Author Topic: Grant Writing  (Read 1265 times)

noknow

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 9
Grant Writing
« on: February 07, 2018, 11:39:52 PM »
Back in University I took a full course in grant writing. I actually submitted a proposal to a big corp for cancer survivor support.
I found this extremely fulfilling even though I didn't get the grant. There are some courses I'm considering taking that I could fit into my schedule.
Is there a wide demand for such work? I'd like to do this potentially as a side hustle. Is there a high barrier to entry? Anyone have experience with this?

joonifloofeefloo

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5756
Re: Grant Writing
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2018, 12:31:03 AM »
There's definitely a demand for the work. In my world, there was no barrier to entry.

Getting paid for that work can be another matter. I can't remember the rule and who made it, but I remember our non-profit wasn't allowed to do the thing that worked best for all of us -pay the writer a percentage of each grant he brought in. Without the grants, we didn't have extra money around to pay him. Without being able to pay him, we didn't have him around to write the proposals.

I did a lot of grant writing -much of it successful- but had to be unpaid or paid out of the general budget (which had no money).

A friend had a full-time job writing grants for a very serious, life-or-death issue. After six months, still no results. She really took this to heart and it made her super depressed. She quit. It's very likely she would have seen a grant soonish -perhaps even on the proposals she wrote in the first weeks- but it can take time, and lots of nos can deal a blow.

Often an org's executive director or similar management level staff person will do it as part of their overall job, so they have other duties and successes to balance it out.

So, there is demand for good grant writers, but talk to the organizations you'd want to write for to see how they work out pay for that. And consider how you would keep your spirits up if more than one proposal were rejected, especially over super stupid reasons, local politics, competition, straight up lying by other applicants, etc. i.e., Determine how thick your skin is.

If you can do it as a gift to your favourite orgs, that's huge! A way you can direct big money to the org, without breaking your own bank account.

LPG

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 50
    • 1000x Faster Blog
Re: Grant Writing
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2018, 11:29:11 AM »
I work in engineering research (Lots of government and/or utility funded projects), and there's a huge demand for that kind of skill. We have people working on it from two different angles:

1. Admin type people, who are heavily involved in some of the standard documentation.
2. Scientists who write the technical narrative.

In either case, getting education and experience around grant writing is extremely useful. I don't know your career path, but if you end up getting a graduate degree in a technical subject and going into research, grant writing becomes a huge part of the job. And, honestly, one of my favorites. I agree with you that it's very rewarding work. And, since it's such an important part of the job, you'll be VERY grateful for the grant writing background, should you go into it.

tyrannostache

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 111
Re: Grant Writing
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2018, 04:36:38 PM »
In one part of my professional life, I'm a grant writer. It's a whole field in itself. Keep in mind that there's usually a very big difference between applying for grants from private foundations and applying for grants from the government (NSF, CDC, etc). DM me if you want to chat about the field further.

jooni, contingency pay/paying grant writers by commission (a percentage of the grant) is not the most effective way to get grants done. There are some significant ethical and logistical problems to going that route. This article explains it well: http://www.thenonprofittimes.com/news-articles/paying-commission-grant-proposals-dont/

IMO, having grant writing experience under your belt would be a huge plus in many fields. Doing it as a side hustle might be lucrative--someone elsewhere on this board pointed out that grantwriting can be of the higher paid forms of freelance writing. If I ever have any free time, I'll try it out and let you know.

joonifloofeefloo

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5756
Re: Grant Writing
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2018, 05:06:51 PM »
jooni, contingency pay/paying grant writers by commission (a percentage of the grant) is not the most effective way to get grants done. There are some significant ethical and logistical problems to going that route. This article explains it well: http://www.thenonprofittimes.com/news-articles/paying-commission-grant-proposals-dont/

Yep, that's what the powers told our wannabee writers back then. Didn't solve our conundrum, though!

Villanelle

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2158
Re: Grant Writing
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2018, 09:01:56 PM »
I've wondered about this a great deal but have only done minimal research, and while I definitely haven't worked very hard at looking, I found it very challenging to find paid work.  I don't have specific grant writing experience, though I've taken a short course and most of my professional work has been in non-profits where I dealt with grants, and I have several years of experience as a grant administrator, which means I'v seen a million grants awards and proposals, and I'm extremely familiar with the process and the with federal requirements.  IOW, I speak "grant" pretty fluently. 

CatamaranSailor

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 114
Re: Grant Writing
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2018, 08:16:41 AM »
Not me personally, but my wife was a very successful grant writer, having brought in many large mutli-million dollar grants for various non profits. She also taught grant writing for a while. She doesn't do it anymore...too many other interests. But it served us well for several years and she could always go back...

That being said, I'll try to paraphrase a few things she'd go over in her classes...

1) You do not need a degree....but you do need to be a competent writer and editor. A track record of successful grants trumps a degree any day.

2) If an organization says they will pay you "if you get the grant" or "out of the grant funds" run the other way. The organization has no understanding of how grants work. Professional grant writers are paid per project based on their hourly wage or on salary. My wife averaged several thousand dollars per grant (these were large Federal grants). However...we'll talk about other ways you can be part of the process and earn good money lower down in the list....

