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Commission-Based Fundraising: Just Say NO!

Updated: Jan 4, 2020

I often get questions on how grant writing and fundraising works. The services provided by professional grant writers are often misunderstood, undervalued, and sometimes, not even respected. People want guarantees and don’t want to pay for something that doesn’t immediately return their dollar. They don’t understand that grant writing is an investment towards your future fundraising goals.

Oftentimes, potential clients ask if a grant writer or fundraiser can be paid a portion of the grant once it’s awarded. The simple answer is no. Grant research and writing are services with payment expected at the time the work is done. Fundraisers can’t be paid on commission like salespeople for several reasons.

1. It’s not transparent to the donor who is anticipating their gift is supporting the organization

2. It’s not fair to the fundraiser to hopefully get paid at a later date

3. It’s against accounting best practices to pay for fundraising services at a later date

Would you want to be paid only if your work is deemed successful by a third party? Of course not. The Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Grant Professionals Association both have codes of ethical standards that address this issue. Additionally, GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) also states that fundraising services must be paid for at the time of service, not months later, when a grant is awarded.

A professional grant writer must, not only know how to write a complete sentence and a coherent paragraph, they must also be able to tell the story of your agency and include all the information required by the foundation. They make sure all supporting documents are presenting your organization in the best light and meet a deadline, often on short notice. And, even when everything is at its best, there’s no guarantee that the proposal will be funded. Foundations are people, too. Even if a foundation has supported your organization for two or three years, that does not mean they will support you the following year.

A good grant writer can make recommendations on which foundations are the likely to be the best fit for your nonprofit. A local grant writer should be able to explain how to build a relationship with area foundations and better position your nonprofit for fundraising success.

Working with a professional grant writer and knowledgeable fundraiser comes down to transparency, integrity, and respect. The nonprofit and grant writer have the same goals: raise philanthropic dollars, being open with your donors, and representing your organization with integrity.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in start-up and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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