“What’s the difference?” you might ask. “Isn’t an editor or any writer the same as hiring a grant writer?”
Emphatically, the answer is no.
A grant writer, or, as we like to be called, grants professional, is not the same as an article writer, blog writer, or editor. Grant writing is a specialized, hybridized skill straddling areas of law, fundraising, finance, program development and evaluation, and, yes, content writing and editing.
There are many people out there posing as grant writers, and indeed, they may have assisted a client or two with filling out a grant application. But their knowledge is limited to answering essay questions, which is pretty limited experience for what you really need.
Would you ask a blog or article writer to help you apply for a loan? Of course not. And neither should you hire any person out there who calls themselves a writer or editor.
A grant is a contract. Just like a loan has an agreement that is a legally binding contract, so does a grant. While a grant does not have to be paid back, the grantee (you) does have a number of obligations to fulfill per your acceptance of that grant. We call this compliance. It spans a number of fields, including legal and finance, and a true grants professional will know how to guide you through reviewing your grant agreement on the receiving end as well as understanding your compliance requirements before you choose to apply.
A grants professional will also be aware of local, state, and federal laws that have implications on your grant submission and fundraising. For example, if you are fundraising as a nonprofit, most states require a charitable solicitations license. And your grant writer is required to have a license as a professional fundraising consultant too. A grants professional will know this – your editor/writer candidate probably does not.
A real grants professional will be able to guide you through the parts of your application that you’re not sure of. I find most clients new to applying for grants have never thought about how to conduct simple program/project evaluations. A Grants Professional can advise you on best practices in evaluation so you can make decisions. A writer/editor will simply wait for you to tell them the information. Which would you prefer?
Here are some Dos and Don’ts for interviewing and hiring a grants professional:
- Ask for their resume to see what kind of nonprofit experience they have
- Hire someone who can show a history of winning grant proposals
- Ask about their knowledge of legal regulations regarding grant writing
- Ask about their understanding of grant compliance
- Ask for references – either in writing or to call directly
- Check to see if they are a member of the Grants Professionals Association, Association of Fundraising Professional, or (for medical) American Medical Writers Association
- Hire someone who does not have grant writing experience
- Hire someone with little to no nonprofit experience
- Hire someone with no history of winning grants
- Focus on a writing sample over actual success rate
- Hire someone who works for a commission*
Finally, please do not think I am knocking the writing/editorial profession. I have worked with many good writers and editors, but they were not grant writers. They serve essential functions editing content appropriately for various outlets and publications as well as researching, writing, and publishing articles, books, blogs on interesting subjects that we all enjoy. It’s just not the same skillset. And someone who writes or edits in this capacity could also very well be a grants professional, but make sure you follow these steps and ask these questions to make sure they are fully qualified to assist you to be successful in your pursuit of grant funding.
Or you can just give me a call.
*Working for a commission is considered unethical by both the Grants Professionals Association and Association of Fundraising Professionals, and almost all grants disallow spending the grant funds on fundraising costs or costs accrued prior to the start of the grant period, which means you’re not allowed to anyhow.