Top 4 Things to Look for in a Grant Writer

I recently read a forum post where a gentleman asked, “I’ve been burned so many times by Grant Writers. Any tips on finding a good one?” Sadly, I’ve heard that before. There are steps you can take to ensure you’re hiring a person of utmost integrity. Here are four things to look for.

  1. A recently funded proposal: ask the prospect to see a recently funded grant proposal, and proof that it was indeed funded.
  2. Membership in a grant writer’s organization that promotes a code of ethics.
  3. A website, blog or other social platform that is regularly maintained and active in content
  4. Someone who seeks professional development on a consistent basis

A recently funded proposal should be one that was awarded within the last 12 months. The grant professional can omit or block  private or sensitive information. Take note of the narrative and budget section. Ask yourself if you were on the grant review panel, would you have been impressed enough to fund the proposal? The grant professional should be able to produce an email or award letter to prove it was funded. The amount of the award matters less than the award itself. A funded proposal is fantastic in its own right.

Membership in an organized association that promotes ethics is extremely important. I am happy to be a member of the American Grant Writers Association. Many of the ethical and legal policies I follow were taught to me by this fine organization. For example, grant writers are not lawyers. They should never accept payment as a “retainer” or offer to accept a percentage of the award. They may write the grant writing fee into the proposal, if the funder allows such an expense. But you (your organization) will still be paying the hourly rate as it is billed. If the grant is awarded, you may have the opportunity to recoup those fees. If a grant writer tells you that he or she can wait for the award to be paid, you’re being duped. There’s a catch somewhere, because that is simply unethical. However, it is ethical for the grant writer to enter into a contractual agreement with you to provide services. The contract may include an initial consultation fee, a research rate per hour and a proposal writing rate. All fees should be agreed upon by both parties prior to service – in writing! Grant writer ethics are extremely important. One warning: if a grant writer offers to submit proposals in your organizations name, be aware. The organization should always be the submitting agency. The grant writer may guide and assist, but should never submit without your knowledge and signature. These are examples of ethics versus unethical behavior.

A website, social outlet or blog while not mandatory, is strongly recommended.  I believe these add credibility to any business whether small or large. Read what your prospective grant writer is posting. Get to know him, follow him and interact with him or her. Since grant consultants often work as independent contractors, you may not often see that person face to face. But if they have a website, you can determine the activity level, the responsiveness and the integrity based on the content he or she espouses.

Ask the prospective grant writer how often he or she attends training courses. Why? Grant writers need to be kept in the loop about the updated technologies, online portals and government regulations. For instance, as a Certified Grant Writer®  I am require to obtain 21 CEU’s every two years. I often attend a bi-annual conference and teach courses to obtain my credits. Volunteer grant writing is another plus. Though it’s not formal training, it is a learning experience and a generous donation of time.

Now here’s a word to you as the hiring entity. Grants are not guaranteed. Your grant writer might be doing a phenomenal job, but at the end of the day, it’s up to the review panel to decide. Grants are often highly competitive. Thousands of grant proposals are received, and several are not even read. So, know up front that it’s not always due to a bad grant writer. This is why I always tell my grant writing students to follow my practice of applying for numerous grants consistently. Yes, some grants are indeed denied because of poor proposal writing and lack of presentation. But, keep in mind that is not always the case. That’s why you should always ask to see successful proposals and references from happy clients.

I hope this article helped you in your quest for a grant writer! Be sure to pre-order my e-Book, Fund Your Philanthropy (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Want to learn to write your own grants? Click here.

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