The Low-Down on Hiring a Grant Writer

Truly effective grant writing is a team effort. It is not something grant professionals do for you, but something they do with you. Just like when you hire a CPA or attorney, you are investing in the future of your organization when you hire a grant writer. Consider these commonly asked grant-writing questions:

Q: What does a grant writer cost?

A: American Grant Writers, Inc., a national association of professional grant researchers, writers and administrators, advises that its members typically charge $50-$100 per hour for researching grant opportunities and $50-$125 per hour for writing proposals and applications.

On the flat-fee side, one New York-based grant writing service lists prices ranging from $2,500 for rewriting a fully developed existing proposal to $3,500 for developing and drafting a new proposal.

Q: Should we pay on a contingency basis?

A: In most fundraising circles, contingency arrangements — paying a grant writer a portion of the grant money received — are considered unethical. In fact, some of the established affiliations, including the Association of Fundraising Professionals, will revoke membership if a member is found to be taking pay from grants received.

The thinking here is that contingency arrangements jeopardize your relationship with the grant donor by using grant funds for overhead expenses rather than what you said you were requesting the money for.

Q: How do we account for a grant writer’s fee?

A: Whether it’s an hourly rate for an outside consultant or salary for an in-house grant writer, this is a fundraising and overhead expense, not program/project expenses.

Q: How can we evaluate a grant writer?

A: First, realize that grants are approved and rejected for many reasons, very few of which are in the writer’s control. Instead of just asking, “What’s your success rate?” give candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their expertise.

For example, you might lay out your priorities, strategies and budget and then allow prospects to analyze your situation and present a case for their services. The idea is to see if candidates are capable of developing a grant strategy with you or if they will simply write what you tell them to.