Three basic sources of money for non-profits
Of the three basic sources of money for
non-profits -- earned income, donations from individuals, and grants --
the process of getting a grant is the most puzzling. All but the smallest organizations
are likely to have people on staff or use outside counsel who specialize in grant writing.
The demand for skilled grant writers, coupled with the mystery that seems to surround
successful grant writing, leads to some troubled areas for development professionals and
Two questions are central: How do you evaluate the performance of grant writers
and how do you pay them?
How Do You Evaluate The Performance Of Grant Writers?
I have seen many resumes with statements
like the following, "The grants I write are awarded funds 80% of the time." A
recent query to an Internet newsgroup by an executive director asked, "My
grant writer has a grant success rate of 41%. How does that compare with the
standard of other organizations?"
Grant writers touting a past high percentage of grant attainment to impress potential
employers are in danger of setting themselves up for future failure. How many of us would
want to go into a new work environment with the expectation that 80% of the grant
applications we submit would be approved? Not me!
Success or failure of grant-getting
Executive directors who see the success or
failure of grant-getting as residing in the hands of the grant writer are failing to take
into account something even more important than the grant application -- the purpose of
the funding. Poorly delineated projects, 'soft' budgets, and a host of other weaknesses
cannot be overcome by a well-crafted grant proposal. The awarding of grants has more to do
with function than form, and grant writers are not usually the ones who make the policy
and practice recommendations that lead to a search for funding.
When it comes to measuring performance, I believe grant writers should be evaluated on the
quality of their work. What I expect of a grant writer as written into a job description
might read something like the following.
Grant Writer Job Description
The grant writer will:
- Through interviews and other means, gather information
that will easily allow him/her to grasp the concept of a project or program for
which funding is sought as defined by the person responsible for carrying it out.
- Acquire and maintain sound knowledge and understanding of
the organization, and use that knowledge and understanding to better comprehend all
projects and programs for which grants will be sought and to recommend the seeking of
- Research grant-making organizations and analyze them to
identify likely funding sources for specific projects and programs.
- Compile, write, and edit all grant applications exhibiting
strong expository writing skills and a high-level command of grammar and spelling.
- Review the budget of a project or program
for which funding is sought and make recommendations to better present it to grant-making
- Develop individual grant proposals in accordance with each
grant-making organization?s preferences and follow exactly each grant-making
- Keep in contact with grant-making organizations during
their review of a submitted grant application in order to be able to supply additional
- Manage the process of supplying progress reports
when required by a grant-making organization that has funded a project or program.
Any grant writer I hired was expected to
carry out the above duties well. Doing so left me satisfied with his or her performance.
Grant award or no grant award, the grant writer was successful. It was never my grant
writer?s job to get the grant, rather the job was to make the best case possible to
appropriate funding organizations.
About Tony Poderis
Tony Poderis (Tony@raise-funds.com)
Read more about Tony at his Raise Funds website www.raise-funds.com