It can be very attractive for a nonprofit to hire a grant writer on commission. And it’s probably also attractive for a freelance grant writer, desperate for work, to accept a job like this. But this is a bad practice for both parties. Here’s why:
1. Grant writers have little control over whether nonprofits win grant awards. Sure, a proficient grant writer is going to deliver a nonprofit a more competitive proposal, but ultimately the decision rests with the foundation. Even the most well-crafted, most compelling grants get turned down, at no fault of the grant writer. Foundations have many more applicants than available funding. In addition, much of what goes into a grant proposal is out of the grant writer’s control. It’s not the grant writer’s fault if an organization is, well, disorganized, or if the program just isn’t as strong as another applicant’s. It’s simply unfair, then, to penalize the writer by not paying them for their work.
2. The foundation probably doesn’t want to pay your grant writer. Foundations generally restrict their funding to direct program costs. Even if they don’t, they’re still likely to be a little turned off by a grant request that includes a commission for a grant writer. They generally are uninterested in funding this kind of overhead.
3. Commissions make your budget unpredictable. It’s imperative that nonprofits have a set budget with all expenses accounted for. If nothing else, grant makers will raise an eyebrow to budgets that have question marks.
4. It just simply devalues your grant writer. Grant writers perform an important, professional service, and nonprofits should treat them respectfully.
The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) also considers this practice unethical and will revoke the membership of any grant writer who works on commission. Not good.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Share them in the comments!