Why grant writers cost so much

November 9, 2011 5 Comments

grant writer

By Megan Hill

The short answer is: They’re worth it. Or: They don’t cost as much as you think. A good grant writer will pay for themselves, and over time bring in more money than you pay them.

I’ve seen several advertisements recently seeking $20/hr grant writers. I’m here to tell you that anyone working at that rate is probably desperate for work and probably for a good reason. Maybe they’re not experienced or hard working or talented or any combination of those traits. Sure, they’ll save you a lot of money, but will you end up making any?

The trick to affording a successful grant writer with a long track record of wins is to wait until you’re ready. Wait until you have enough money in the bank to afford that person, at which time you’ll probably also have built the other qualifications you’ll need to win grants.

Grant writing is not a place where you can cut corners or seek out a cheap hire. Chances are you’ll spend (read: lose) more money over the long haul than you would if you hired a more experienced, more pricey grant writer who will pull her weight.

Not sure what to expect when it comes to grants? You can learn a lot from grant applications without applying.

(photo by bredgur on Flickr)


Tags: , , The Grant Writing Life, The Nonprofit World
5 Comments to “Why grant writers cost so much”
  1. Morgan says:

    Hey Megan,
    I just discovered your blog – great work here. I particularly like this article. The number one stumbling block that I run into working with people is that they think it is “expensive” to pay a professional to help them.
    Grants are a obviously a money-getting game (hopefully for a good cause). No matter what one does in life, it usually takes money (an investment) to make money (the return).
    I personally believe that people who are not willing to invest in producing the best grant proposal possible aren’t really serious about getting the grant. They’re just wasting their time. Most grants are super competitive, and I liken this to entering a sports competition with no training and no coach. Hiring a grant writer like you is like hiring a trained athlete to run the race. The likelihood of “winning” is far greater!
    Keep up the great work!
    Morgan

  2. Lisa says:

    Great site, Megan, thank you! Another aspect of what goes into grant writing is the amount of time it takes to prepare a successful application. I used to write mostly federal proposals, all of which took me at least 120 hours to prepare. By the time the lead organization decided to pursue the grant, the deadline was always tight, which occasionally meant days without sleep. I often had to assist with program development to meet evaluation benchmarks, tie in necessary responsible parties, or secure the in-kind commitments the grantor was looking for. But 13 of my 14 proposals were funded – and all were extremely competitive. The grant writer who will commit that kind of time and dedication is a professional who deserves to be treated – and paid – as such.

  3. Erin says:

    This is a great article. It does raise the question for me though- how much should grant writers charge? I am recently starting out doing grant writing freelance on my own (as opposed to one of many tasks in my job description at a nonprofit). I am a bit at a loss as to what a fair fee to charge is, as you play the “if I charge too much I won’t get the gig”, or the “I don’t want to work for free and is it worth my time to be paid x” game.

    • Megan Hill says:

      Hi Erin,
      This is a tough question and it’s one that even experienced grant writers struggle with. Most charge either an hourly rate or a per-project rate, and some charge a per-page rate. Hourly rates can range from as low as $25 to as high as $200, depending on location and experience. My suggestion is to start low and work your way up as you gain experience and success. You can do some market research of other grant writers in your area. You will always run into potential clients who think your rate is too high, and you might find you can afford some wiggle room. Ultimately it comes down to what you think you’re worth, and I recommend not selling yourself short. The price you set also sets the tone for the value of your work.

      Sorry there’s no set answer, but I hope this helps! I also offer coaching services and can tailor advice to your specific situation if you’re interested.

      -Megan

  4. John Paterna says:

    Great article Megan. What I’ve learned as a seasoned grant writer is that you have to be a teacher first! The naivete about the process of grant writing is astounding! The first meeting with a client is usually a balancing act between letting a client know what planning a grant requires and not sounding too self-serving.

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