A grant writer is vital for organizational growth, but hiring a full-time grant writer is not always the best fit. Grant funding is an essential part of fundraising for nonprofit organizations. In fact, according to the 2022 Grant Professionals Association Salary Survey, grants account for 32% of total revenue for organizations on average.
While many nonprofits rely on grant funding for a significant portion of revenue, how nonprofits fill their grant writing needs varies significantly from organization to organization. Some nonprofits make grant writing a small part of someone’s job description. Another nonprofit may have different departments apply for their own grant funding. Though grant writing is often layered on top of other job responsibilities, hiring a qualified, experienced grant writer with a proven history of winning grants can significantly and positively impact your nonprofit’s funding. Read our article to learn more.
Hiring a full-time grant writer is not the best fit for most non-profits, though. According to the 2022 Grant Professionals Association Salary Survey, the average salary for a full-time grant writer was $78,569, not including fringe benefits. If you estimate fringe benefits at 25%, the total cost of a grant writer is $98,211, but you could end up paying more for someone highly qualified. This bill is too expensive for many nonprofits. Additionally, the median number of grants won per organization is 20 (2022 Grant Professional Association’s Salary Survey). Winning 20 grants does not really create enough work to warrant hiring a full-time grant writer.
If you want to hire a grant writer but don’t want or need to hire someone full-time, you may wonder: Do you have to hire a grant writer full-time, or can you do something different? What is the best option to help your organization meet its fundraising goals without overspending on grant writing services?
Million Dollar Grant Lady and Associates has worked with clients to win over $103 million in grant funding. In our work with nonprofit organizations, we have learned that many organizations face challenges in hiring a full-time grant writer and are seeking alternatives to employing someone full-time to do grant work.
This article will explore some alternatives to hiring a full-time grant writer. What option best balances the cost of grant writing services and your organization’s funding needs?
- Can you hire a seasonal grant writer?
- Can you hire a part-time grant writer?
- Can you hire a grant writer that does multiple jobs?
- Can you hire a grant consultant?
Can you hire a seasonal grant writer?
If you are in the market for a grant writer, you probably know of upcoming grant deadlines you are interested in applying for. Maybe these deadlines are all in the same time frame, so you might be considering hiring a seasonal or temporary grant writer to complete the grant work.
Sometimes, grant applications do seem grouped. For example, many foundations have applications due near the end of a quarter or at the end of their fiscal year. But just because you know of a few grant deadlines in one month, that doesn’t mean that all of the grant work can be completed then. Meeting the grant deadline is just one small part of the grant process.
Here are some aspects of the grant process to consider beyond the deadline:
- Finding grant opportunities: The grant winning process actually starts by finding the best grant opportunities for your organization. While you may know of a few funding opportunities, there are many other funders locally and across the United States. Researching these opportunities is an essential first step in the grant application process.
- Letter of Intent/Inquiry (LOI): Some application processes start with an LOI. LOIs may need to be submitted ahead of the posted application deadline. Sometimes, what is listed as a grant deadline is actually an LOI deadline, which means the actual grant application may not be due until after your LOI is accepted and you are invited to submit a grant application. Sometimes, you can wait months between submitting an LOI and being invited to submit a grant application.
- Grant application: Each funder has its own unique application form, but each application will include writing, research and data. Completing the application can be time consuming and requires research, organization, attention to detail and analysis.
- Rounds of grant applications: Some funders prefer to have their grant applications submitted in rounds, similar to having multiple interviews for a job. In the first round, you and many other organizations apply for funding using a shorter application form. If you pass the first round, you and a smaller group of candidates submit ever more detailed, lengthier applications until you reach the selection round. Sometimes funders have three to four rounds of applications before selecting organizations to fund.
- Follow-ups and reports: Once your application has been submitted, you may want to follow up with the funder. If you are selected for grant funding, the foundation may have a specific form to submit reports on the progress of the funded program. Regardless of whether they require it, you will want to send a report about the program’s progress to express your gratitude and show how their funding supported your vital work. How your organization interacts with the funder after you receive grant dollars is an integral part of receiving future grant money from the foundation.
If we put each of these steps on a timeline, we would see that grant writing is not a seasonal task. From start to finish, the grant process can take months to complete. If your grant professional is just a temporary hire, they won’t be around to complete all of the application steps.
What’s more, grant professionals are in short supply. If you are only willing to hire a grant writer for a few months, you are likely not attracting the most qualified talent to the role. Ultimately, hiring a temporary grant writer will likely not get you the results you are looking for—grant dollars earned for your organization.
Can you hire a part-time grant writer?
If you don’t have enough grant work to justify hiring a full-time grant writer, you could hire someone to do part-time work. Then, the workload you have and the amount you are paying for grant services will be more in balance.
When foundation application timelines span many months, a part-time grant professional will be there to continue the grant work, unlike a seasonal or temporary worker. This kind of continuity will help your organization be more successful in winning grant dollars.
But will hiring a part-time grant writer allow you to find a quality candidate?
Qualified grant professionals have at minimum a bachelor’s degree, but they often have more. A highly qualified grant writer will have a master’s degree as well as relevant industry certifications such as CFRE certification, experience with nonprofits, and a proven track record of winning grants. In general, qualified grant professionals are hard to find, and it is a very competitive job market. Millionaire Grant Lady and Associates have worked with many organizations that say it takes six months or more to hire a qualified grant professional for a full-time position. It could take much longer than that to fill a part-time position.
