Many nonprofit organizations have something important in common: they are thrifty. They are able to get the most out of their dollars. Many employees within nonprofit organizations would call themselves “Jack of all trades.” While it may be true that nonprofit employees do many different tasks, not every employee or volunteer is actually able to do every job in your organization. That includes writing grants.
The idea of being thrifty and resourceful often carries over into areas where a nonprofit may not get the best value, however. Too often, organizations are turning to the wrong people to conduct research and write their grant proposals, thinking that the job is just about writing. They may look for individuals within the office who can write well or go outside of the organization to try and find someone to do pro bono grant writing. This can actually be a costly mistake.
Your grant writer needs to be more than a writer. He or she must have solid knowledge of your organization and a very strong ability to analyze the fit of your organization to foundation interests. The grant writer must be able to interpret your financials and budget, understand the optimum time to apply for a particular grant, and be able to help guide you through the process. The grant writer should know as much as possible about the foundations to which you might apply. He or she needs to understand how to convey your results, develop goals and objectives for the proposals and be able to follow explicit directions in preparing your proposals. These skills take time to develop.
A grant writer should never – ever :
- Write mass, mail-merged proposals
- Charge you a percentage of what you receive
Nonprofits can pay a high price for failure to find the right grant writer who has the necessary experience and knowledge of foundations. Your organization’s credibility is at stake with the foundations when you present them with your proposals. An inexperienced grant writer will take twice or three times as much time to research your grants because of their lack of knowledge of local foundations. You will be sent on wild goose-chases which waste time and money. You can lose grants that you would have otherwise gotten because of poorly written and ill-conceived proposals.
So before you think about utilizing a student, volunteer or the grant writer who will work for nearly nothing or a percentage to write your grants for you, understand that there could be a greater cost to your organization for doing so. Take the time to find the right, experienced grant writer.
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