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How to Work with a Contract Grant Writer

Last week I wrote about whether grants applications or the budgets came first. Click HERE to read that article. Now, let’s discuss whether your organization has the capacity for grant writing.

There are some nonprofit leaders who might think that funding from a foundation is easy and/or “quick” money. But, as a seasoned fundraiser, I often counsel newer organizations to first build up their base of support from individual donors. Why, I’m asked. Because foundations want to see a diverse base of support.

According to the latest survey from Giving USA, 69% of all donations in the U.S. were made by individual people; another 10% of all funds were in the form of bequests from individuals and the remainder was from foundations (17%) and corporations (5%).

Whether you hire full-time or part-time staff or a contract grant specialist, this checklist will provide what they need to get started, but depending on the funder, additional information may be required:

  • Organization’s information: mission and vision statements, history, programs, community needs, collaborations, how you measure success (outcomes and outputs).

  • Number of clients served and demographics: gender, age, ethnicity, and socio-economic group.

  • Budgets: overall organization and program.

  • Recent financial statements.

  • Most recent Form 990.

  • Most recent audit, if any.

  • Listing of board members, including professional affiliations of each member. Some funders may also ask for gender and ethnicity.

  • Whether board members give (100% board giving is often expected by some foundations).

  • Information about other funding sources.

  • List of major donors.

  • Contact information for Executive Director or other primary staff: Name, Title, Email, Phone, Address.

  • Copies of current policies.

  • IRS 501(c)(3) letter (ideally less than five years old).

Now you have all your documents in an accessible electronic file, and you’ve decided to hire a contract grant writer. Here is an overview to help you manage expectations:

  • The Grant Professionals Association annual membership survey reports that a typical, full-time grant writer submits 45 – 50 grant letters and proposals per year.

  • It is unethical to pay on a commission basis or on a percentage of the grant awarded. A grant writer cannot simply add their fee to the grant proposal.

  • Consultants use different methods to charge for their services. Some may charge an hourly rate and others may offer a monthly package or project rate.

  • As with anyone who is new to your organization, you will need to include time in your schedule to meet with them and support their work.

  • You typically won’t see overnight success. Foundations have their own processes and schedules. Success can be defined in ways other than dollars raised.

If you have a small development team, a contract grant writer makes sense. Keep in mind that the Executive Director or Development Director must take the time to work directly with the person to identify prospective funders, guide the process, and review applications and proposals. Having an experienced grant writer on your team is an excellent way to increase your fundraising efforts.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching and fundraising services, including grant writing for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in startup and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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