3)  Study the RFP (Request for Proposal) like your life depended on it! Most grants receive a TON of applications. The first thing the funding organization does is go through the applications looking to see if every single requirement in the RFP was met. If not, it doesn't even get read! It's just like resumes....misspellings? Typos?...big fat NOPE! Some of the grant requirements appear to be RIDICULOUS (11.5 Calibri font only) things like that. Well you might have the best proposal ever, but if you deliver it in 12 point Tahoma....you will not get funded.

4) Like I said above, never take a job where the organization offers you a "percentage of the grant" or some nonsense. You need to be paid for your time. However (and this is where I indicated you can help out a lot)...almost all grants require a reporting structure to monitor the results of the project ( anyone who gives you money will want data on how it was spent and what the results were). As the grant writer....you are in a unique position to set this up and make those reports. This is NOT a conflict of interest and is perfectly in line with most funding opportunities. This is a requirement that most organizations will gladly let you handle as they are already overworked. Yes...it's extra work (that you will get paid for ) but again...having written the grant you'll probably be the only person who really understand the reporting requirements. There is usually funding built into the grant specifically for this requirement, hence you will get paid but it doesn't come out of the organizations budget. This of course only happens if they get the grant.

5) One of the most frustrating parts of the process is collecting the data required for the RFP. You will be an outsider calling people and asking for statistics and information from grumpy overworked people who don't know who you are. This can be time consuming and take a long time, all while on a deadline.

Good luck!!!
« Last Edit: March 02, 2018, 08:47:39 AM by Sailor14 »

joonifloofeefloo

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5756
Re: Grant Writing
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2018, 08:56:06 AM »
4) Like I said above, never take a job where the organization offers you a "percentage of the grant" or some nonsense. You need to be paid for your time.

Argh. People will say this over and over and over, yet here heaps of us are, doing it without pay because people are opposed to the percentage approach. It seems like the equivalent of Mustachianism as applied to the low-income individual. i.e. Not every individual -and not every organization or cause- is wealthy enough to create the income some think should exist. This piece of the culture needs to shift, so that "low income organizations/causes" can succeed like the wealthy ones.

I don't know why it's considered okay for us to work for free, but not to receive a percentage on a successful grant. The big pot funders need to wake to this matter (but I don't think they're interested).

This isn't personal to your wife's ideas, Sailor14. It's a long time pet peeve!

Villanelle

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2158
Re: Grant Writing
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2018, 10:47:13 PM »
4) Like I said above, never take a job where the organization offers you a "percentage of the grant" or some nonsense. You need to be paid for your time.

Argh. People will say this over and over and over, yet here heaps of us are, doing it without pay because people are opposed to the percentage approach. It seems like the equivalent of Mustachianism as applied to the low-income individual. i.e. Not every individual -and not every organization or cause- is wealthy enough to create the income some think should exist. This piece of the culture needs to shift, so that "low income organizations/causes" can succeed like the wealthy ones.

I don't know why it's considered okay for us to work for free, but not to receive a percentage on a successful grant. The big pot funders need to wake to this matter (but I don't think they're interested).

This isn't personal to your wife's ideas, Sailor14. It's a long time pet peeve!

Even if paid a %, where is the money coming from?  Most grants require a specific budget, and most finders I worked with would never approve a line item that was "5% of award amount goes to grant writer" or "$2000 to grant writer". I don't even understand how that work.  That money would almost always need to come out of any "general admin expenses" (or F&A) type line item, and padding that with enough to pay a large fee to a writer would likely look pretty unusual.

I suppose there might be grant out there that don't want a budget (never heard of that though) or maybe occasionally a grant that is just for general admin expenses, but those would be extremely few and far between. So a grant writer would be paid out of general funds, money from fundraising (non-grant), etc.  And those monies would be the same amount before or after receiving the grant, and wouldn't be dependent on a successful proposal. 

I think orgs promising that are probably extremely unfamiliar with grant writing and don't understand how grant awards usually work.  Or maybe I'm missing some piece of the picture.  But I've dealt with state (CA), federal (various D an N level, NASA, and more), county, and various private grants and none of them would have allowed a line item to pay a grant writer a one time fee for writing the proposal.

joonifloofeefloo

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5756
Re: Grant Writing
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2018, 11:11:32 PM »
Even if paid a %, where is the money coming from?  Most grants require a specific budget, and most finders I worked with would never approve a line item that was "5% of award amount goes to grant writer" or "$2000 to grant writer". I don't even understand how that work.  That money would almost always need to come out of any "general admin expenses" (or F&A) type line item, and padding that with enough to pay a large fee to a writer would likely look pretty unusual.

It would go against the norm-to-date, but yes, that's precisely what I'm proposing the funders adjust their thinking to. Many small orgs don't have a giant, padded account for paying the writers, nor wealthy benefactors to cover writer fees, so the writers are required to work for free.

