Grants allow nonprofit organizations to create innovative programs, fill service gaps, expand their services to underserved populations, and address a public purpose. They can play an integral role in diversifying your funding portfolio. However, finding, preparing, and winning public or private sector grants can be challenging.
Below are some suggestions and resources the DC Office of Partnerships and Grant Services (OPGS), part of the Executive Office of the Mayor, has compiled to assist you in considering the benefits of hiring a professional writer, identifying prospective consultants, and, finally, working effectively with the grant writer. Please note that OPGS may not endorse the grant writing services of any external consultants or fund raising organizations.
A. The Costs and Benefits
Preparing grants takes time and skill. Often grant guidelines can be confusing and complex. Competition is stiff. A qualified, professional grant writer with past experience and proven success can take the burden of coordinating the grant development process and assist your organization in ensuring that you have a technically sound proposal. They can also provide guidance as to the program’s purpose and idiosyncrasies in the application process, as well as bring objectivity to the development process.
There are three important things to think about when considering the hiring of a professional consultant:
1. Grant writing services are typically not cheap. Assess and be sure of your ability to pay the consultant fee. Shop and ask around. You may find one of your Board members or other volunteers has writing expertise and is willing to assist you on a pro bono or low-cost basis.
2. Grant writers should not develop projects or programs for your organization. Nonprofits and their partners must design the program and define the parameters of the budget to ensure that the grant proposal fits with existing programs and the organizational strategic plan. The primary role of grant writers is to professionally package applications so they adhere to grantor requirements.
3. Grant writers must have verifiable relevant experience and skills to produce the applications. Look for proven success writing federal grants, amount of grant dollars awarded, other relevant experience in the specific program area. Look for grant writers who have experience as proposal readers for grant panel reviews. Ask the grant writer for references and samples of written grant proposals.
B. Identifying a Grant Writer
After you have evaluated your organization’s needs and resources, determined that an outside consultant is necessary to improve your chances of winning the competition, you will then want to procure the grant writer’s services as early in the proposal development process as possible. This will give the writer full advantage of brainstorming meetings, addressing data gaps, and understanding what your organization wishes to accomplish.
The following resources may help you identify potential grant writers. It is important that you conduct your own due diligence before selecting any consultant or other professional to assist your organization.
Association of Fundraising Professionals
AFP is the leading professional organization for fundraising executives who work for nonprofit and philanthropic organizations. The DC Metro chapter has over 950 members. Please visit www.afpnet.org, email [email protected], or call (703) 684-0410 for more details.
Association of Proposal Management Professionals
The National Chapter of the APMP is made up of professionals from all areas of proposal expertise from proposal planning and development to proposal production. Please visit www.apmpnca.org for more details.
CharityChannel Consultants Registry
CharityChannel is an online community of over 10,000 nonprofit professionals. The consultant registry enables nonprofits to search for consultants by location, name or area of expertise. Please visit
http://charitychannel.com/professional-growth/consultants-registry, email [email protected], or call 1-949-589-5938 for more details.
HandsOn Greater DC Cares’ Skills-Based Volunteer Program
Greater DC Cares provides volunteer opportunities at nonprofits throughout the Greater Washington area.
Its Skills-Based Volunteering Program helps skilled professionals connect to community-based nonprofits with opportunities that are usually project-based. Grant writing and other organizational development projects are just a few of the opportunities offered. Please visit http://www.greaterdccares.org/ or call (202) 438-3411 for more details.
Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations
The Maryland Nonprofit Association assists nonprofits to obtain the professional services and technical assistance they need to operate effectively. The consultant databank is a collection of services and product for use by nonprofit organizations. Please visit http://www.marylandnonprofits.org/dnn/Strengthen/ConsultingServices.aspx, or call (410) 727-6367, toll free within Maryland (877) 565-0707 for more details.
Center for Nonprofit Advancement’s VENDORBANK
The mission of the Center for Nonprofit Advancement (formerly Washington Council of Agencies) is to strengthen, promote, and represent nonprofit organizations in metropolitan Washington in order to help them better meet the diverse needs of their communities. Its VendorBank is an online directory of professionals, consultants and businesses that work with nonprofits. Nearly 200 services are currently listed. Please visit http://www.nonprofitadvancement.org/vendor_bank or (202) 457-0540 for more details.
C. Working with a Grant Writer
Once a grant writer is hired, it is imperative that your staff remains engaged in the grants development process. To ensure a successful end product, you should:
- Devote staff resources to work closely with the grant writer
- Thoroughly understand the application guidance provided by the grantor
- Develop required partnerships and collaborations
- Collect and make available agency-specific data
- Ensure draft proposal is critically reviewed by qualified readers
- Work with grant writer to prepare budget and budget narrative
- Obtain all necessary certifications, assurances and signatures
- Make sure enough copies of application are produced
- Deliver application to grantor by the deadline