Grant writing is one of those tedious administrative tasks that takes a lot of time and doesn’t really build relationships. I find that it takes more and more of my time each year, especially as more companies switch to foundation models and formalize their granting procedures. But fundraisers shouldn’t be spending their time at their desks, they should be out in the community making connections.
So, what’s the solution? Outsource your grant writing. It’s not an easy solution, but it’s the right call. Your time and the time of your development team is much better spent building relationships than filling in forms. A fundraiser’s job is to get the invitation to submit the grant, not to actually complete it.
But the key is to find the right fit. You want someone that has written a lot of grants and successfully won a lot of grants. Ideally they’ve spent some time as a development professional with a nonprofit organization, so they get it. They should understand your mission and how your organization operates. And they should be local. A local person will already know the private, corporate and community foundations that you have a relationship with (and their funding preferences). Your local community foundation, united way or other nonprofit resource group most likely keeps a list of freelance grant writers that they’ll gladly share with you.
One last tip … you’ll most likely work out a retainer agreement with the grant writer where they’ll spend X hours per month working on your grants (and then charge by the hour for any additional time required). I recommend using the first month’s full retainer to have them develop, refine and organize your organization’s boilerplate information (e.g. mission statement, organizational history, program summary, board list, staff bios, etc. — all of the stuff in your fundraising go bag). Then when they actually write grants for you they are mostly cutting and pasting boilerplate info rather than recreating the wheel all the time. This will make them much more efficient and get more grants out in your monthly time allotment.
So start planting the seeds with your leadership team to outsource grant writing. It’s one of the most effective ways to unchain yourself from your desk and start building stronger donor relationships.