After trying to write several grants themselves and realizing what a daunting and competitive task the process is and how it can cripple a smaller nonprofit, many CBOs realize that hiring a professional whose only focus is to write the best proposal possible is a great idea — that is, until they find out the writer’s hourly rate and say, you’re just what we’re looking for…but you’re too expensive.” But there are ways to get a topnotch grant writer on board:
First, as you are well aware now, grant writers love an underdog. And maybe, in addition to your clientele, your own agency is a bit of an underdog: that is, is determined to succeed despite the tremendous odds against you. So if your cause is good, if the bottom line is delivering the best possible human service and not personal gain or ego fulfillment, and if you breathe life by living example into the quote about having the mental fortitude to do the job and take the job seriously, but yourself not too seriously, then you are not out of the running.
Second, most great grant writers I know donate many hours a year (gratis and at reduced rates) to help underdogs with a good cause.
Third, astute grant writers know that if your cause is good and your staff is good and the grant is good — that equals success. Success means that you grow as an agency. Growth means needing and winning more grants. That means that if your loyal, and you should be, more work for the grant writer down the road.
Fourth, you can also get several great grants out of a writer for the price of one. You can hire the best to write one grant and then use their words and research as a boilerplate for future grants that you write. While we of course caution you not just to cut and paste but to adapt their words to the specific needs of each grant, at least you will have a solid, professional foundation to work from.
Fifth, you can use a great grant writer as an editor, after the first draft. In other words, involve them in the planning and outlining process described in my new book RIGHT BEFORE YOU WRITE (click on the Sandy Point Ink link to the left). Then you and your staff go ahead and do the grunt work, the first words-on-page draft that follows the planned structure. Following that, have the writer come in and do an edit and a polish. This also solves the problem of a writer being willing, but not available, to work full-time on your project.
Finally, don’t be shy about being honest and asking the grant writer directly: “Is there a way we can benefit from your services within the parameters of our limited budget?” With a great grant writer, there is always a way.