• Peggy Downs

How to Find the Right Grant Writer for Your School

Looking for someone to write your next grant proposal? Imagine finding the perfect partner who understands your program idea, cares about your school as passionately as you do, and magically delivers the perfect grant proposal…


And that is where the magic truly happens...

Your perfect grant writer may be out there, but you’ve got some work to do to make it a beautiful partnership. And you’re in luck! As a grant writer and former charter school leader, I’ve been on both sides of the process.


Let me show you how to identify and work with a grant writer so you can meet your grant funding goals. By investing the time to work with your grant writer, you can ensure the best possible grant outcomes and avoid costly mistakes, which means you will be able to provide the additional funding your school needs for the important work you do.


1. Plan for Success

What do you want to do? Are you looking for a major grant to fund a construction project or smaller grants to support a specific program? Do you need the funding in the next three to six months or something that will extend over several years? Are you considering federal grants or local grants? Grant writers tend to specialize in certain types of grants. You need to know the answers to these questions before you start searching for a grant writer. Take a few moments to write down your thoughts.


Grant applications require basic information and documentation for your school. Get organized now by gathering and updating any documents that the grant writer might need. It can be helpful to create a digital folder to collect these documents and share when you are ready. You’ll need your 501c(3) letter, annual budget, recent budget summary, and information about your school leadership and accomplishments. There’s more, but that’s a good start.

What does success look like for you? Set your goals and be as clear as you can. How much money are you looking for? When do you need it? What will it be used for? What do you expect to accomplish with the funding? These questions will be asked in grant applications, so it’s best to get this information ready now.


Plan ahead for deadlines. Some grants are offered three or four times a year (mostly smaller foundation grants) and some only come around once a year (especially federal grants). Your grant writer should be familiar with the grant review cycles but you need to be prepared to work with him or her to meet these deadlines.

Decide how much you are willing to pay for services. Let’s face it…it’s not fun to have to pay money to get more money. But it’s part of the reality of grants. If you have someone on staff or available to volunteer to write your grant, that’s an option. But you’ll likely lose out on the professionalism and grants expertise that a qualified grant writer provides. It’s an expense that can be well worth the investment. Keep reading to learn how you can make sure it is worthwhile for you.

2. Interview for Quality and Best Match

How do you find grant writers? First, ask other schools. Referrals from satisfied school leaders are absolutely the best place to start. Next, search online or through social media. Many grant writers can be found on LinkedIn. Finally, consider a grant writer referral site, such as https://www.professionalgrantwriter.org.

Look for someone who has experience in the types of grants you want to focus on. Be sure they understand the unique funding requirements for charter schools and can work within the budget you have available.

Once you have a few names, set up interviews. You can use this cheat sheet to guide your interview. It offers ten questions you should ask, and ten more questions they might want to ask you, so you can plan your answers in advance. If the grant writer is local, you can interview in person, but it is entirely possible to work with a grant writer who is remote so a phone or video interview may work better.

Work with a Grant Writer that Works for You

Interview professional grant writers to find the best match for your school.


Download this list of 10 questions to ask a grant writer, and 10 questions they may ask you. Be prepared to choose the best grant writer to help you meet your goals.


Grant Writer Interview Questions

https://gum.co/vbFXt

Identify your top candidate(s) and ask to see samples. Allow them to send both successful and unsuccessful grant proposals. After all, grant proposals are denied for many reasons which may be beyond the grant writer’s control. Invite them to explain why they believe the grant proposal was denied and ask if they would change anything. This will tell you a lot about how they work. Review the samples to see if the writing is professional and well organized, and ask yourself if you would approve the proposed project.

Finally, take the time to contact one or two prior clients. Ask what it was like working with the grant writer and if they would hire him or her again.

3. Audition with a Smaller Project

There is a learning curve in grant writing. Your new grant writer needs to understand your school, your grant goals, and your organization history. You don’t want to commit thousands of dollars and many hours to a major project that ends up going nowhere.

Start with a smaller grant and a shorter timeline. I recommend choosing a grant for under ten thousand dollars, due in two to three months, if possible. This strategy will allow you to establish systems for smooth communication and build confidence in your new grant writer. You’ll need that later to make a larger project successful.

Decide on the terms of service and sign a limited contract for the specific grant you want to start with. Some grant writers will give you an hourly rate; others may offer a quote for the full project. Your grant writer will have a service contract available and can explain how they determine their rates. Be sure the contract describes exactly what deliverable is expected and the terms of payment. As with any contract, have the document reviewed by your business manager before signing. Grant writers are usually independent contractors so your school will need to provide an IRS Form 1099 for the payment they receive.

4. Stay Engaged

If you are thinking that hiring a grant writer gets you off the hook for the work, think again. Your grants professional has expertise in grant writing, but YOU are the expert in your school and your proposed project. You need to make yourself available to answer questions. There will be documents and information required by the grant application, and sometimes there are unique formatting or word count limits that you both need to work with.


Be responsive when your grant writer contacts you. Set a schedule for regular check-ins and deliverables, and manage the project actively. Expect the process to be a collaboration, not a hands-off service.

Work with a Grant Writer that Works for You

Interview professional grant writers to find the best match for your school.


Download this list of 10 questions to ask a grant writer, and 10 questions they may ask you. Be prepared to choose the best grant writer to help you meet your goals.


Grant Writer Interview Questions

https://gum.co/vbFXt

5. Keep Working until You Are Satisfied

Expect the first draft to need revising. And the second…and probably the third. It takes a while to learn the language and values of a new client. The grant writer is working to answer specific questions in the application with the information you provide. Be honest with your grant writer and improve their work with transparency and openness about the project. Use the editing process to educate the grant writer on your school and goals.


Don’t accept the final draft until you feel it accurately and completely reflects your proposed project or program. Keep working until you get goose bumps when you read the proposal. Until that happens, you have not captured the passion your proposal embodies. When it does, you will practically compel the grant funder to approve your application. Ultimately, YOU are responsible for whether the grant proposal is accepted or not.

When you find a grant writer who understands your school, your goals, and your important work, invest in building that relationship so you can achieve more together. More successful grant applications. More funding for important projects. More support for your students.


And that is where the magic truly happens…

Start-Up Guide for School Grants

Thinking about school grants? Wondering where to start?

In the Start-Up Guide for School Grants, Peggy Downs shares answers to the questions she hears most often as she works with school leaders to develop grants. Have you ever wondered:

  • Is a grant the answer for your school?

  • Why do grants matter?

  • How do you find grants?

  • What are the best grant-writing books?

  • How can classroom grants help my school?

In this book, you’ll learn the answers to these questions and more. After you read this book, you’ll have a clearer idea of how grants can support your school programs.


Written by an experienced school leader and grant writer, this book is a great place to start. Shop now on Amazon.


As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!


My Mission

To help 100 charter school leaders write successful grants in the next 5 years


Learn more and find a ton of free resources at:

www.peggydowns.com


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All views expressed in this work are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

 

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All views expressed in this work are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. 

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