Hiring a grant writer is one of the most important decisions a nonprofit can make. Nonprofit organizations rely on outside funding to operate. This funding can come in the form of donations, federal dollars, private funders, gifts, fundraising events, and grants.
Gone are the days when organizations could rely on private donations for consistent, sufficient funding. Instead, many organizations rely on grant dollars to fund a significant portion of their budget. According to the 2022 Grant Professionals Association Salary Survey, grants account for 32% of total revenue for organizations on average. For many smaller organizations, grants are most of their “major gifts”.
Applying for grants can kind of be hard, though. It can be difficult to find the best grants for your organization. A Google search may miss hundreds of grant opportunities you are eligible to apply for because a lot of funders don’t have websites. Grant applications typically involve a lot of writing and research. Maybe the last essay you wrote was in college and you’d like to leave it that way. Also, the grant application process is time consuming, and maybe you don’t have the time to dedicate to the task.
If you are in the market to hire a grant writer for your organization, then you need to know what to look for in this candidate. Millionaire Grant Lady and Associates has worked with clients to win over $103 million in grant funding. We know what it takes to successfully win grants.
What you’ll find in this article:
- What certifications should a grant writer have?
- What grant experience should a candidate have?
- What does a full-time grant writer cost?
- How much time does it take to hire a grant writer?
- Do you have enough work to justify hiring a full-time grant writer?
- How could hiring a grant consultant help your organization meet its funding goals?
1. What certifications should a grant writer have?
Grant professionals should have at minimum a bachelor’s degree, but the most highly qualified candidates will have more. A master’s degree and experience in a related field such as social work will show you that the candidate not only has relevant education but also has knowledge of nonprofits and how they work. This is vital for a grant professional because you want them to be able to understand the needs of your organization as well as the grant application process from start to finish.
Additionally, you should look for a candidate who has a recognized professional certification, such as Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) or Grant Professional Certificate (GPC).
To earn the internationally recognized CFRE certification, a fundraising professional must:
- have at least five years of experience,
- demonstrate an understanding of ethical best practices in fundraising, and
- recertify every three years.
Only 14% of grant writers in the 2022 Grant Professional Association’s Salary Survey had a recognized professional certification. This means that finding a qualified grant writer may be difficult in today’s labor market.
2. What grant experience should a candidate have?
If you are looking to hire a grant writer, you probably don’t just want someone who can write grants—ultimately, you want someone who can help your organization win grants. Before hiring a candidate, you should ask whether or not they have won grants because the money you spend on grant writing services should multiply your organization’s funding.
Millionaire Grant Lady and Associates have earned their clients more than $103 million in grant funding. We recently won a $1.5 million grant. When you are considering a grant candidate, if they have this level of proven success, that shows that they understand the grant process from start to finish which makes hiring them an investment that can pay off for your organization.
3. What does a full-time grant writer cost?
If you can find a candidate who has the necessary education, qualifications, experience, and proven record, what will it cost your organization to hire that candidate?
The average compensation for a grant professional in the 2022 Grant Professionals Association Salary Survey Report was $78,569. This does not include fringe benefits. If you estimate fringe benefits at 25%, the estimated total cost of a grant writer is $98,211. This salary represents the average compensation level. To hire the best, you may end up spending much more than that.
What if you choose to hire someone less experienced? What if you hire someone without relevant certifications or who has never won a grant? You may spend less on this individual, but remember that the reason to hire a grant writer is so that your organization can win grants. Money spent on a grant writer is an investment for your nonprofit—you are spending money on their services to increase funding to your organization. This funding is critical to help you keep the lights on as well as fulfill your organization’s mission. The cheapest candidate may not be a good investment.
If the cost of hiring a full-time grant writer is a prohibiting factor, you could consider hiring a grant consultant. Grant consultants tailor service packages to fit your organization’s needs and budget. By hiring a consultant, your organization can hire a highly qualified team that provides superior grant writing services, while also reducing the cost of a grant writer by 36%.
4. How much time does it take to hire a grant writer?
If you are considering hiring a grant writer, you may already have some grants in mind that you would like to apply for. If the deadlines are coming up in the next month or two, you will need to hire a grant writer very quickly so that the application can be completed and submitted before the deadline. If you miss this deadline, it may be a full calendar year or two before you have the opportunity to apply again.
Millionaire Grant Lady and Associates has worked with many organizations that say it takes 6 months or more to hire a full-time grant writer. The hiring process is slow because there simply are not enough qualified candidates in the pool.
