5 Tips for Working with a Grant Writer
Grant proposals. The bane of a charity’s existence.
Few people enjoy writing them, but there are a good handful of professional writers out there who live for crafting the perfect application.
Using a professional grant writer is still hard work on the charity’s part. You need to know what you want from the relationship, and you need to deliver information and invest time into reviewing and providing thoughtful feedback. A good grant writer will challenge you to think more deeply about your program and its goals, and will be able to offer insights into funders that you may not have.
When you’re working with a professional writer, here are a few tips that will help the application process go smoothly:
1. Establish roles
Who will be responsible for making contact with the foundation? (Hint: It shouldn’t be the writer if you’re trying to build a relationship with the funder.) Who is responsible for getting the application forms/questions? If the application is online, who enters the information and who hits “submit”? If it’s offline, who is putting together the package and sticking it in the mail? In some cases, grant writers help with some of the project planning and design. If that’s the expectation, make it clear early on.
2. Collect information
Put together a package of information about your organization – things like brochures, strategic plans, annual reports and any key messaging documents you might have. You’ll also need to send program-specific information. That includes your program design, targets, and logic model, budgets, and research supporting the need for the project and best practices you’re following. If your grant writer is not helping with project design, then you should have all this information ready before the writing process. When information comes in drips and drabs, a writer often feels as though she’s writing the application one question at a time, and it can affect the overall proposal.
3. Assign one point of contact
This person will be the lead at your organization for the grant. They’ll be responsible for communicating with the writer, getting them the information they need, and liaising with staff. If discussions need to take place to work out the kinks of your program or answer questions your writer has, have them internally and have your writer’s point of contact communicate the response.
4. Make time for the application
Your writer will likely provide you with a critical path that plans out time for you to review drafts. Read these carefully and ensure you aren’t in back-to-back meetings when you’re supposed to be reviewing a proposal. Like you, your writer may have more than one project on the go, and sticking to the schedule helps keep everyone on track. If you don’t think you can stick to the timeline laid out in the critical path, let your grant writer know well in advance so they can move things around.
5. Trust your writer’s advice
They have years of experience crafting applications, often for the same funders over and over. When reviewing their work, unless otherwise specified, check for content and accuracy, and not for style. It may seem counterintuitive to read an application that uses very simple language, but if your writer knows that they’re reviewed by community volunteers, she’ll be tailoring her language for that audience.