What you should know before hiring a grant writer

person with short brown hair wearing a striped sweater has their back to us looking at a bulletin board full of notes

So you want to hire a grant writer! That’s a big step for any organization and there are three important things to consider before you jump in.

You should interview prospective writers, but traditional questions are outdated 

The first question many people want to ask a potential grant writer is “what percent of proposals that you write get funded?”. This isn’t a great question and is more than likely going to give you only partially true information. Here’s the truth. Nationally, grant writing success rates range from 5-30% industry-wide.

There is no standardized scoring entity, but, depending on where you do your research, you’ll find sources stating that 1 in 10 applications are approved for funding, 20% of federal grants are approved, or up to 30% of grant requests receive a favorable response.  With this range, one could consider a grant writer with a 20% rate to be rather successful. 

However, there’s so much outside of a grant writer’s control. Sometimes organizations ask writers to prepare grants that aren’t a good fit, but they want to go forward with them anyway. Other times a funder has changed their priorities behind the scenes and hasn’t updated their website. There are a million variables that go into why a grant is awarded, and only one of those is the quality of the writing in the proposal. Check out our other tips & then download the grant writer readiness & interview guide below! 

We can’t accept payment as a percent of grant awarded

It’s a common misconception that grant writers can be paid as a percentage of the grant awarded. However, this is an unethical practice. For one, it could cause grant writers to over emphasize your grant fit or outcomes to a funder so you get the award, then you’ll be scrambling on the implementation side to make it happen.

Second, grant writing is tangible work. It takes time, experience, and expertise to craft well-written proposals. Typical grant writing fees can be upwards of $200 an hour for expert writers working on large proposals, and it’s worth it. Even if you get a “no”, the grant writer has done work they should be compensated for. You can use this grant language for future grants, fundraising, and to shape the future of the organization. 

You’ll need to be involved in the process

Grant writers can’t be successful without input from the organization. Often this requires time up-front in onboarding sessions where the grant writer gets to know your organization, goals, and ability to carry out grants of various sizes. Once the grant writer has a better understanding of your mission, vision, and goals, the process is going to take less time on the organization side. However, you’ll still need to be involved in the final submission process, ensuring everything is true and that the budget aligns with your organizational goals. Often grant writers do minimal budget creation and focus more on the narrative. 

Okay, now that you understand some misconceptions about hiring a grant writer, download our pdf for a checklist to see if your organization is ready for grants, and questions to ask a potential grant writer!