how to work with a contract grant writer

How to work with a contract grant writer

As professional grant writers, we’ve been asked to do everything under the sun when preparing a grant; some things are reasonable, and others are outside the scope of our abilities and our contract. Here’s a quick guide on how to work with a contract grant writer.


How to work with a contract grant writer


  1. Ask your grant writer to craft succinct language about your programs and/or services.
  2. Have your grant writer do research and contact the foundation they’re looking to pitch.
  3. Send your grant writer complete and accurate information in a timely fashion. And do expect them to follow up with questions for further details and maybe even interview program staff.
  4. Ask your grant writer crunch the numbers and make sure the budget is accurate and well presented.


How not to work with a contract grant writer

    1. Don’t make your grant writer invent a new program or flesh out the details of a half-baked idea. Grant writers are writers who communicate what you’ve already developed. They are not program staff.
    2. Don’t send a grant writer alone to a meeting with a potential funder unless they’re actually part of the development staff. Best to send program personnel, or, better yet, the Executive Director.
    3. Don’t blame the grant writer if you don’t have your stuff together.
    4. Don’t expect the grant writer to work with rough budget estimates and incomplete information.


Have questions or thoughts about how to work with a contract grant writer? Leave a note in the comments.

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  • Tamar Cloyd

    07.11.2011 at 14:07 Reply

    Whew! Thanks so much for posting this! When I first started consulting several years ago, I ran into a bunch of people who expected me to make magic with their program idea. They totally meant well, but it was incredibly frustrating on my end to try to explain that that’s not why you hired me. Now I’m very upfront about expectations and even put these stipulations in my contracts.

    Thanks for sharing our pain…and clarifying our purpose!

  • Michele

    07.11.2011 at 14:08 Reply

    Do send your grant writer complete and accurate information in a timely fashion. And do expect them to follow up with questions for further details and maybe even interview program staff.

    Excellent points all but the above one is critical. Even larger nonprofits with in-house grant writers must remember that the writer’s role does not include 100% first hand knowledge of all programs/projects – hence the need to ask questions of directors or even staff for program-specific grants.

  • Lisa

    07.11.2011 at 14:08 Reply

    Also, Don’t expect your grant writer to work on commission. They should be paid a fair wage for the hours of work they put in whether the grants are funded or not–although most expereinced grantwriters would not accept such an arrangement anyway on ethical grounds.

  • Megan Hill

    07.11.2011 at 14:09 Reply

    Precisely! I wrote about that issue in a separate post.

  • Tricia

    07.11.2011 at 14:10 Reply

    Don’t insist upon writing the big grants yourself (because you want glory and/or control), and then turn around and expect your grant writer to fix your sorry mess (and a day before the deadline to boot). Trust your grant writer to do the job you pay them for!

  • RP Muriera

    07.11.2011 at 14:10 Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing this. May I also add from my experience this one:

    Don’t expect your grant writer to develop a quality proposal when you make them aware of a funding opportunity 3 days before the deadline.

  • Jennifer

    21.03.2012 at 17:10 Reply

    In my case, I wrote 95% of the proposal (including the goals, objectives, and outcomes statements, budget, etc.) and was not properly credited for my work. Where does one draw the line in giving credit?

  • Jennifer

    21.03.2012 at 17:12 Reply

    I should add that I also advised the faculty on what was needed, as he was totally clueless, and wrote nearly the entirely proposal. He reviewed and told me where there were a couple of typos!! Has anyone else had this very frustrating experience?

    • Megan Hill

      21.03.2012 at 21:56 Reply

      Hi Jennifer,

      This is one frustrating aspect of being an independent grant writer. I am often not thanked or even notified of a positive outcome from a grant, and that can be disappointing. But there’s also not much opportunity to credit a grant writer. Even if you are appreciated by the organization, you largely serve a behind-the-scenes role. What sort of credit did you have in mind?


  • Connie

    29.07.2012 at 05:59 Reply

    Excellent points, thank you for sharing.
    I have developed new program ideas as a grant writer but since I am (former) program staff and had extensive background with both the funder and the applicant, it was a logical approach. However, I would be very uncomfortable doing this in an area in which I had less familiarity. And given my dual role as program development and grant writer, I was definitely underpaid.

    Everyone who hires grant writers needs to read this!

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