Your Questions Answered
Updated: Jul 14, 2021
It’s a blustery day in October. Still in the middle of a global pandemic, the US presidential election 21 days away from my time of writing, and me reveling at the end of the 2019 remake of Little Women with Saoirse Ronan. Plenty of important (and less important) topics for a blog post. Especially a FIRST blog post!
"Oh bother!" said Pooh. "I shall have to go on."
I thought it would be helpful to take time to address some frequently asked questions I’ve received. These are from clients I’ve worked with, from common questions I’ve seen in the nonprofit world, and honestly, questions I’ve had to ask myself. I hope some of these resonate with you and encourage you to go on. If you have other questions, please reach out, or subscribe to the blog for future posts that may answer questions you didn’t even know you had.
How did you learn to write grants?
My background is in Literature & Writing, which I will unashamedly say is a great foundation for a variety of careers. Mid-college, I took a course in grant writing. The course initially turned me off to what sounded like boring, technical work. But what struck me was the personality of the guest speakers who came to my class. They made the world of grants sound far more compelling, relational, and strategic than merely “grant writing.” And, as I’ve found over the last four years, they were right. I worked in the university’s grants department, which gave me the skills for my next role as a grants coordinator for a human services agency. After moving from the Twin Cities to small-town MN, I’ve found my niche in grants consulting.
What is your grant award success rate?
Naming a percentage success rate or a ratio (for example, 85% of grants applied for get funded) is certainly a popular snapshot of success. After all, you’re paying someone to ultimately get funds, right? I’ve found that this marker isn’t a helpful measurement of success, and can actually be misleading. Every proposal is different. Funding is never guaranteed—even for the most qualified projects. And receiving funding is not synonymous with long-term organizational success.
Success to me is getting clients in the best position possible for grants seeking and stewardship.
Often, I’ve found that grant awards follow organizations dialed in on willingness to learn & change. Other times, I consider a client relationship highly successful when we discover that grants maybe aren’t their funding sweet spot after all.
Can you give me a list of grants that my organization could apply for?
Yes, I can! However, realize that a “list of grants” depends on your organizational readiness, your industry, and your location—which can take time to develop. Schedule a consultation with me so I can learn more about your organization (check out the grant-readiness checklist at the end of this post). Then, I'll give you a proposal with options for moving forward.
What is your process?
Typically, I meet with clients over video calls or in-person to learn more about what their organization needs. From there, I propose options from my involvement. We agree on a best-fit option, sign a contract agreement, and begin.
How much time does it take to write a grant?
Well, it depends. I’ve worked on projects that took anywhere from 1 hour to 100 hours to complete. Even small one-page applications can have pesky, time-consuming steps. “Writing a grant” involves far more than wordsmithing. Time depends on a couple of factors:
Availability of accurate organizational language & relevant attachments
Readiness of an organization to invest time in managing a program, developing a budget, or maintaining tracking systems of grant fund expenditures
Complexity of application requirements like site visits, long-range financial plans, involved collaborations, or various endorsements
If I work with you, what is the likelihood that my organization can get funding?
I can never guarantee funding for anyone in the same sense that I don’t claim a “success rate.” An organization’s likelihood to get funding is usually determined by its overall readiness before I even begin working with them. Funders can see straight through even the most persuasive of proposals if the organization is simply not ready or a good fit. What I CAN do is help position you for success in the world of grants based on your readiness and fitness with the current grants landscape.
How do I know if I should work with you?
Jump to "Grants Stuff." If you identify, let’s talk! If you have another project idea… well, let’s talk! I’m always up for learning more about the challenges facing nonprofits and how I can work alongside you.
Can I pay you a percentage of the grant?
The short answer: nope. Unlike competitors, I do not accept incentive pay, contingency fees, commission-based page, or finder’s fees. They are considered slipshod in the grants community, unethical in the eyes of funders, and generally a bad idea for organizations. I abide by the Grant Professionals Association code of ethics and recommend further reading on this topic here.
We’re a small organization and can’t afford to pay a grant writer. Can we still work with you?
Short answer: yes. Regardless of your budget, I’d love to have an initial consultation with you to better understand your needs and budget challenges.
Long answer: I’ve found that organizations unable to work with a consultant often not ready to apply for or manage grant funds. And that’s okay. Take a look at my grants checklist for starters. Your responses will be a good indicator of your readiness to venture into the grants world. Check out this resource for more info. Also, let me encourage you that in many cases, grants are not the end all be all.
A good grants consultant will dissuade you from “chasing dollars” and give you honest recommendations for the best use of your time.
Have a question that I didn’t cover? Reach out to me and I’ll include it in an extension of this post.
See the client checklist I keep talking about here: