Do you remember the commercials with the crazy guy in the suit covered in question marks? He ranted and raved about how much money you could get for FREE from grants and by just buying his product, you could cash in on the craze.
While the commercials sounded too good to be true, grant-funding is a multi-billion-dollar industry and people do get money from grants on a regular basis. One of the primary ways grants are funded are through something called Requests for Proposals or RFPs.
RFPs are invitations from grant funders to apply for grant money. Grant writing is the practice of managing an application process, or an RFP process, to secure funding provided by particular institutions like corporations, government departments, foundations and/or trust.
To become a successful freelance grant writer, you need to identify organizations that you could write grant applications for on a regular basis. They could be your favorite community outreach, nonprofit organizations, churches, hospitals, schools, or nursing homes.
If you aren’t sure of an organization, you should at least identify a cause. These can be things such as mental health, cancer services, homelessness, early childhood education, prison rehabilitation, or hunger and food services.
When you decide to start a freelance business as a grant writer, the following is an idyllic path to get there…
- Earn a Bachelor’s Degree (helpful, but not required)
- Take Courses in Grant Writing
- Get Some Grant Writing Experience
- Gain Industry Experience
- Join a Professional Association
How to get free training as a grant writer
As a professional grant writer, you need to apply a clear and specific language that focuses the reader’s attention. This is crucial because you have to persuade your reader to fund the desired project. Every RFP is different, but it will basically outline all of the sections that your application will need to have, from the Statement of Need to the Budget.
The learning process is not a simple task, but it is doable especially if you can find a mentor. Start with a local organization and volunteer to help on the Grants and Development team. Very few teams will turn down any offer of help.
You can start by being an editor or helping to maintain files such as letters of agreement from partners, tax forms, and other forms that will need to be attached to the application. Then you can take on small sections on your own. Over time, in a situation like this, the writing process becomes easier with continuous practice and awareness of the common mistakes. Consider this free training in a skill that is in high demand.
After finishing the training process with your desired institution (you have to research and select your preferred, yet verified institution), you may be eligible for The Certified Grant Writer® professional credential from the American Grant Writer’s Association. This certification is the grant industry’s standard for professionals. The document highlights that you have demonstrated proficiency in grant researching, budgeting, proposal writing, as well as professional ethics.
Different examples of grants
There are numerous kinds of grants and grant providers. As such, it is crucial to understand and identify grants that your organization qualifies for before you begin the application process. Below are brief descriptions of the four major types of grants.
Block grants. These are large grants offered by the federal government to local government or state for use in a general setting.
Project grants. The government provides this type of grant for funding research projects. However, before its awarded, you need to acquire certain qualifications before applying.
Formula grants. Certain funding needs are dictated by law, and this kind of grant is offered to meet such needs.
Earmark grants. These grants are specified explicitly in appropriations of the United States Congress. Unlike the other grants, they are not awarded competitively and are often highly controversial because of the heavy task of securing them.
You can view available government grant RFPs at www.grants.gov.
The other type of grant is commonly referred to as a foundation grant. You may have heard of the Bill Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, or the Rockefeller Foundation. These philanthropical organizations sponsor projects and other organizations that align with their missions.
Each foundation website offers information on how to apply for their grant funds. The applications tend to be simpler than government grants and are sometimes a good start for a newer grant writer.
Oftentimes, you can submit what is called a Letter of Intent, Letter of Interest, or Letter of Inquiry (LOI) instead of a full grant application. If you have a smaller, local foundation such as a community women’s club, or a small business foundation, those are ideal places to look for funding opportunities.
A typical day as a professional freelance grant writer
For a professional grant writer, every day is a new adventure. You may be working on several applications at one time. This means you will be in contact with several teams to gather the information you need to compile the application.
You may need to interview what are called stakeholders, or people who are involved in certain projects. You will need to find out how much running a certain program, like a breast cancer screening or a food pantry, costs to operate.
Every day is different from the previous day and slowly, the application begins to take shape as you near the deadline.
At some point in time, you will need to keep a master grants calendar. Once you learn what opportunities are available, you can reach out to different groups and offer to manage the application process for them for a fee.
The master grants calendar helps you to stay on track if you are managing multiple applications. You can juggle all your clients and ensure that you are on top of every organization’s funding plans. You do not want to miss any deadlines!
How much can you make as a professional freelance grant writer?
As of August 03, 2017, the median annual Grant Writer’s salary was $66,264. The range is often between $59,389 and $74,442. However, this varies widely based on several factors. You may want to start with an hourly rate and then progress to project-based rates. For instance, a government grant application for a hospital can fetch between $5,000 to $12,000 or more to write and manage. Once you have a successful track record of writing grants and receiving funding, your fees will increase significantly.