuss everything from mission to current projects to board involvement. Ask away and make sure you invite them to do the same. Your questions will set you up for success with your new client.
Charge for Your Time
As a grant writing professional, your time is valuable. Charging a fee for an initial consultation is an industry standard. Not only does charging for an initial consultation ensures that you aren’t wasting your time, it creates a level of investment from both parties. Don’t undervalue what you bring to the table.
You are meeting with this client for a reason. Maybe you were suggested by a mutual colleague; maybe they found you online or at a networking event. No matter how they heard about you, your background and ability were enough to convince them to hire you. You have the experience, be the expert and help take your new client to the next level!
Get A Coach
Whether it is a short-term engagement or a longer program, find someone who you like and trust and get some professional guidance as you begin the consulting work as a grant writer. I had the experience of having a development coach for the first 18-months of my career and now have a mentor and friend who shares their personal experience to help me grow in my consulting work. The time and energy saved by learning from someone who is experienced in this field is invaluable.
The importance of your initial client consultation cannot be overstated. This is your chance to make a first impression and to decide if you are a good fit with the organization. Do your homework, come prepared, ask questions, and get to writing!
If you are ready to explore taking your passion to the next level and learn the details of what’s involved in a grant consulting gig, check out this 1.5-hour webinar replay of our webinar, Grant Consulting: What’s Involved. Click Here To Learn More.