Part-time workers come at a reduced cost. In addition to lower pay, part-time workers often do not receive benefits like health insurance, retirement and paid time off. This is a huge cost savings to a nonprofit. However, it is just not likely that a person with a master’s degree who successfully wins grants will be willing to work part-time for lower wages and no benefits when there are many full-time positions going unfilled.
To fill a part-time position, you may end up settling for a person who doesn’t have vital education, experience or certifications. The grant writer’s experience and qualifications will ultimately impact whether or not your organization wins grant dollars. Remember, hiring a grant writer is an investment for your organization. The money you spend on grant writing services will multiply funding for your organization. You want to hire a grant winner, not just a grant writer.
Can you hire a grant writer that fulfills multiple roles within your organization?
If you don’t really have enough work to warrant hiring a grant writer full-time but you understand that a full-time position is more attractive to prospective job candidates, you might be considering hiring a full-time candidate who can be a grant writer and _____ (you fill in the blank).
It is true that in many organizations, especially smaller nonprofits, personnel have to wear many hats. So maybe you are thinking a grant writer could complete grant work while also serving as an event planner, a database manager or work in HR. But we must consider the grant writer’s scope of work and who the grant writer is likely to be—Can your grant writer successfully complete the grant work while performing other job duties?
Grant writers are generally introverts. Introverts are usually not event planners. Grant writing is very deep work—it takes a lot of knowledge about the grant-winning process to do it well. Additionally, grant writing takes focus and sustained writing and researching time. Asking a person involved in this deep, sustained, independent work to essentially multi-task all day will lead them not to have the time or focus to complete the most quality grant work.
Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea that it takes 10,000 hours of focused practice to become an expert. Assuming a 40-hour work week and 50 weeks of work in a year with two vacation weeks, it will take a person five years of full-time work to become an expert in their role. However, if the person only works as a grant writer for 20 hours a week, it will take them ten years to truly become an expert. While they are learning the grant process, you are not getting the best possible results.
If you hire a person to fill multiple job roles, this shortchanges all their roles. The person you hired to be a grant writer is then not truly able to be an amazing grant writer, an amazing database manager, or an amazing event planner. Instead, they are doing all of these roles just okay, good enough to get by. And when one of the job roles hits a busy season, for example when a large event is coming up that your organization is hosting, the other job roles will likely suffer. If the large event occurs in the same time frame that a donor reaches out for more information, you may lose a grant that otherwise could have been won.
Additionally, layering job roles can increase burnout. 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 (75%) 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 (52%) reported more vacancies in 2023 compared to 2020. The top reasons for vacancies included salary competition (72%), budget constraints and insufficient funds (66%) and stress and burnout (50%).
Layering other tasks on top of your grant writer could negatively impact the quality of their work, increase their sense of burnout, and ultimately lower your ability to win grant dollars.
Can you hire a grant consultant?
Most nonprofits do not need or cannot afford to hire a full-time grant writer. However, just because a nonprofit doesn’t need a full-time grant writer, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have access to quality grant writing services.
Hiring a grant consultant can be a good fit for organizations who want access to quality grant writing services without hiring a full-time grant writer. When you hire a grant consultant, you get:
- A highly qualified consultant team: When choosing a grant consultant, you have the power to select a team with credentials, experience and a proven track record of success. For example, Millionaire Grant Lady and Associates is a team of grant writers led by Alex Dunn, who has more than 15 years of experience, is CFRE accredited and has a master’s degree in social work. Her experience and expertise guide a team of grant writers dedicated to winning funding for your organization. Millionaire Grant Lady and Associates have won over $103 million dollars in grant funding for their clients.
- A range of services that meet your organization’s needs: Your grant consultant tailors service packages to the needs of your organization. For example, Millionaire Grant Lady and Associates provide service for organizations that can include foundation research, grant writing services, and our Attractiveness Quotient where we analyze how you present yourself to potential funders. We can help you apply for 5 grants or 30 grants. We can help you just one time or every year. Not sure where to start? We can help with that, too!
- Grant services can begin anytime: Whether you are just starting to think about applying for grants, you are mid-application, or you need follow-up reports created and sent, Millionaire Grant Lady and Associates is ready to join you wherever you are in your work. After an initial meeting, your grant consultant team takes it from there and you can have as much or as little participation in the grant application process as you like.
- Superior services that better fit your budget: When you hire a full-time employee, you are responsible for their entire salary and benefits, a price tag that can be nearly $100,000. Hiring a grant consultant team can significantly reduce this cost because you only pay for the services you need.
Grant consultants are partners with you in your organization’s work. They join you where you are and help you reach your funding goals. If you think we could be a good fit for your organization, beginning a relationship with our grant consulting team is as simple as contacting us!
Hiring a full-time grant writer is not the right fit for many organizations. A full-time grant writer could cost your organization close to $100,000, a price tag that is out of reach for many nonprofits. Additionally, many nonprofits don’t have enough work to warrant hiring a grant writer full-time so the cost to hire a full-time grant writer is ultimately not worth it.
A grant consultant can be a better fit for many organizations. Millionaire Grant Lady and Associates tailor grant services to your needs and work with your budget. We have a proven record of success with over $103 million in grant funding won for our clients. If you are ready to get started, contact us today!