I think we can shift our collective thinking around this, and yes, allow the grant to pay the writer as well as other admin needs.

It's always sounded to me like a "this is the way we've always done it" thing, but innovation is often a positive way to go.

I suppose there might be grant out there that don't want a budget (never heard of that though) or maybe occasionally a grant that is just for general admin expenses, but those would be extremely few and far between. So a grant writer would be paid out of general funds, money from fundraising (non-grant), etc.  And those monies would be the same amount before or after receiving the grant, and wouldn't be dependent on a successful proposal.

Yes, all of this is exactly my experience. I'm proposing it change.

All the proposals I did had very clear budgets -they allowed for everything from paper to worker salary to supervisor pay. Just not the grant writer. Why do we pay supervisors, workers, computer techs...and for paper, tables, room rentals, and not for grant writers? They just circle around over and over to "that would be unethical." It's not much of a conversation.

I think orgs promising that are probably extremely unfamiliar with grant writing and don't understand how grant awards usually work.  Or maybe I'm missing some piece of the picture.  But I've dealt with state (CA), federal (various D an N level, NASA, and more), county, and various private grants and none of them would have allowed a line item to pay a grant writer a one time fee for writing the proposal.

They are very familiar, and do understand it. They also understand this model doesn't work for all organizations. We'd rather see our grant writers paid a percentage than expected to work for free just because they're working for less wealthy orgs.

Villanelle

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2158
Re: Grant Writing
« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2018, 11:22:57 PM »
Even if paid a %, where is the money coming from?  Most grants require a specific budget, and most finders I worked with would never approve a line item that was "5% of award amount goes to grant writer" or "$2000 to grant writer". I don't even understand how that work.  That money would almost always need to come out of any "general admin expenses" (or F&A) type line item, and padding that with enough to pay a large fee to a writer would likely look pretty unusual.

It would go against the norm-to-date, but yes, that's precisely what I'm proposing the funders adjust their thinking to. Many small orgs don't have a giant, padded account for paying the writers, nor wealthy benefactors to cover writer fees, so the writers are required to work for free.

I think we can shift our collective thinking around this, and yes, allow the grant to pay the writer as well as other admin needs.

It's always sounded to me like a "this is the way we've always done it" thing, but innovation is often a positive way to go.

I suppose there might be grant out there that don't want a budget (never heard of that though) or maybe occasionally a grant that is just for general admin expenses, but those would be extremely few and far between. So a grant writer would be paid out of general funds, money from fundraising (non-grant), etc.  And those monies would be the same amount before or after receiving the grant, and wouldn't be dependent on a successful proposal.

Yes, all of this is exactly my experience. I'm proposing it change.

All the proposals I did had very clear budgets -they allowed for everything from paper to worker salary to supervisor pay. Just not the grant writer. Why do we pay supervisors, workers, computer techs...and for paper, tables, room rentals, and not for grant writers? They just circle around over and over to "that would be unethical." It's not much of a conversation.

I think orgs promising that are probably extremely unfamiliar with grant writing and don't understand how grant awards usually work.  Or maybe I'm missing some piece of the picture.  But I've dealt with state (CA), federal (various D an N level, NASA, and more), county, and various private grants and none of them would have allowed a line item to pay a grant writer a one time fee for writing the proposal.

They are very familiar, and do understand it. They also understand this model doesn't work for all organizations. We'd rather see our grant writers paid a percentage than expected to work for free just because they're working for less wealthy orgs.

Ah, I think I understand.  You are proposing the funders change their thinking, not the people hiring grant writers.

While I can see that this makes sense, many funders don't even want to fund the office's admin staff, much less have a healthy chunk off the top go to a grant writer, and I understand their perspective as well.  They want their dollars to be spend on the research or outreach, not admin costs.  So chopping off a significant % to for additional admin is always, always going to be a hard sell.

joonifloofeefloo

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5756
Re: Grant Writing
« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2018, 11:36:51 PM »
Ah, I think I understand.  You are proposing the funders change their thinking, not the people hiring grant writers.

Yeah, that's it :)

While I can see that this makes sense, many funders don't even want to fund the office's admin staff, much less have a healthy chunk off the top go to a grant writer, and I understand their perspective as well.  They want their dollars to be spend on the research or outreach, not admin costs.  So chopping off a significant % to for additional admin is always, always going to be a hard sell.

Agreed on all counts.

It doesn't need to be a healthy chunk, though. i.e., On an $80k grant, I think there's room for the writer to be paid $1000. The same dollar amount on every $2000 grant? No way. But a reasonable percentage, yes.

Yeah, they don't love to fund any aspect of admin. Most (especially federal and law-associated sources) have let us include an amount for admin, but not enough to keep money flowing.

I find so much funding extremely inefficient and wasteful. If a funder genuinely wants to see real change, they need to look at the long term. Every time they fund yet another "seven months outreach [or research] project", they make their [funding] org look fabulous, and provide some short term relief to a few clients, but that's all. By allowing the funding of infrastructure and grant writing, they contribute to real change over time.

Basically, I'd like to see funding orgs become Mustachian!