Virtual Consultants: Can They Work for Your Nonprofit?

Virtual Consultants: Can They Work for Your Nonprofit?

This article was originally published on the Charity Channel.  

Many nonprofits view the idea of working with a contract grant writer as either mildly unnerving or seemingly impossible. Since one-on-one client service is an integral part of their daily work, the thought of collaborating with a consultant who is not there 9-to-5 doesn’t sit right. Additionally, they may not see how someone can really understand what they do and what makes them special without being there in-person.

Yet working with an off-site grant writer is not only possible; it may actually be the ideal approach. After years of working with clients from a distance, we have witnessed the numerous ways that clients save time, money, and resources by using this innovative solution to bringing funds into their organizations.

Consultants vs. Staff Writers

  1. You don’t pay benefits. That is, you don’t have to pay a consultant anything other than a flat or hourly fee. (Most professional grant writers will quote you a not-to-exceed, flat rate.) You also save on the overhead costs associated with in-house staff.
  2. You only pay for time on the job. In hiring a grant-writing consultant, there are no wasted hours. Everyone loses the ability to concentrate after a few hours of intense mental work, and grant writing is intense mental work! When the consultant becomes mentally fatigued, she goes off the clock. When her energy returns, she starts working again. (Consultants take this cycle into account when setting their rate.)
  3. You hire a specialist. A consultant who specializes in grant writing knows a great deal about what makes a proposal competitive. To optimize your chances for success, she will coach you in planning your project down to the requisite detail and instruct you in preparing all of the necessary attachments.
  4. Your staff can do what they do best. Nonprofits may assign the task of grant writing to a program staff member or the executive director. These people have more important things to do with their time, such as providing services or running the agency, and their skill set may not be appropriate to writing proposals. Overburdened and overworked, they frequently resent grant writing.

Advantages of Hiring a Virtual Consultant

  1. Phone meetings save significant time. While face-to-face meetings are sometimes valuable, most grant-writing business is easily conducted via phone or video conferencing. As a result, no time is wasted getting to or from meetings. Moreover, there is a greater tendency to make good use of the allotted time.
  2. You can chose the person best suited to your organization’s needs. When hiring a consultant, you’re not limited by geography. You can work with the best person for the job every time—even if that person lives in another time zone!
  3. You benefit from team strengths. Some of the best grant-writing consultants form partnerships with other consultants to maximize the expertise they bring to every project. This means that if you need to do strategic planning as part of preparing a proposal, the resources for doing so are there. You don’t have to go shopping again. If the consultant is hired on retainer, this adds a significant range of expertise to your organization—partners often have valuable insight to share.
  4. You form connections across the country. Even if you are a community-based nonprofit, you benefit from making connections with individuals who are familiar with what’s going on in your field as it is practiced elsewhere in the U.S. You never know when your virtual grant-writing may put you in touch with a partner outside your home base who will open doors for you.