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Why Grant Writers Shouldn't Work For A Percentage Of The Grant

By Author: David Parker
Total Articles: 36

Non-profits like to hire writers on commission. That way if the grant isn't funded they are not out any money. It's also attractive for a freelance writer, anxious for work, to accept a job like this, in hopes of getting that grant.
However, The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) considers this practice unethical and will withdraw the membership of any writer who works on commission. Not a good business practice. Foundations frown upon it as well.
Here's why:
1. Grant writers have little control over whether nonprofits win grants. An expert writer is going to deliver a nonprofit a more competitive proposal, but in the end the decision rests with the foundation. Even the most well written, most compelling grants get turned down, at no fault of the grant writer. Foundations have many more applicants than funds available. In addition, much of what goes into a grant proposal is out of the grant writer's control. It's not the grant writer's fault if an organization isn't grant ready, is disorganized, or if the program just isn't as strong as other applicant's. Another reason is that the funder may already know which of their "pet" projects they are going to fund. It's simply unfair to punish the writer by not paying them for their work.
2. The foundation/government funding source probably won't pay for your grant writer. Foundations generally restrict their funding to direct project costs. Even if they don't, they are still likely to be a little unsettled by a grant request that includes a percentage for the grant writer. You should ask the Foundation ahead of time if this is an acceptable budget item. As far as government grants you can put a line item in your budget for Administrative Expenses not to exceed 10% but you must remember that 10% is also for you to do quarterly and final reports and provide overall grant management.
I have recently worked with a non-profit who had a state, a federal and a foundation grant for one of their many successful projects. However, they don't have funding to pay for a professional writer, which they need because they underestimated the amount of their program support. They expect someone to work for them for free, when they have a million dollar budget. How fair is this to a grant writer who is trying to make a living? They are also so busy that they can't write it in house.
If you are a technical writer who is looking for work, please don't work for a percentage of the grant if it is awarded. Remember it is unethical. It also makes non-profits believe it is okay to take advantage of the grant writer.
We need to stick together!
If you are looking for advice as a non-profit on how you can afford to pay a grant writer without using awarded grant funds contact me. There are options available to you!

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