When Should Our Nonprofit Organization Hire a Professional Grant Writer?
There are many small organizations with few paid staff and only a few years of nonprofit work under their belt who wonder if they should hire a professional grant writer. They ask,
“Should we hire a professional grant writer?”
“Do we need to hire a professional grant writer?”
The short answer?
Don’t hire a professional grant writer, at least yet.
Many organizations are unprepared for the grant-writing process when they first hire a professional grant writer. Therefore, here are 4 milestones that your organization should achieve before you even consider hiring a professional grant writer.
Milestone #1: Full Board of Directors and Staff
Before you consider hiring a professional grant writer or even begin looking at grants, it is important to have all of your organization’s leadership in place.
Many grant applications ask about your leadership. The grant makers want to fund organizations and projects that they know are going to be in good hands.
Think of it this way… Which of the following children would you be more willing to buy something from for a school fundraiser?
Child #1: This child knocks on your door and you have never met them in your entire life. In fact, do they even live in your neighborhood? Do they even go to this school?
Child #2: This child knocks on your door and you immediately recognize them. They are your friend’s child. Also, you can see that your friend is in the car in your driveway helping their child go around to the neighbors.
You are more likely to be inclined to buy from the second child because you know them (in this case the child would be like the staff), and you also know their parents (the board). You know that they are a responsible family and the money you give to the child is going to legitimately make it back to the school fundraiser.
Likewise, funders like to fund organizations and projects where they know that the funding will go to the right place. They like to know that they are handing over their funds to an organization with a reliable staff and board.
Milestone #2: 501(C)(3) Status Documentation
One of the most common grant application requirements is for your organization to have it’s 501(C)(3) status and documentation.
Each application will specify whether or not they require you to have 501(C)(3) status, but if you are trying to hire a professional grant writer, you will definitely limit your grant earning potential if you do not have this documentation.
Milestone #3: 3 Years of 990’s
Most grant applications require your organization to have filled 3 years worth of 990s before you apply for the grant.
Once again, there are some grants out there that will allow you to apply without 3 years worth of 990s, but a grant writer will have limited grants to write if you do not have these prior to hiring them.
Milestone #4: Diversified Funding Streams
Another milestone to hit before you consider hiring a professional grant writer is for your organization to have diversified funding streams.
Grantors do not want to be your organization’s only funding source. Click over to this article for more information about diversifying your funding streams.
So, when should your organization start looking into hiring a professional grant writer? I would recommend not hiring a professional grant writer until your organization is well-established. This includes having at least 3 years of nonprofit experience under your belt, having strong leadership, and having diversified funding streams.
Then, once you have these set in place make sure to do your research.
Personally, I am an advocate for hiring a full-time employee to become your grant writer, or creating a committee within your organization to take care of writing grants, rather than outsourcing your grant writing to a professional grant writer. If you are interested in learning more about this, check out my grant writing course and contact me.
Also, don’t forget to check out my grant writing course!