Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Don’ts for hiring an outside grant writer

You've decided to hire someone from the outside.  Naturally, we hope it's Arrowhead Management, but even if if not, we have some tips:

Don’t ask us for a complete list of all foundations and grant amounts we've ever received, broken down by client
That’s confidential. If we share our clients’ information, we’ll share yours (and when you’re not shocked by that, we’re looking for a way out the door!). 

Instead, ask us how much we’ve raised and ask for a list of clients (or look at our website). Ask for recommendations/referrals. Ask about the types of grants (capital, operating, program designated) we’ve received. Ask if we’ve ever worked with advocacy clients, like you.

Tell us you’re looking for multi-year grants. Tell us you’re looking for 5 or 6 figure grants and what’s our experience with grants in that range.  Ask our advice for your pitch to ABC Foundation.

Ask us our most frustrating grant experience and our most rewarding one.

Don’t offer to compensate us on a % basis
It’s unethical. We’re tired of answering this question. We’re even tired of our clever response (“We wish!”).

How do you expect to pay us when the proposal we’re developing is restricted to programs?

We know it’s a risk to hire someone. We’ve turned down clients because they’re not grant-ready. To that end, we’ve created a package that includes a grant calendar and a template LOI and proposal.

If you can’t afford to hire a grant writer for at least 6 months without generating any grants, then you can’t afford grants.

If you want us to work for free, put us on your board.

Don’t ask us to share a successful proposal, along with our resume and cover letter, in your ad on Craig’s List
Good grant writers won’t apply because they know you’re not serious about hiring someone, but looking for free work.

You can give small tests throughout the hiring process to test our writing skills and ability to think quickly. Scrutinize the cover letter and resume.

At the second interview, ask us to show a sample LOI during the interview, but don’t keep it – read/skim it in front of us and return it, so you can grasp our writing

Even a 30-minute writing exercise (not drafting a cover letter or LOI that you’ll actually use) at the 3rd interview is ok. Give hypotheticals in the interviews.

If you don’t like the writing style at any point, don’t hire the person. But, don’t ask for free work.

Don’t expect a rolodex of Foundation contacts
Grant writers have subject matter expertise in crafting a message and articulating your story. They’ll likely have experience writing successful (and unsuccessful) proposals to the Foundations you’re applying to.

They may even know the program officers at Foundations. But unless they are your employee, they really can’t offer access to the Foundations.  

Reputable grant writers want you to succeed for the long-term. It’s your responsibility (and opportunity!) to initiate relationships with Foundation staff.

We can prepare you for these phone calls. We can even join you on the call. And, we have plenty of examples where we know the program officers and a grant is still not funded - generally when there isn't strong alignment between the Foundation's mission and the organization's mission.

But, these relationships facilitate knowledge exchange and potential funding.