The National Council of Non-Profits research details the continuing challenges non-profits face in hiring and retaining staff to serve their communities. Three-quarters (74.6%) of the 1,600-plus non-profits responding to a nationwide survey reported current job vacancies, based on a survey conducted earlier in the year by the networks of the National Council of Non-Profits. Half (51.7%) reported more vacancies in 2023 compared to 2020. More than a quarter (28%) reported a longer waiting list for services than before the pandemic began. The top reasons for vacancies: salary competition (72%), budget constraints and insufficient funds (66%) and stress and burnout (50%).
While you are going through the process of hiring a grant writer, many of these current grant opportunities may be passing you by which could ultimately impact your ability to fund your organization’s projects.
5. Do you have enough work to justify hiring a full-time grant writer?
If you are considering hiring a grant writer, you likely understand that the writer will be submitting grant applications to multiple foundations. But really, how many grant applications does your organization submit in a given year? Do you have enough work to keep a full-time worker busy year-round?
Many factors contribute to the scope of work for a grant writer:
- Geography: Nonprofits in rural communities may have fewer funders that they can apply to. Nonprofits in metro areas typically have more foundations to apply to but they also face more competition to win grants making it even more imperative for metro organizations to hire a highly qualified grant writer.
- Size of the organization: Smaller organizations may have less need for grant dollars, so it is important to not overspend on a grant writer to earn dollars you don’t ultimately need. Larger organizations may apply for more grants in a year and may need more help in developing an effective grant strategy for the organization’s various programs.
- History of organization: Newer organizations may be less competitive for grants. By starting with applying for a handful of grants, these organizations can build some experience and history that will help them become more competitive in the future. More established organizations may need fresh eyes to review grant applications and opportunities.
According to the 2022 Grant Professional Association’s Salary Survey Report, the median number of grants won per organization is 20. Newer, smaller, or more rural organizations may win fewer grants than this while larger, urban, and more established organizations may win more grants. But if we look at the median number of 20, winning 20 grants does not create enough work to warrant the time and financial burden of hiring a full-time grant writer.
While many organizations need the expertise and experience of a grant professional, they may not need to hire a full-time employee. If this is the case, hiring a grant consultant could be a good solution.
6. How could hiring a grant consultant help your organization meet its funding goals?
Hiring a grant writer can be difficult in today’s job market. Qualified candidates are few and far between, it can take 6 months or more to hire someone, and ultimately, hiring a full-time candidate could be unnecessary if you don’t have enough work to keep a full-time employee busy.
A grant consultant is a grant professional or a team of grant professionals who work with many organizations to meet their fundraising goals. When you are selecting a consultant, keep an eye out for their education, experience, and proven record of success. Millionaire Grant Lady and Associates is a grant consulting team led by Alex Dunn, MSW, CFRE. Alex has a master’s degree in social work and is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE). She and her associates have worked with organizations large and small, urban and rural, brand new and well-established to secure over $103 million in funding for nonprofits in Texas and across the US.
While it may take you 6 months to hire the right grant candidate, your relationship with a grant consultant like Millionaire Grant Lady and Associates can typically begin very quickly. To hire a consultant, simply contact them and get the ball rolling. You can expect to start with a consultation where you discuss your organization’s history and funding goals. Your grant consultant team takes it from there, and you can have as much input in the grant writing process as you like.
The cost to hire a full-time grant writer is nearly $100,000 annually. This is a cost that many non-profits cannot afford, but also, most non-profits don’t need to pay this price because they simply don’t have enough work to keep a grant writer busy year-round. Hiring a grant consultant can reduce this cost significantly because you are only hiring for the services you need, and the grant consultant tailors their services to you. Newer, smaller, or more rural organizations might need to hire a grant consultant for a handful of applications just one time. More established, larger, or urban organizations might want to hire a grant consultant to complete 30 applications annually. A grant consultant works with your budget and your needs to develop a plan that is right for you.
If you are looking to hire a grant professional full-time, you are hiring someone from not really a pool of candidates, but maybe instead just a puddle. Candidates are few and far between, and finding the right one takes time. Additionally, your organization may not have a scope of work or the financial resources to attract the best candidates.
Hiring a grant consultant could be the solution your organization is looking for. Millionaire Grant Lady and Associates offers proven grant writing services that are tailored to your organization’s fundraising goals. If you feel we could be a great fit for your organization, contact us! We are ready to join you in the good work your organization is doing.