Organizations hire external grant writers for a number of reasons such as, they don’t have the internal expertise to write grants or they can’t afford to add a grant writing position to their payroll. The number one reason I find that organizations hire external writers is their desire for success.
We write grants all the time and when you have a talent to do something, and you do it a lot over time, you tend to get pretty good at it. So our staff writers have developed their talents over time and through a lot of perseverance, education, reflection, and just plain mule-headed determination.
But my point here isn’t that we’re good –we are very good – the point is we’re also dependent on our clients to commit some real time and intellectual capacity to the exercise of writing a grant.The most recent case-in-point is a local non-profit organization (the Center) who we helped to write a large grant for some new programs.The grant was successfully funded and I attribute part of our success to the staff at this excellent community-based organization.
I did the writing, but a number of the Center’s staff provided feedback and crucial information throughout the process.They didn’t treat me like a Grant Valet; they didn’t simply toss me the keys and tell me to go off and write the grant for them.
My experience is that the “grant valet” attitude often results in an inferior grant so when you employ a grant writer, be ready to do some work. At a minimum, be prepared to do the following things during the grant process:
- Identify a clear program you want to fund that aligns with your mission.
- Be prepared to read drafts and give meaningful content feedback (not simply edits).
- Ask your accounting staff to help prepare a realistic budget.
- Keep the process flowing smoothly by returning emails and phone calls promptly.
I commend the staff at the Center highly for their work. It’s reflective of a functional organization that not only delivers excellent programs but is looking to the future for new opportunities and has ownership of those opportunities before they’re realized.
Signing a grant writing contract and thinking that you’re going to hand off all the work like the car keys to a valet is a huge mistake. Plan to commit some cerebral time during the process in order to ensure that your organization is accurately represented in the narrative. You’ll end up with a grant that you can fully implement and one that is much more likely to achieve its objectives.
(This post was written by CRR Non-Profit Consultant, Derek Link.)