How to Hire a Grant Writer

Organizational Management April 29, 2022

Sayana Izmailova

By Sayana Izmailova

Operating a nonprofit is expensive, and most can’t rely on donations alone to cover their costs, especially when they’re first starting up. 


That’s where grants come in — funds you can get from the government (or a foundation) that you can use towards your nonprofit’s operations and don’t have to pay back. For many nonprofits, grants are a significant source of income that their future depends on. 


The only problem is, grants are highly competitive and securing them isn’t easy. It takes hours and hours of research and hard work, and even then, a positive outcome isn't guaranteed. 


If you're like most nonprofits, you’re probably understaffed, strapped for time, and drowning under piles of to-do lists. You can’t just drop everything and spend all your time writing grant applications that may or may not pan out!


We get it. This is why grant writers exist. If you’re hoping to win a grant, but don’t have the time or expertise to prepare the application, you can outsource the process to a professional who has both. 


Sounds intriguing? Keep reading, because we’ll cover everything you need to know about grant writers — what they do, why you should consider hiring one, how to prepare, and how to actually find them. 


Let’s dive in! 


Read More: Non-Dues Revenue: The Basics

What Does a Grant Writer Do?

A grant writer helps organizations secure funding through grants. This can involve:


  • Researching grants, eligibility requirements, and deadlines

  • Working with the organization’s staff to gather all the necessary documentation

  • Writing a proposal

  • Developing and submitting the application

Why Should I Hire a Grant Writer?

Is hiring a grant writer the right option for your organization? If you're considering taking the leap, there are a bunch of benefits of outsourcing your grant writing process:


1. They have experience in grant writing

An experienced grant writer has submitted hundreds of grant applications. This means that they’re very familiar with the process, guidelines, requirements, and navigating the submission portal. The likelihood that they’ll miss something or make a mistake is a great deal lower than if you were to write the application yourself. 


Not to mention, nonprofits based in the same area likely apply to the same grants, so there’s a good chance that the grant writer you hire has experience with the exact grant you wish to apply for. 


2. They have strong writing, research, and project management skills 

Grant writing is not like any other genre of writing. It takes a special understanding of how funding agencies work, what they’re looking for, and how to position your proposal in a way that’s compelling and persuasive. 


Before they start writing, grant writers also spend many hours researching and collecting information. They’re skilled at juggling moving parts, working with multiple people to gather information, and bringing it all together well before the deadline. 


3. They know what goes into a successful application

Grant writers know which of the past applications they worked on were successful. Thus, they can base your grant application on them and ensure that your organization has the best chance of winning the grant. They know exactly what kind of information to include and how best to present it. 


4. They have an unbiased perspective

You may have a clear idea of why your organization deserves to receive the grant, but it’s possible that your perspective is biased. A grant writer, on the other hand, will be able to look at your organization from an outsider’s perspective and frame your mission and goals in a way that’s objectively impactful. 


5. You’ll be free to focus on other important tasks

As is hopefully clear by now, preparing a grant application is no small feat. If you and your fellow staff members already have a lot on your plates, hiring a grant writer will free up your time and let you focus on running your organization and serving your community. 


Read More: The Complete Guide to Diversifying Your Nonprofit Revenue Streams

What to Prepare Before You Hire a Grant Writer

Hiring a grant writer is a great option and can increase your chances of winning the grant. That being said, it’s not just up to the grant writer to do the work. They'll be coming in with virtually zero information about your organization, your history, and your future plans — it’s up to you to provide them with everything they need in order to prepare a successful application. 


Without your input, even the most skilled and experienced grant writers won’t be able to help you win the grant. 


Here are a few important pieces of information you’ll need to prepare before working with a grant writer:

 

  • Grant calendar: Which grants are you hoping to apply for and when are their deadlines?

  • Case statement: What does your organization do? What’s your mission and why do you need the grant money? 

  • Your impact to date: Does the work you do have a real impact? How have you made a difference in your community and the lives of your beneficiaries? 

  • Your future plans and goals: What is your strategic plan moving forward? What are you hoping to do with the grant money? 

  • Fund manager: Who will be responsible for handling the grant money and making sure that it’s spent wisely and in accordance with the original plans? 

  • Financial information: Before you receive a grant, the funding agency needs to have confidence in your organization’s ability to handle finances. Provide everything you can to prove that your organization is stable and has consistent revenue coming in. Make sure your accounting system is accurate, offers a detailed history of every transaction, and gives easy access to reports. 

  • Point person for the grant writer: Assign a liaison who’ll be responsible for communicating with the grant writer, answering questions, and providing them with everything they need. 

  • Past grant applications: If you’ve applied to grants before, provide the applications to the grant writer for reference. Regardless of whether or not the applications were successful, they’ll act as a useful starting point.

 

Read More: 30+ of the Best Google Docs Templates for Nonprofits

What to Look For In a Grant Writer

When hiring a grant writer, your best candidates should have the following: 


  • Considerable grant writing experience, especially with organizations in your industry

  • A high success rate (percentage of applications that were successful)

  • Good references from past clients

  • They’re easy to reach and communicate with

  • They share your organization’s values and have an appreciation for what you do (this is not a must, but a grant writer who’s passionate about your cause will be more likely to put in their best efforts)

  • If describing your organization’s work involves a lot of technical terminology, the grant writer should be familiar with it


Here are a few more general qualifications that highly sought-after grant writers share:


  • Strong written communication and research skills

  • Good work ethic

  • Attention to detail

  • Resourcefulness and creative problem-solving skills

  • Superb project management skills


Lastly, consider the grant writer’s fee/rate relative to the grant amount. If you’re applying for a substantial amount of funding, it may be worth it to spend a bit more to hire a highly experienced grant writer.

How to Find a Grant Writer

One of the best ways to find a grant writer is through your organization’s existing connections. If you know of anyone who has successfully received a grant after working with a grant writer, see if they’d be willing to put you in touch. If no one comes to mind, try sending out a quick email to your network, posting in a professional group chat, or posting on LinkedIn. 


Otherwise, you can do a bit of online searching to find a grant writer. Below are a few ideas and helpful resources:


What to Include in Your Job Ad

When posting your ad for a grant writer, be sure to include the following:


  • A brief description of your organization

  • A description of the position (Do you need them on a freelance, contract, part-time, or full-time basis? Will it be a one-off project or will you have regular work for them?)

  • Duties and responsibilities

  • The qualifications you’re looking for

  • Additional skills and assets

Will You Hire a Grant Writer?

Hiring a grant writer is not a one-fits-all solution — it makes sense for the nonprofits who are ready, can afford it, and are prepared to do whatever they can to help. If that sounds like your organization, that’s great! Hopefully, this article has given you a little more insight into how to go about hiring a grant writer. 


If you choose to go a different route and handle grant applications on your own, be sure to check out our article on How to Start Grant Writing (+ Templates). It has everything you’ll need to get started. 


Best of luck with your grant applications!

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