Thursday, March 21, 2013

Guest Blog: Selecting a Grant Writer

How do you choose the right grant writer, one that will help you achieve your fundraising goals? Easy, pick one who ‘gets it’. 

Most non-profits who are hiring a grant writer are doing so because they cannot afford a full time Director of Development or their development office needs augmentation from time to time. In all cases, organizations need value. And the way to achieve value is to hire someone who not only possesses excellent writing and analytical skills, but someone who can quickly get up to speed – understand what your organization is about and what you are working to achieve. In most cases, clients need someone with programmatic and management experience so they can put the organization’s narrative in the proper context. 

This is the process I suggest organizations go through when choosing any grant writer, and a criteria for selecting the right grant writer: 


  1. Get your ducks lined up. You need to have a clear understanding of what your organization is about and what you want to achieve before hiring a consultant, otherwise you will be wasting a lot of money. Consider this checklist:
    • Is your mission clear and well articulated? Is it going to change in the near future?
    • What program do want to attract funding for? Is it well defined? Does it need changes?
    • Is your program staff on-board with the idea of expanding/ implementing the program?
    • Do you have written materials about the program that the grant writer can reference?
    • Is your program achievable with quantifiable objectives?
    • Have you identified appropriate funders whose funding criteria you match.
    • Do you have a needs statement/data about the population and demographic that you serve?
  2. Think about what you need the consultant to do. Do you have a clear set of tasks you want the grant writer to accomplish? If your program needs development, consider hiring someone with program and possibly strategic planning experience.
  3. What is your long range plan? Do you anticipate needing a grant writer for a one time application or possibly someone that is available on an on-going basis? Be sure to discuss this with potential candidates to see if they match your needs. 
  1. If possible, select someone with experience in your sector, who is familiar with the type of programs that you operate.
  2. If you need someone to brainstorm and help you develop your programs on the fly, choose someone with program or strategic planning experience. Often times during the grant writing process a savvy grant writer will find holes in the program’s approach or other inconsistency that should be addressed.
  3. It is helpful if the grant writer has philanthropy or board experience. This type of person will have the perspective of the funder in mind while crafting your proposal.
  4. Hire someone you get along with! You will be spending a lot of time with this person and it is important you have a comfortable and productive working relationship. Most important – hire someone you feel you can trust.
  5. Look for someone with a wide range of experiences. Don’t hire someone who has only achieved successes (or tells you such). We learn as much from failure as from success, and in the world of development you need to take your knocks and be persistent.

Aaron Rome is the owner of Rome Specialties, Inc., a BBB Accredited Business since 2006.

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