Many Colorado nonprofits have found it very useful to use contracted grant writers. Typically, we contractors are efficient, cost-effective and very experienced. However, in all the years I have been doing this work, I have also observed that some grant writers you might consider hiring are – well – full of malarkey! So I thought I would shed some light on grant writing that will help you if you are considering hiring a grant writer – or if you are wondering about your own.
The most egregious practice I have seen among grant writers is that they completely over-emphasize their need to conduct extensive research to find grants for nonprofits. The truth is, if you are a Colorado nonprofit, serving local constituencies, the only resource you truly need for research is the Colorado Grants Guide. If your potential grant writer never heard of the Colorado Grants Guide – don’t hire that person! It is absolutely ridiculous and wasteful for someone to spend countless hours of your paid time to conduct manual research for local interests. They should start with the Colorado Grants Guide. Spend some time researching some national foundations. What they should not do is tell you they are searching nationwide, using some database or proprietary information you never heard of.
Two other very valuable resources are the Foundation Center and Guidestar. These can be used to find some little-known resources after you have thoroughly reviewed the Colorado Grants Guide. The Foundation Center is an excellent resource if your work extends beyond Colorado. For most of what you might use the Foundation for, a simple membership will go a long way.
The next area where potential grant writers tend to extol their prowess is in spending countless hours helping you to develop your “case statement.” They may make you think that developing a “case statement” is the equivalent of having a weekend strategic planning retreat! It’s not. Again, when writing grants to local foundations you need to have good information about your issue, the need which your nonprofit fills and why you are different than other organizations – all in five pages or less. Developing this material should not take an enormous amount of your time or the time of the grant writer. If you are hiring a grant writer for government grants, the case statement is more extensive and time consuming so you should expect it to take longer if you are pursuing those.
The last “malarkey” area is about the amount of time it takes to write a grant, and the cost associated with that. In the beginning, it does take some time for a grant writer, no matter how experienced, to get up to speed with your organization and where to apply. However, if you continue working with one grant writer it should not take days to write a single grant. You need not pay thousands of dollars for one grant, either. As I have said in a previous blog, it is very frowned upon for grant writers to work on a percentage of your grant. That can amount to thousands of dollars on each grant.
When you are looking to hire a contracted grant writer, it is best to hire someone who has a lot of experience and has worked with several organizations. It helps a lot if they have worked with similar issues or constituencies. Their experience saves you an enormous amount of time and money because they will already know a lot about which foundations might fit your mission. They are able to write for you easily, because they knew your issue fairly well before you hired them. If you are not able to find someone who knows your issue fairly well at least look for someone who has proven to be a “quick study.”
CommUlinks of Colorado specializes in working with nonprofits that have an advocacy component, “people issues,” disability-related missions, health issues, at-risk kids and missions related in any way to people experiencing poverty. Contact us if you are considering hiring a contracted grant writer.