When Should You Hire a Grants Consultant

July 19, 2016 | By Lily McManus | Post a Comment

two women at computer clasroom looking in monitorGrantseeking can be a daunting task even for seasoned applicants, and may seem nearly impossible if you’re a newer or smaller organization, or one with less experience with grants development. You might be eligible for any number of public or private funding sources, but when you’re working with limited resources, the prospect of finding the right opportunity — let alone preparing a proposal and submitting the application — can be overwhelming. This is where external consultants can help you find and secure the funding you need to serve your organization’s mission.

It may be tempting to forgo the expense of hiring a contract consultant and instead plan to shoulder all the work yourself, but there are several scenarios in which the benefits can outweigh the cost. Organizations with tight budgets and/or low staffing can get access to grantseeking expertise without the associated payroll, health benefits and other costs associated with staffing an in-house grants office with full-time workers. Newer organizations can eliminate the costs and extra time associated with training inexperienced employees to perform grants development tasks. Bigger and more experienced organizations also may benefit from hiring outside consultants when they need specialized expertise in specific program areas, when they are dealing with an especially high volume of work or when a grant proposal requires coordination among multiple prospective partners.

Keep in mind that although external grants consultants can be an invaluable resource, they can’t write or submit a successful proposal without your help. Be prepared to collaborate with consultants so that they have all the information they need about your organization, including its history and mission, its strengths and weaknesses, its prior grants, programs, financial status or program staff. You should also be prepared have your own staff handle the necessary registrations and administrative processes associated with submitting grant applications, such as registration with Grants.gov, the System of Award Management and acquiring a DUNS number from Dun & Bradstreet. Whether applying for public or private grants, or both, you should set expectations early on for what your consultant can and cannot do.

What should you look for when hiring an outside grants consultant? Some helpful questions to consider might include:

  • Does the individual have experience preparing federal or private grants? Experience with grants that relate to the organization’s activities?
  • How many years of grants development experience does the individual have?
  • How many proposals has the individual submitted, and in what role?
  • How many submissions that the individual has worked on received funding?
  • For denied proposals, what kind of feedback did the individual receive from the grantor?
  • Does the individual have both writing and budget experience?
  • What online systems has the individual used?

We recently published an article with even more information about hiring grants consultants on Thompson’s Grants Compliance Expert website. Subscribers can check out this site to learn more.


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