How to Work Effectively With a Virtual Grant Writer

How to Work Effectively With a Virtual Grant Writer

This article was originally published on the Charity Channel.   

If you are not accustomed to collaborating with a virtual grant writer, there are some arrangements to get used to. You may, for example, want to set up monthly or biweekly check-ins to keep one another appraised of progress. You may also want to use one of the many online services for sharing documents. Agreeing to deadlines in advance is also critical. Here are some tips for to making your relationship with a virtual consultant successful.

  1. Collect documentation. Before you start working with a consultant, organize a packet of documents. What to include? Your strategic plan, brochures, program informational sheets, staff resumes, community needs assessments, memoranda of understanding, program evaluation documents, and the like. In addition, you should collect notes and planning documents on the project for which you seek funding. Even the most talented consultant cannot do her job if you do not present her with the information she needs.

  2. Define project roles. In every good relationship, you must be clear about expectations. Who will do the budget? What about the budget narrative? Will you or the grant writer fill out the forms and post the proposal online? You might simply want your grant writer to write the project narrative. Or you may need help as well with project planning. Make sure to be clear about roles and responsibilities from the start.

  3. Be ready to work hard. Nonprofits often expect grant writers to write their proposals without bothering them. However, the best proposals are the result of a nonprofit/ grant writer partnership. Don’t expect a grant-writing consultant to tell you what you need, do all your work, and solve all your problems. Your consultant may suggest some interesting ideas and could probably write a proposal without your input. However, the resulting project wouldn’t belong to your organization and might not work for your community.

  4. Assign a point person. This person will be project leader for the proposal–the person responsible for ensuring that deadlines are met and delivering requested materials to your grant writer. The point person is also responsible for explaining to other staff their roles on the project.

  5. Make a commitment. Grant writing is deadline-driven work. When your grant writer tells you that she needs something by a certain date, she is depending upon you to follow through promptly. If you absolutely can’t meet a deadline, tell your grant writer well in advance so that he can change her plans, if possible. If she can’t, you may need to stay late or get in early.

  6. Consider contracting on retainer. Although a professional grant writer will be able to produce a highly competitive application the first time around, it can take a while for your working relationship to function as efficiently as possible. You need time to learn how to work together. Your grant writer should be open to feedback. And, in turn, you should be open to the grant writer’s perspective because she may see angles you cannot. By hiring a grant writer on retainer, you can benefit tremendously from working with the same person on more than one proposal.

  7. Review your work. It is very useful to review your experience of working together at certain strategic points—after your first proposal and again three or six months down the line. Look at both your accomplishments and challenges. Ask questions such as: Did you each honor your contract? Did the grant writing go smoothly? Were your expectations of each other realistic? Did you communicate well?

In sum, expect your grant writer to be goal-oriented, highly motivated, deadline driven, and to believe in the goals that you propose to accomplish. For your part, keep in mind that in most cases you will still need to work hard to make projects and proposals succeed even when a consultant is involved. In fact, you may work harder than you have ever worked before if your consultant holds you to professional grant-writing standards (as she should). Rise to the occasion. You stand to advance your organization in ways you have only dreamed possible.