“How much should I pay for a grant writer,” is probably one of the top five frequently asked questions I receive. So if it is on your mind, here are four items to consider when you are considering hiring someone in-house or as a consultant.
- Hiring in-house vs. consultant. Consultant costs will appear steeper per hour until you factor in what you’d be paying in pay and benefits (health insurance, retirement, paid time off, etc.) to hire someone in-house. Additionally consider if you need an in-house grant writer full time. The answer to that is found in the size of your organization and type of organization. For example a two person nonprofit has very different scaling capabilities compared to an academic institution. Seriously consider your ability and timeline in scaling upwards.
- Cost for an in-house grant writer or a consultant will vary based on geography, and possibly size of the organization. Some consultants will have a sliding scale regarding per hour, or per project costs. Cost of living in Chicago vs. Toledo are very different, and subsequently what you’ll need to pay will vary as well.
- Lower costs does not equate to a better deal in most cases. Sure you could contract with someone new to the field at their offered rate of $25 per hour, but you may end up paying an overall higher rate as their lack of experience results in their need to bill more hours to get the job done. For example, when you are new on any job in any field it takes longer to get something done compared to someone who has been doing it for years. Economy of scale comes with someone who has been in the field for a longer time. Remember grants aren’t guaranteed so you could be paying someone to practice on your dime.
- Do a bit of research. One of my favorite articles, although it was written in 2006 so rates and salaries have gone up, is “Calculating fees as a freelance grant proposal writer.” I value it because it comes from a neutral source, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and provides a well thought out plan regarding pay rates for in-house or consultant costs research. Sites like Developing Good offer grant consulting information without the consultant price tag and can also be an option if you are exploring the grant world.
Unless your organization is capable of scaling up in personnel and programming all at once, which is unusual when considering the nonprofit growth cycle, a consultant may be the way to begin. Although, if the capacity to scale up does exist hiring someone in-house for grants can work for you. Cautionary note, don’t dump the responsibility on an existing employee who has other duties. Why? Because grant writing includes much more than ‘plug and play.’ It is relationship building, writing, monitoring, reporting, etc. You have one shot at making a good first impression with funders. Make sure you go into the grant writing world well prepared and ready to knock their socks off. Grants are competitive and you want to make sure your submission stands out for all the right reasons.