Should I Try On a Grant Writing Hat?

July 31, 2008

In one of my many former lives, I spent almost 10 years writing government and other types of business proposals for a small environmental services and training company. (Mayhew Environmental Training Associates). So another hat I wear (and look good in) is preparing government and business proposals, from 800 page, multipart ones worth hundreds of thousands, to simple letter proposals. But I’ve never tried writing grants.

Which is a shame since there’s this giant market that’s largely underserved by writers (mostly freelancers out to make a quick buck or people who aren’t very good writers, but have to do something for a living): grant writing.

I get these GURU.com listings everyday, but I figured 1. I bet the writers low-ball everything like the writers on elance.com do; and 2. I know very little about grant writing; so it doesn’t make any sense for me to bid.

Anyhow, so today, somebody posts (actually re-posts because they were so ill-served by the people they’d hired before) this request:

Category: Writing / Editing / Translation
Description:
We are a small church in southwest Arkansas preparing to purchase a group home for people with mental retardation. We want to bring this home under a Christian based board of directors and improve living conditions, programs, and open a community based work shop to ser the six men living in the program and others in the comunity.

We have an expected budget range of $800,000 and are in need of a grant writer to write, submit, follow up on, and obtain grants to assit toward the $800,000 goal.

This project has been posted in the past without much success due to serveral factors, but some things we will need is the following: 1. References, 2. Fee Rates or flat fee, 3. projected time, 4. contact information, and 5. follow up.

Unfortunately, we have hired grant writers who have had little follow up with his, little assistance in submission of our proposals, and no return calls. Most of the recent bids we got were figures from $600 to $4,000. When we tried to obtain further information about the fees, we felt sidelined and ignored. Please be prepared to give a detailed billing.

A flat fee would be good and the person needs to keep in mind we are a very small church. However, once the facility is obtained through grants and loans, there will be a substantial Medicaid income that will sponser new grant projects (i.e. the workshop mentioned for example. We will need a grant writer who is prepared to grow from what we feel is a small project to a rather large project.

So that turned on my “oh my gosh, I could help here” meter (plus I could make a living if it pays between $500 and $5000 per grant submission), so I figured, well, damn! How do I get to where I can help? Someone must put on a decent course on grant writing . . . but I bet it’s $2K or $3K and takes a week or two . . .

Then I found this: it’s $425 for 2 days of instruction (which is a steal), and looks very professional:
Grant Writing USA.

So I’m taking the course so I can start bidding on select projects–some projects are just idiotic, but many are churches and philanthropic groups who just don’t have the skills to apply (or know where to look for) a grant.

I think it’s an opportunity for me and a chance to do something more meaningful than make rich people richer (not that there’s anything wrong with that ;~}).

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3 Responses to “Should I Try On a Grant Writing Hat?”

  1. Jake Seliger Says:

    Then I found this: it’s $425 for 2 days of instruction (which is a steal), and looks very professional:
    Grant Writing USA.

    Judging from your blog, you’re a good writer to begin with; in our experience, grant writing training is fairly useless, for reasons explained in Credentials for Grant Writers—If I Only Had A Brain and its various follow-ups. You’ll probably get more from our blog, Grant Writing Confidential, than you will from a grant writing class, and, if not that, then from a journalism class.

    The grant writing experience of the church you quote from isn’t uncommon, and the flakiness of many practitioners is a major problem in grant writing. If you’re going to solve it in your corner of the universe, that’s a good thing.

  2. David C. Says:

    Did you ever attend the training?

  3. John Says:

    Yes–the training was very good. The class members were mostly university people who had lost or were anticipating losing all or part of the funding for a particular program and were pursuing grants as a way to replace it.

    A lot of lively discussions, etc. A lot like a university seminar style class. The materials are also very good and do include the info on funding sources, etc. that I was looking for.

    There was one other freelance writer in the room looking to do the same thing I am. The presenter painted a grim picture for writers who “try to make a living” writing grants, citing someone he knows who lost his shirt by essentially “writing on spec” with the understanding that he wouldn’t be paid unless the organization was actually awarded a grant. (Duh.)

    My plan was and is to just add one more service–not switch to grant writing from a successful copywriting biz. That’s really what the Many Hats thing is all about (and I’m thinking it’s a good idea in this economy).

    Anyhow, ever since I got back to the office I’ve been slammed with copywriting work, so . . . ;~}.


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