There are many issues that plague our society, from the injustices of the poor and under served communities to health, education and environmental concerns of our planet. Many non-profit organizations are tackling these ills with moderate success. However, many new and existing non-profits stumble after beginning their programs and initiatives because defining the proper course of action and understanding the correct mechanism to undertake has been blurred by their passion and desire to make an immediate impact. It is essential that non-profits clearly realize to be successful in this highly competitive world of grant seeking–an aggressive step in realizing its potential is to make an investment in your organization first.

Leaders and staff of smaller foundations work in a fragile environment, with distinctive challenges to their success as grant seekers for our communities. Smaller foundations are defined as those with minimal or no professional staff resources. Many of us know the stories about wonderful non-profits who lost their way after the excitement of forming their organization. By comparison we also know non-profits who have found their way through all the obstacles and have thrived and have even went beyond grant seekers to become grant makers and become philanthropic community leaders. There are smaller foundations like these all of us can identify. These foundations perceptively recognize and communicate the problems we all want to rally around and solve. Their leaders are the colleagues who seek assistance and advice from professionals and from whom we seek advice, and who attract many of us to join with them on a philanthropic initiative.

What’s needed to become one of those leading smaller foundations, and to sustain that success? It’s not a requirement to have an enormous staff, or to have vast financial assets, to become a philanthropic leader for our community and its causes. Smaller foundations, in a similar way to what many larger foundations do, can build up their strengths and capabilities to provide greater levels of grant seeking impact for society. It is the developing and rounding out of these attributes that have a label of “capacity community leader.” By becoming better equipped with the tools and knowledge of “grant seeking”, we increase our “capacity” and we receive better grants for our communities and causes. Serving as staff of a private foundation means that we must approach capacity building attentively with our communities as well as our board members.

We must know how and where to effectively search for the bountiful resources that are available. Small non-profit organizations without unrestricted funds to hire a qualified grant writer must decide whether to instruct current staff in proposal development, enlist a local volunteer with sound writing skills, or hire a professional fundraising consultant.

At all costs hiring or employing a professional grant writer is an investment that must be done.  If  you are in need of a grant writer you must first have a focused vision for what you want to become and what role the grant writer will play in that vision.  An experienced or successful grant writer is necessary to achieve these goals.  A successful grant writer must have:

    o        Superior Research Skills

    o        Excellent Writing Skills

    o        Salesmanship Ability

    o        Hard Work Ethic

    o        Diligence

    o        Originality and Flexibility

    o        Commitment

    o        Political Consciousness

    o        Communication Skills

    o        Administrative Proficiency

    o        Persistence

    o        Integrity and Reliability

    o        Honesty and Veracity

As well, we have leads that identify additional prospective funding sources; enable you to discover details about grant maker priorities, and determine the most competitive project for a given grant maker.  Every hour invested in research increases your chance of success.

Additionally, the success of grant proposals depends on five factors: (1) The distinction of the non-profit organization. (2) The unique nature or critical importance of the projected initiative or program. (3) The up-and-coming priorities of a funding source or the competition level in a particular grant making cycle. (4) The skills of the grant writer in building a persuasive case. (5) The active participation of the non-profit in the entire grant writing process, i.e. one or two representatives of the non-profit to infuse and demonstrate its passion for philanthropy to the grant writer. No matter how carefully and strategically we prepare a proposal, these other factors impact the outcome. As a result, grant writers deserve compensation for their many hours of research and writing skills.

On occasion, we have new non-profits request a commissioned arrangement, wherein the grant writer receives a percentage compensation based only when a grant is awarded. Unfortunately this request is considered highly unethical and is considered amateurish. Most grant writers require hourly or per diem compensation, rather than deferred pay contingent on grants received. Furthermore, the “Code of Ethical Principles and Standards of Professional Practice” of the National Society of Fund Raising Executives opposes deferred payment: They declare, “members shall work for a salary or fee, not percentage-based compensation or a commission. Members shall not pay, seek or accept finder’s fees, commissions or percentage compensation based on charitable contributions raised, and shall, to the best of their ability, discourage their organizations from making such payments based on charitable contributions.”   (AFP)

Since we depend on non-profits for our career and because every charity that we work for is equally deserving of a discount, very few professional grant writers can “donate” their services beyond a small number of special projects. In fact, we volunteer for one cherished local charity, but cannot make any further exceptions.