Hiring a grant consultant is a big step for any nonprofit. You're ready to add grants to your fundraising strategy and using an external source makes the most sense for your organization. It can save you time in the hiring and onboarding process, money in salary and benefits, and get you the funds you need faster. But how do you know what to look for in a successful, professional, and experienced grant writing consultant? Here are five questions you should ask after you connect with a consultant to learn more about his or her experience.
1). What have been some of your successes in your career?
Asking a grant writer to share stories about their "wins" can give you an idea of the depth of their experience. Have they been a part of requesting a large grant? Was there one request that challenged them beyond the norm?
2). Describe your process.
An experienced grant writer knows that being successful is more than being able to write well. Successful grants are typically the result of a lot of research, communication with the donor, and deep knowledge of the requesting organization and its needs. When hiring, you need to know that a grant writer understands this and has the processes in place to ensure that he or she is submitting the highest quality proposal on your behalf with a strong possibility of being funded based on processes beyond a well-written grant narrative.
3). Do you have any previous clients that could provide recommendations? Regardless of the amount of funds he or she may have raised, a previous or current client should be comfortable sharing his or her experience working with a grant writer, that grant writer's process, communication style, and general customer service. How often do they communicate? Do they need a lot of supervision, or can they work relatively independently? Consider asking for the same information when interviewing for any other position on your staff. Shy away from asking specifics about the amount of money raised, as most people will probably be uncomfortable answering that question.
4). Where do you find grant opportunities?
If hiring a consultant, he or she should be able to tell you the sources for finding grant opportunities easily. Most of these sources will probably be online, but they should be aware of internet databases and have access to those as part of their consulting business. If they do not have subscriptions to those sources, discuss their plans for accessing those and determine if that will be part of their charge to you.
5). How do you charge your clients?
Some grant writing consultants charge by the hour (expect anywhere between $35-$100 per hour based on experience), and some by the project. Do they bill monthly or when the project is complete? Do they require a deposit? Knowing how the financial part of the relationship will work ahead of time can save you and your consultant lots of future headaches. Getting this in writing (e.g., a contract) is highly recommended.
BONUS: Don't ask, "What's your success rate?"
While it seems logical to ask a grant writer his or her success rate, it doesn't paint the picture you think it would. You want to know if they've had any luck with the proposals they've sent out on behalf of their clients. But asking for a success rate or percentage funded isn't always accurate. Say you're talking to a grant writer who has submitted one request, and that request was funded. That's a 100% success rate. But you may not necessarily want to work with someone who has only ever submitted one proposal. Asking for an average gift amount is a much better indicator of success.
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