Tips for engaging a professional grant writer
Don’t assume your grant will magically come together just because you’ve engaged a professional grant writer. You are still not off the hook.
Writing grant applications is time consuming. It’s one of those things that always ends up at the bottom of your to-do list.
Because most grassroots community groups are run solely by volunteers, many are now turning to paid professionals to assist with tasks such as grant writing, proposal development and even preparing submissions in response to government policy and community consultation processes. Clearly there are issues which need to be weighed up before you head down this path – as using consultants for any type of work can be costly if you don’t have a good idea of what it is you’re buying and how they will deliver it.
Here are a few tips to make the journey more efficient for all involved:
Make sure your application is being targeted at the appropriate funding body
When we are so passionate about the environment and the work we’re doing, it’s easy to assume everyone will feel the same way. Government funding programs have very specific outcomes they need to achieve and if you don’t think your project is a perfect match, it probably isn’t.
If you’re going to be paying a professional grant writer to pull together your funding submission, you need to make sure you’ve done your homework in the first place. Is the funding program a suitable match? Have you fully developed your project? Do you have all of the necessary partners on board? Do this legwork first and you’ll save yourself time and money in the long-run.
Agree on the costs and fees
Many professional grant writers opt for a set upfront fee and an additional commission if the grant is successful. Make sure you understand what the fee structure is and when you need to pay. Most funding programs will not allow you to take a grant writer’s fee out of your grant, so you need to be able to pay for this out of your own funds. If you are negotiating a commission, don’t be afraid to negotiate a cap on the amount you will pay.
Agree on the tasks each of you will complete
It is not possible for a grant writer to write a grant for you from start to finish without your input. Agree at the beginning what tasks you need to complete. Some of these tasks will include the collection of supporting documentation (including certificates of incorporation, insurance certificates of currency, bank statements, annual reports and financial statements), arranging letters of support and working out the budget. Basically the grant writer will write the grant application from the information you supply them so your application will only ever be as good as what you contribute in the first place.
Know your whats, when, hows, whos, and whys
Before you even consider engaging a consultant, you must understand all of the elements of your project and be able to articulate them. Being able to write these succinctly is the realm of a professional grant writer, but you still have to be able to brief your consultant on what it is you want to do. Remember, external grant writers don’t have the corporate memory that you do. They probably won’t have a connection to your organisation’s mission or vision. That means you need to brief them as comprehensively as possible.
Find a good grant writer
Professional grant writers often specialise in certain types of grants. Some will focus on building and infrastructure programs, some on employment and training programs, some on rural development. Try to find a grant writer that specialises in the area your project sits. But as with most consultants, the best way to find a good grant writer is by word of mouth. So ask around. Ask your network if they can recommend someone or if they’ve had success with a particular provider. And on the flipside, ask your consultant for references, a list of grants previously submitted, and even samples of their work.
Ask about their success rate
Get to know your grant writer. Find out what their past success rate has been. Have they worked with organisations like yours? How do they problem-solve and what kind of self-starter are they? Are they a good fit for your organisation? How will you communicate and share files? There are lots of administrative processes to sort out when it comes to engaging a grant writer, so make sure you choose someone you know you can work with.
Always review the final submission
The submission will come from your organisation and will likely even have your own name on it. It’s important to ensure you set aside time to read the final proposal, check it for accuracy and make sure you’re not over-committing.
Need a grant writer? The Grants Hub has a list of independent grant writers you can suss out for more information.
At Wombat Creative, we’re not available to write your grant, but we can help with grant writing training for communities, local councils and small business associations. Shoot us an email for more information.