Finding the Right Grant Writer

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4 things to look for in a grant consultant

What should you look for in a grant consultant? Competence, certainly. But how do you evaluate competence in someone you’ve never worked with? And what else is important?

Here are four criteria to help you recognize and choose a good grant consultant. Someone who meets all four criteria should save you time and energy in addition to providing expertise. And the best consultant might not be a “someone”—a consultant with a team approach can offer special advantages.

Previous Experience
Ask about the types of proposals the consultant has written, or what type s/he specializes in—foundation, federal, corporate? Ask about your subject area. If you are in public education it may not serve your interests to hire a consultant who has never written a proposal for K-12. If you work for a municipal government, does the consultant have experience with cities, counties and/or state agencies? Again, a team approach can help; team members with diverse backgrounds bring a variety of experience and strengths to the table.

Some people present themselves better verbally, so don’t be wowed by a great interview; ask to see samples of previous proposals. Check the consultant’s written materials, including website and written communications. Are they full of typos? This means you’ll be proofreading the consultant’s work against a very tight deadline.

Ask about the budget in a sample proposal—did the consultant develop it? Or did the client? Is the consultant familiar with budgeting requirements of funding agencies and terms such as indirect cost rates, fringe benefits, and allocable costs?

Ask about technology skills—can the consultant analyze data in Excel or produce a graphic to include in the narrative? Does the consultant know how to insert images, create PDF documents, or make use of file-sharing portals such as DropBox? 

Can the consultant help you create a winning project design? From scratch? A proposal developer needs to be two things: 1) a “logical visionary” with a 30,000-foot perspective, and 2) a nuts-and-bolts person who can translate this vision into details: strategies, activities, goals, objectives and outcomes, needs, aims, timeline, evaluation design, etc. We’ve found that a logic model is a good way of organizing major concepts as well as the innumerable details that must be addressed—is the consultant familiar with logic models?

Is the consultant well connected and knowledgeable? Can this person identify local resources that might strengthen your proposal such as possible collaborating partners, or national resources such as evidence-based best practices?

Tough Love
A consultant should be able to evaluate your chances of winning a grant and give you an honest opinion. S/he should also realize challenges of the grant, should you win it, and apprise you of possible pitfalls in managing the project. A consultant should also offer support and training that builds your capacity; you should come out of the process better able to meet your next challenge.

With a good consultant, developing a grant proposal is a less daunting task. With this checklist in hand, you should be able to identify strong candidates who can help you.

Check out our Resources page for grant writing guides, videos, and links to helpful websites. 



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