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Determining Grant Writing Compensation

How much should I pay a grant writer?

Is it better to hire a contractor or an employee?

Do I have to pay them if the grant isn’t funded?

What do you mean, no commission?

These are just some of the questions I’m often asked by my clients about working with a grant writer.

Last year, I spoke to a nonprofit leader who inherited a compensation practice of paying their contract grant writer an hourly rate plus 20% of funds raised. While this isn’t illegal, this practice crosses ethical boundaries.


The Association of Fundraising Professionals Code of Ethics addresses this directly under Compensation, Bonuses & Finder’s Fees:

(Members may) not accept compensation or enter into a contract that is based on a percentage of contributions; nor shall members accept finder’s fees or contingent fees.

Regardless of whether the grant is funded, the grant writer is still paid out of non-restricted or operating funds. To make this point, I ask budget-conscious nonprofit leaders, would you offer to pay your CPA a percentage of your IRS tax refund?


So, how does an organization set appropriate compensation for a grant writer? As with other professional services, a rate is based on market value and work experience for either the contractor or employee.

According to the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) 2020 Salary and Benefit Survey Results:

  • The average salary for a grant writer who is a full-time employee is $71,474.37 per year plus benefits.

  • Part-time employees earn an average of $37.86 per hour.


Outsourcing grant work can be a cost-effective way to build your fundraising team. The payment schedule can be hourly, project based, or a monthly retainer. I’ve written about working with contract grant writers previously; click HERE for that article.


Grant writing is a specialized fundraising talent. The person must be proficient with the English language, understand and apply the rules of grammar, construct a compelling message, and follow directions. Not all development professionals possess this skillset.

Finally, have realistic expectations for your new grant writer. They need time to fully understand your organization and programs. Materials may need to be created or updated. Investing in a solid grant strategy and resources will help you and your nonprofit be more successful.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching, grant writing, and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in small to mid-size organizations because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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