Tips on Hiring a Grant Writer
To write or not to write, that is the question!
It is always tough to decide if you should hire a grant writer or if you should just do it yourself. Here are a few things to consider when making this decision:
Do you actually have the time to write the grant?
In today's competitive climate, you absolutely must dedicate as much of your time and resources as possible to write a quality proposal. Here is a good formula to use to calculate the number of hours you will likely spend on writing a typical federal or state grant proposal:
Number of narrative pages allowed in the grant x 3 hours of writing, editing, and proofreading per page
+ 1.5 hours to carefully read and outline the RFP (grant application guidelines)
+ 5 hours to write a detailed budget justification and to complete the budget forms
+ 5 hours to obtain letters of support, resumes, and job descriptions
+ 1 hour to complete the grant forms
+ 5 hours to do a final review, compile, and submit the grant proposal
Equals the total number of hours to complete a typical federal or state grant proposal
Do you have the expertise to write the grant proposal?
Nearly all grants require detailed descriptions of who-what-where-when-why-and-how you will accomplish your grant-related goals and objectives. If you don't have the expertise to write articulately, then it is better to use a professional writer.
Are you a detail-oriented person who has the time and experience to put (what can sometimes be a 100 plus page document with many different components) together?
If you answered no to one or more of these questions, then you really need to hire the Grant Experts or a professional grant writer to assist you. Read about the Grant Experts' Free Grant Writing Services here.
If you do plan on hiring a professional writer who is not part of the Grant Experts' pool of professionals, then you need to make a wise, consumer conscience decision regarding who you hire. Here are a few tips to take into consideration when interviewing and hiring a grant writer:
In addition to reviewing the writer's resume, make sure to ask for a detailed list of all of the grant proposals that he/she has written in the past 3 to 5 years. Also ask for the funder's name and the award status (award, denied, pending) of each proposal.
Make sure that if the writer will be developing federal proposals for you, that he/she has federal proposal writing experience (this is a much more intensive type of writing technique than foundation grant writing).
When interviewing the grant writer, confirm with him/her that the grants the writer developed were independently written by that writer. Many grant writers will claim to have written proposals, but then admit that they worked in a team to write only one section of the grant or that they were just responsible for compiling or mailing the proposal. If the grant writer has not independently written a grant that is similar in nature to the grant(s) you desire to be developed, then that writer is not qualified to work for you.
What will you have to pay for the full grant writing service? Do they ask for a contingency fee or evaluation fee if a grant is awarded? Do they charge by the hour (which will very quickly rack up into thousands of dollars for the writing of most federal and state grants)? Do they have a cap on their fees?
Make sure to ask the writer for a reference list of customers who have similar funding needs as yours. Most writers specialize in one specific area of grant writing, such as education, health, research, or social services. If the writer does not have references that are similar to your organization, then there is a chance that the writer may actually not specialize in your field.
Ask for a grant proposal that the writer has recently developed. If the proposal has spelling errors, grammatical errors, or if it just looks sloppy, then don't hire that individual. Grant proposals should look polished and professional.
Find out about the writer's other work commitments; for example, how many other grant proposals is he/she writing? If it is just one other project, then the writer should be fine with juggling the workload. If it is more, then I would be very careful and ask for weekly drafts of the work that the writer is to prepare for your agency. Take the time to review the drafts and always offer your input. If you are dealing with a true professional writer, he/she will never be offended by your feedback.
Here are some other pointers to keep in mind when working with professional grant writers:
If you are planning to use the writer to develop a federal grant, find out right away if the writer plans to submit the grant through grants.gov or through paper submission. If it is grants.gov, you need to make sure that you are registered as soon as possible (it can sometimes take several weeks to complete the registration process). You can either do this yourself or save yourself a huge headache by hiring the Grant Experts to do your registration for you.
Even though you have hired a professional to write your grant, you need to realize that YOU are the local expert on the needs of your agency. Make yourself available to meet with the writer in person or over the phone. Share all of your thoughts, ideas, needs, data, etc. possible with the writer. Many times, if you give the writer a copy of a proposal that you or a member of your organization previously developed, the writer can extract a lot of this information.
Take the time to do a review of the final grant proposal. Compare the number of narrative pages and format to the page limit and format mandated in the RFP. Make other comparisons between the RFP and the final proposal to make double sure that the grant is in full compliance; otherwise, it will get kicked out of the competition without being reviewed. Although the writer you hire may be a professional, he/she is also human and mistakes do happen.