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September 6, 2023

Hiring a Grants Consultant: FAQ & Qualities to Look For

Outsourcing the time-consuming work of grant writing to a grant writing consultant can be a wise investment. That’s because the most valuable place for your leadership team and development staff is not behind a desk, but in front of funders to cultivate relationships. Plus, an external grant writer can provide dedicated focus to propel a grant seeking effort forward.

However, the quality and experience of outside grants consulting services can vary widely, making it important to choose carefully. That’s why we’ve developed this comprehensive guide for choosing a grants consultant for your nonprofit. We’ll cover: 

Below, we will review everything you need to know about hiring a grants consultant, starting with the answers to common grants consultant-related questions you might have. Let’s dive in!

Hiring a Grant Writing Consultant: FAQ

What Does a Grants Consultant Do?

A grants consultant helps nonprofits locate, apply for, and receive grant funding. This can include training your team to identify, pursue, and manage grants or collaborating with your team to write new proposals for you. Consultants might offer their services on a project-by-project or retainer basis.

Why Do Nonprofits Hire Grant Writing Consultants?

When most nonprofits are limited on their time and resources, grant seeking can be a particularly time-consuming task. But grant writing consultants can help remove this hurdle and allow a nonprofit to grow its impact. Ultimately, nonprofits hire grant writing consultants to secure more funding, save time, work more efficiently, and better allocate their resources. 

What Are Typical Grant Writing Consultant Fees?

Since the services provided by grant writing consultants vary so widely, there isn’t a “typical” price for a grant writing consultant. For example, a consultant restructuring a nonprofit’s entire grant strategy will likely cost more than one assisting with a single grant application. In this sense, grant writing consultant fees will vary based on the scope of services provided.

How to Hire a Grants Consultant: 6 Steps

Now that we’ve covered the basics of grant writing consultants, let’s walk through the steps necessary for hiring one. Take your time with this process. Because the grant application process can take months, hiring the wrong consultant can cause serious delays in funding. 

Thus, it’s crucial you take these steps to hire a qualified consultant at the get-go:

  1. Identify your organization’s needs and define the scope of your engagement.
  2. Research options online and ask for recommendations from peers.
  3. Compare your grants consultant candidates and make a list of favorites.
  4. Reach out for samples and/or request proposals from your top picks. 
  5. Review the samples, proposals, and references. 
  6. Choose your new grant writing partner and define the terms of the contract.

But even after these steps, how do you know you’ve chosen the right grant writing consultant? In the next section, we’ll address the top three qualities to look for in your grants consultant and why they matter. 

Essential Qualities to Look for in Grants Consultants

Look for Clear and Compelling Writing Skills.

A grant writer’s goal should be to clearly communicate ideas and tailor the proposal to the guidelines and priorities of the funder. Ask to review samples of proposals the consultant is most proud of and evaluate them according to the following criteria:

  • Is the writing clear, easy, and even enjoyable for you to follow?
  • Do you gain a sense that the organization is credible and that the proposal presents a compelling solution to a palpable need?
  • Even without knowing anything about the funder to which the proposal was written, can you pick up on clues that the proposal was written through a filter of the funder’s mission and interests?

If you can answer “yes” to each of the questions above, you may have a winning grant writer. But a talented writer does not always make for an outstanding grants consultant. A truly impactful grants consultant will possess a wide range of fundraising skills.

Seek the Full Package.

When hiring a grants consultant, you’re not just hiring a “grant writer.” You need a project manager who can orchestrate and cheerlead a smooth process from start to finish. 

When interviewing a consultant, ask these questions to understand their process:

  • Is it part of their consulting service to advise you on funder relationship strategy?
  • Will they outline a project timeline that builds in key meetings and progress milestones ahead of the deadline?
  • How will you communicate? Virtually or in-person?
  • How do they propose to gather details from program staff and organizational partners?
  • When can you expect to review drafts, and what is the process for editing?
  • Who will handle the final submission?

Ultimately, to get the full package, seek someone who is not only skilled at proposal writing, but also funder strategy and project management. 

Don’t Get Swept Up in Win Rates.

While it’s appropriate to ask a grant writing consultant about their track record and “win rate”—the percentage of grants they’ve written that were successful—keep in mind the nuances of fundraising. 

There are many factors outside the grant proposal—like the organization’s reputation and its relationship to a funder—that influence a funder’s decision. Thus, a decline doesn’t automatically indicate a poorly written proposal. Furthermore, a grant writer can drive up a success rate by only choosing to write “safe bet” grant applications. 

Instead of focusing only on “wins,” ask questions to gauge a grant writer’s experience and familiarity with certain types of grant applications. 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?
  • Do they have expertise in government grant writing and applying for federal grants?
  • Do they have experience writing grants to specific foundations you are interested in submitting to?

Deciding to outsource grant-seeking can add tremendous value to an organization. Finding a trustworthy grants expert with experience is the key to helping you maximize your opportunities and provide solutions to your challenges. Follow these tips, and you’ll be on the path to selecting a professional worth the investment.

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