Article: To Hire or Not to Hire a Professional Grant Writer?

That is the question that many nonprofit and government professionals struggle to answer. Using a grant writer is an additional—sometimes unanticipated—expense of an organization…and, there are no guarantees of a return on one’s investment when using a professional.

There are three main avenues that agencies, like yours, can take to boost their grant writing activities:

  • Option #1. Using existing personnel to write grants
  • Option #2: Hiring a grant writer as an employee
  • Option #3. Outsourcing a grant writer subcontractor

There are numerous benefits and some disadvantages to each of these options. In this article, we explore 5 specific benefits for going with options 2 and 3.

5 Benefits of Hiring (or Outsourcing) a Professional Grant Writer

1. Proposal Saturation
If your organization goes with option 2 (hiring the writer as a member of your personnel team) or option 3 (subcontracting the writer), you are always going to benefit as far as “proposal saturation.” This is a term Resource Associates uses to describe the number of quality proposals an organization produces within a year’s time. Regardless of one’s personnel/W2 or 1099 status, acquiring the help of another staff member to develop proposals–one who is not already bogged down with administrative or direct service duties –is pretty much always a great idea to increase proposal saturation.

If your organization is serious about securing a significant amount of grant dollars in the next year, you must take into consideration that even the best grant writing professionals in the United States experience grant denials. In fact, in a recent survey Resource Associates conducted amongst its Grant Siren users, the average grant writer reports only to have an award rate of 30%. So, if your annual goal is to acquire $5 million in grant funds by the end of this year, you would need to apply for over $15 million in grants in hopes that your writer’s award rate is around or above the national grant writer average.

Grants, of course, vary greatly in dollar award size and funding periods; however, most grant writers would tell you that it is very unlikely to pursue $15 million by writing 2 or 3 grant proposals. If this were the case, it would be worth an Executive Director’s time to work late nights and the weekends to squeeze these few proposals out. Unfortunately, the reality is that most organizations would need to meet a saturation goal of developing at least 10 grants to be in the ballpark of raising $5 million in grant monies for the year. Again, there are exceptions to this statement but arguably, higher proposal saturation can and should lead to greater dollars secured. Using a professional grant writer who is not a member of your existing staff is a reasonable way to maximize proposal saturation.

2. Proposal Diversification
When an organization chooses to outsource grant writing to a company like Resource Associates, it not only removes limitations to achieving high levels of proposal saturation but also can enhance what we call “proposal diversification.” This term can be used to define the different genres and types of grant proposals an organization develops and submits in a year’s time.

As you probably know, there are thousands of federal and private funding opportunities available for all types of programs and services. These range from medical and behavioral health grants, K-12 and higher education academia, drug/alcohol/tobacco prevention and cessation, research, economic development demonstration, cultural learning, domestic violence housing…and a multitude of other areas. Although grant eligible agencies generally focus on accomplishing a singular mission, the initiatives and services needed to accomplish the mission can often times overlap amongst the above listed (and other) grant areas. For example, Resource Associates’ has a Texas-based nonprofit client that operates with the mission to: reduce the negative effects that poverty has on its local youth. There are numerous ways this organization could accomplish its mission. These could include but would not be limited to: school-to-work and career development programs; low income housing; community immunization or dental clinics; adult and child literacy services; academic enrichment activities that poorer children are not typically able to access outside of school (arts, music, etc.); etc. Grants that might cover just these areas could come from the US Department of Education, OJJDP, the Administration of Children and Families, SAMHSA, and HUD (just to name a few).

It is great to have many grant options available to pursue one’s mission! Unfortunately, most grant writers are content experts in only one or two areas of funding. Grant writers come from all different kinds of education experiences and backgrounds. It is one’s higher education and focused work experience that makes for a true professional grant writer. If you need a grant written for a youth sports program, you will want to use a writer who has worked as a former teacher or school administrator. Even a coach or program director in a “boys and girls club” or “YMCA” type of organization could be a good fit. In reality, it is unlikely that a single grant writer comes from a professional background in all potential overlapping areas of an organization’s desired grant pursuits and goals. You, for example, are typically not going to find a writer who has worked as a teacher AND who has experience in developing a detailed program design and budget for a sustainable community housing program.

All that being said, the larger the pool of expert grants writers you are able to tap into, the higher volume of grants your organization will be able to write AND the more diverse types of proposals your organization will be able to submit.

3. Peer Review Ops
Most professional grant writers will agree “more is better” when it comes to the number of individuals who read and provide input on a grant proposal prior to submission. Choosing to outsource to a grant writer who is affiliated with a team of professionals should guarantee that 2 or more writers and peers will be reading that proposal to ensure quality and to catch any potential errors that could lead to a denial. Even if your organization chooses to hire a part-time or full-time in-house grant writer, your time as an administrator could better be spent by offering the writer critique and technical assistance. Instead of spending weeks writing the proposal, choose to spend hours reviewing the written proposal to make it better and fundable.

4. Cost Efficiency
Tapping into option 3 is the most cost efficient solution to enhancing your grant writing engine. Consider the fact that you can retain a professional grant writer from Resource Associates to write a proposal for as little as $500. Grant writing firms, like Resource Associates, charge flat fees based on the narrative length of a grant proposal. By doing so, our clients always know (up front) how much the proposal preparation cost will be. Last year, the clients of Resource Associates paid an average of $1,800 per grant proposal. Throughout Resource Associates’ 20 year history, less than 5% of our hundreds of clients have ever paid more than $3,300 per proposal.  Think about all the money you could save when considering the cost for a full time W2 grant writer, which starts around $65,000 a year. When considering option 1, you would probably agree that the cost of your administrative staff working around the clock and risking burnout is immeasurable.

5. Perks and Resources
Using a W2 or 1099 grant writer comes with additional perks. A true professional will be connected with all types of resources that could save your organization thousands of dollars. Consider Resource Associates’ Grant Siren. This is a free service that provides grant alerts via email or text in all areas and types of funding. Grant Siren is the most comprehensive and up-to-date compilation of grants available anywhere. Resource Associates operates a whole department staffed of grant researchers. All these full time staff members do is review hundreds of RFP links and databases to capture every available grant relevant to our clients. This is a free service that most organizations don’t know about.  If you are an Executive Director or other professional who only dabbles in grant writing, you may end up deciding to pay for subscriptions to grant research services that can range from $100 to over $1,200 a month. Not having the time to thoroughly investigate the differences in services and content, you probably wouldn’t even know that the information available through paid subscriptions is all bundled into the free Grant Siren alerts and database.

Bottom line: make the right decision to work smarter not harder by using a professional grant writer. Your organization will benefit by being able to apply for a larger volume of grants and a greater diversity of grants. If you chose to work with a firm like Resource Associates, you are guaranteed that a group of professional peers will conduct quality control reviews of the proposal and offer continual input to enhance the proposal’s chance of award. By paying as little as a few hundred dollars to write a grant, you will be saving your staff’s time and your organization money while tapping into free resources, like Grant Siren, that can ensure you never miss another grant opportunity again.

 

Interested in learning what Resource Associates can do for your organization? Call 888-472-6841 or complete the form below. There is never a cost for consultation.

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