hiring a grant writer

4 questions to ask a grant writer applicant

More nonprofits are open to the idea of hiring a freelance grant writer for their organization. It’s always a good idea to thoroughly vet the person you’re hiring, especially if they’re going to be assisting you with a potentially money-making venture like grant writing. Here’s our list of questions to ask a grant writer applicant.


1. What are some successes you’ve had?

We don’t suggest asking a grant writer applicant for a success rate. Not only is grant writing highly competitive, but sometimes the success or failure of a grant has nothing to do with the writer. At times, a crummy proposal can get funded because the organization’s director is pals with someone on the foundation’s board of directors. Other times, an excellent, organized grant writer can miss a deadline if their main point of contact within the organization becomes unresponsive or falls ill. That being said, it’s still a good idea to ask a freelance grant writer what successes and accomplishments they’re proud of. This will give you an idea of their track record.


2. How do you charge?

It’s often impossible for a freelance grant writer to give an exact price for writing a grant without seeing the application and assessing the organization’s readiness to complete that application. There are one-page applications and 15-page applications. Big difference there. Perhaps an organization is starting from scratch with grant writing, meaning there’s a lot more work involved for the grant writer. Or maybe the organization has written 50 identical proposals and just needs a boost. Ask instead if the grant writer charges hourly or per project, and if they prefer to be paid up front, on completion, etc. Do they accept checks, or prefer PayPal? And if you have a grant application on hand, ask for an estimate.


3. Am I grant ready?

This is easily the most overlooked question to ask a grant writer applicant. Organizations are often NOT ready to hire a grant writer, so it’s important to give a freelance grant writer enough background information so they can determine if you’re even in a good position to get funded. Grants are not free, easy money. Foundation grant success is as much about relationship building as it is about great writing. A knowledgeable grant writer can help with all of this. It’s a good idea to ask if they think you’ll be competitive in the grant writing arena. It’s also a great way to judge whether they know their stuff.


4. What is your process like?

You’ll want to get an idea of what it’s like to work with this person. What is their process? How do they collect information? What’s the best way to communicate with them? You’ll want to make sure their process sounds thorough and that it’ll be easy for you to work with them.


There are lots of other questions to ask a grant writer applicant. Add your thoughts in the comments!


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  • Julia

    02.12.2011 at 20:05 Reply

    Great info, Megan, right on!

  • Dearonda Harrison

    17.04.2015 at 11:59 Reply

    Great post. I like that you pointed out grant winning proposals are about relationships and not necessarily a superb writer. A lot of my clients don’t realize that.

  • Jessica Festa

    20.06.2016 at 10:43 Reply

    This is excellent information. Number 3 is such a hugely overlooked but incredibly important area! When we work with clients, we always start with doing some researching and background checking to ensure they are in fact ready to pursue grants and if not helping them to improve and address the areas that need attention. Thank you for confirming our assertion that organizational development must happen prior to approaching grant funding sources!

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