Many schools do not have access to a full-time grant writer, but you may decide to work with an independent contractor or consultant. Good grant writers will work with you to ensure your project is cost effective and professional. They can provide expertise, answer questions about your project, and be an important member of your grant-writing team.
If you find a good grant writer, it can be beneficial to develop a long-term partnership with them, because the work will get stronger as they become more familiar with your school and your program goals. Grant writers need time to learn about your school and to work with you to gather the necessary information. And the best ones can be booked up months in advance. Don’t wait until the last minute to find one.
Independent grant writers will typically charge an hourly rate or project fee that is due on completion of the application. The project fee is based on the grant writer’s experience with the type of grant you want and how long she expects the project to take. It can also be influenced by the timeline for the grant and if the writer has prior experience working with your organization.
Professional grant writers today expect to be paid for their services, whether the grant is approved or not. They have a vested interest in making sure the best possible proposal is prepared and the school benefits from their guidance and experience. It is also not ethical to use grant funds to pay the grant writer because that would be paying for work that was done BEFORE the grant period begins. In fact, many federal grants prohibit this practice, known as “pre-award costs.” It is also considered best practice to pay for services performed within a reasonable amount of time and within the same school year budget. If you wait until the grant is awarded, it can mean the grant writer is not paid for the work until months later, or even the following school year. This is not respectful of their professional services or good practice for your finances.
The school can define many of the terms of the agreement to fit their needs, such as the number of hours expected or the number of grants to be submitted. It’s important that you build a professional relationship with a grant writer who will help you meet your goals, and that relationship is built on mutual respect and communication.
For more information, review the Grant Professionals Association Code of Ethics at:
Don’t imagine that hiring a grant writer will mean you don’t have work to do. You are hiring their expertise in grants and their skills and experience with writing proposals, but YOU are still the expert on your school and your program. You need to provide leadership, access, and information to support your grant writer.
- Share your vision
- Build a partnership
- Create a list of priorities
- Operate under a fair code of ethics
- Determine fair payment and understand the reasons
In the end, you are responsible for the grant quality and submission, so be actively involved in the process and provide guidance and feedback as frequently as needed.
So What Are the Benefits?
A grant writer can save you time, but that is not the most essential benefit. A good grant writer offers experience in what works and resources to answer your questions. Professional grant writers have models of good budgets and timelines. They know how grants are evaluated. They know what questions to ask and how to organize the work. They are familiar with working within strict word count requirements and online application systems. They can help you move from vision to action plan to approval with confidence and relative ease.
Managing Your Grants Program from a Distance…Is It Possible?
The secret to success in any endeavor is consistent effort over the long term. Once you set up your grants committee and have your procedures and grant priorities established, you want to keep the momentum going with steady progress toward your goals. Long-term success in grants is attainable by anyone in any school. However, it is not your job to write every grant. Once you have established a grants program at your school, your grants committee should be doing most of the heavy lifting on your grant-seeking efforts. It is time for you to take a step back. You can let your grants committee take the lead and your role will now focus on monitoring and accountability.
What should you monitor to keep your grants program running smoothly? On a regular basis, you should be able to answer these questions, with reports from your committee and by attending periodic meetings.
- What is the overall effectiveness of our grants programs?
- How effective is our school’s grant proposal writing?
- How well are we managing the grants we win?
- Are we making progress toward fundraising goals for approved priorities?
The first question is asking if your grants program is meeting overall goals as established in your charge statement. Have you been successful with grants that meet your goals? Are those programs adding value to your school?
The second question is asking about your grants committee’s track record. How many grant applications have been submitted? What percentage of the grants has been successful? Are you more successful with private grants or government grants? Are you winning large grants or small grants?
The third question looks at your effectiveness in meeting your obligations for each grant. Are you managing funds and reporting requirements according to your agreement with the granting agencies? Is the program meeting its goals? Who is tracking and reporting data? Who is analyzing the results? Are the programs having the impact you hoped for?
The final question is about your grant-seeking efforts in relation to your approved priorities. Are the grant proposals aligned with targeted priorities and dollar amounts? Are you making progress toward reaching funding goals?
The answers to these questions can be part of a periodic report to your board of directors, staff, and parents. Summarize the results and invite them to support your efforts to provide regular and reliable funding to support your school.
Part of your role as the school leader is to set the agenda for your grants committee. The more attention you put into giving them a detailed roadmap to follow, the more likely they will end up where you hoped they would go, and the more comfortable you will be with letting them take the wheel. Monitor regularly to hold them accountable for the goals you set, and coach the team to make any course corrections needed. You will be developing leaders and providing new resources for your school while you are able to give more of your attention to other priorities.
Grants create opportunities for collaboration with staff and the board of directors. You can develop future leaders as well as future programs with a strong grants development program. You can create a leadership development plan that includes classroom grants, school grants, your grant-writing committee, and program oversight for new grants projects.
Who’s in Charge?
The term grants administration covers all the tasks related to getting a grant and carrying out the project. The work typically involves a variety of staff members who are responsible for various duties related to the grant program. This may include, for example, the accounting department for handling the funds and preparing financial reports, the staff members who are leading the program, the office staff who may be ordering supplies or curriculum for the program, and the HR department who may be responsible for onboarding new staff being paid by grant funds.
All of these activities must be managed by a leader who understands the grant’s goals, the school’s goals, and the requirements of the grant agreement. You can be successful with grants when you ensure your school:
- Is committed to instituting ethical practices that align with the school’s values and are in compliance with laws and grant procedures.
- Develops and updates policies to address operations, responsibilities, and accountability for its grant program.
- Creates and updates procedures for all grant functions, including financial reporting, transactions, and grant compliance.
- Has established a system for finances and program administration.
- Provides adequate training for all employees involved in the grant program.
- Establishes systems to routinely monitor accountability and evaluation, within a continuous improvement cycle.
Prepare Your Grants Manager
Designate one staff member to be your grants manager. It is crucial to have one point of contact for all your grants. This person will be responsible for coordinating your school’s grant-writing efforts, tracking all grants submitted, and meeting all grant deadlines. This person will be an important member of the Grants Committee. They need to understand how important this role is, both because grants are legal agreements and because grants are important to your school improvement goals.
Your grants manager will need to be extremely organized and detail-oriented. They will need to be comfortable working in a spreadsheet or data management system. They will need to understand how to efficiently dissect a grant application or request for proposals to find the requirements, purpose, deadlines, et cetera, and how to answer questions about these grants for staff members. They will need to work with your finance department or bookkeeper to ensure that grant funds are handled according to grant terms and school policies. Most importantly, they need to be familiar with your school goals so they can help you identify grants that are a good match.
You can train your grants manager on-the-job by having this person participate in your grants committee, write and manage a few grants under your direction, and eventually taking over full responsibilities. You can also provide training or certification in grants management. There are several good resources available for training. If you are looking for a grants certification program and other training resources, start with this organization: