Outsourcing the time-consuming work of grant seeking can be a wise investment. That’s because the most valuable place for your leadership team and development staff is not behind the desk, but in front of funders to cultivate relationships. Incorporating an experienced grants consultant, especially a full-service team like Grants Plus, will bring added leverage and expanded capacity to propel your grant seeking effort forward.
The quality and experience of outside grants experts can vary widely, making it important to make a careful choice. Following are our tips on what to look for when hiring a grant writing consultant.
A grant writer? Or a grant strategist?
First, decide if what you need is a “grant writer” or a full-service grant seeking strategist. If what you need is assistance with grant proposals to funders you already know, you may be well-served by an independent grant writing contractor whose focus is on preparing a limited number of grant applications.
But if you are seeking to launch or grow your grant seeking program to the next level, you may need more comprehensive and strategic support from a full-service firm like Grants Plus.
That’s because transformative grant seeking is not just about grant writing. It’s also about effective prospecting, strategy, and relationship building.
To know you are growing your grant revenues to their full potential, you should enlist a grant seeking partner with the capacity and expertise to:
- Evaluate your current grants and determine if you are maximizing the grants you receive now.
- Design a grants game plan to keep you focused on the right funders, (which are those most likely to fund your organization!).
- Consistently search for new funding opportunities to refresh your grants pipeline.
- Guide you to confidently open doors with new funders and gain their interest to the point that they are asking you to submit a proposal.
- Prepare compelling grant applications more likely to be funded.
Questions to ask
Your grant seeking provider should be a smart strategist, an excellent grant writer, an adept researcher, and also a confident project manager who can orchestrate a smooth process from start to finish. When interviewing a consultant, ask these questions to understand their process:
When interviewing a consultant, ask these questions to get a sense of their experience, approach, and process:
- Is it part of their service to advise you on funder relationship strategy and search for new funding opportunities?
- Will they outline a project timeline that builds in key meetings and progress milestones ahead of the deadline?
- How will you communicate? Will there be a regular pulse of strategy sessions to keep your grants plan on track?
- During especially busy times, can they bring on additional capacity to manage many projects due at once?
- Who will handle procedural steps, such as uploading and submitting proposals to funders?
- Does the consultant have expertise to manage complex federal applications or approaches to competitive national funders?
Look for a breadth and depth of grants experience
While grant seeking isn’t only about grant writing, you certainly want to make sure your grants consultant brings superior skills in grant writing and a breadth and depth of experience.
In preparing grant applications, a grant writer’s goal should be to clearly communicate ideas and tailor the proposal to the guidelines and priorities of each funder. This requires skill not only in writing, but in assessing and interpreting what each funder is looking for.
It’s appropriate to ask a grant writing consultant about their track record. But take their “win rate”—the percentage of grants they’ve written that were successful—with a grain of salt. A grant writer can drive up a success rate by only choosing to write “safe bet” grant applications. Instead of focusing only on “wins,” use questions to gauge the range of grant consultant’s experience. For example:
- Do they identify as a “generalist” who is comfortable writing about any type of organization or do they specialize in certain issue and topic areas?
- If you’re seeking help on a federal grant, make certain this is a consultant with that expertise—government grant writing is a special kind of monster.
- How do they ensure the quality of their writing? At Grants Plus, we’ve defined internal standards for grant writing that all of our team members are trained to meet and held accountable to.