A grant writer is tasked with securing one of the most crucial elements of any nonprofit organization. This means writing proposals to help them secure funds. With grant proposals, you get just one chance, so naturally, it's essential to ensure that the writers know what to say and how to say it.
In this article, we'll take a closer look at what a full-time professional grant writer does on a typical day at the job and answer a few questions people usually ask about the job.
Let’s dive right in.
What Does a Grant Writer Do?
A grant writer acts as a documentation specialist and salesperson of a nonprofit organization, public institution, or any entity looking for funding.
However, instead of convincing funders by whatever means necessary, grant writers have it much harder. They don’t have the luxury of speaking but need to put their argument to paper (or a Microsoft Word page).
They are also responsible for researching grants, be it a federal or private grant. They gather the documentation necessary for a proposal, prove why their fundraising venture requires their assistance, and fulfill any other requirements funding agencies set when seeking proposals.
All this is part of the usual grant writing process.
If you're interested in learning more about the process, check out our Grant Writing Certification course.
Grant writers need to be familiar with their organization’s mission. This is so that they can explain it to funders and supply the main lifeblood every nonprofit relies on.
It’s not enough to secure a single grantor and call it a day. It's a grant writer’s responsibility to keep finding grant-makers and ensure consistent funding for the nonprofit.
The requirements for different organizations are different for a grant writer.
For example, some who rely heavily on grant proposals might be looking for exceptional writing skills and years of experience, as well as familiarity with the grant application writing process. Others might be more lenient.
Having said that, there are some essential skills that every nonprofit (and small businesses in some instances) looks for in a grant writer.
- Persuasive writing skills
- Excellent research skills for funding opportunities
- A strategic approach towards writing proposals
- Ability to understand an organization’s mission properly
- An understanding of how funding agencies work (as well as utilizing that to secure funding)
- Organizational skills
- Proven track record of fulfilling complex requirements and crafting tailored grant applications
- Being well-versed with Office applications
This was just an overview of what is expected from a grant writer.
While a Bachelor's degree or higher is not an absolute prerequisite for a grant writing job, especially as a freelancer, it is highly recommended that you have one as a hopeful.
Some organizations may even require you to have a degree, on top of the aforementioned skills.
Grant Writer Qualifications
Here are the qualifications for a typical grant writer:
- Bachelor's Degree in a writing-intensive field (English Linguistics, Journalism, Marketing, or Communication)
- Master's Degree in Social Sciences, Creative Writing, or Nonprofit Management
- Advanced certification or vocational diploma in grant writing
- Experience in corporate or technical writing
Online certifications are a great way to learn bankable skills such as grant writing. However, they are best when paired with a Bachelor's Degree. If you're interested in learning more about grant writer qualifications, then check out how to put together a great grant writer resume.
Grant Writer Roles and Responsibilities
A significant chunk of a grant writer’s day is spent writing and crafting the perfect proposal.
When working for a grant writing service, the writer speaks with clients to better understand the organization’s mission. They make notes that will help them find funding opportunities with respect to their specific needs. This usually takes about 25% of the writer’s time.
Then comes research. In some cases, clients need grant money but don’t know about any funders or their policies. It becomes the writer’s responsibility to find them private or federal grants.
This starts with a quick search, checking the clients’ eligibility for different funding programs, and making more notes to present to clients later on.
After that, writers search on social media. This could be difficult since they have to try out different keywords and sift through RFPs (Requests for Proposals) to check eligibility.
This research usually takes up about 50% of the writers’ time, on average. Research also includes hunting for statistics.
Once all the relevant data has been collected, writers will start writing grants and formatting. The proposal writing process usually takes up about 10%-15% of the writer’s time. Depending on the complexity, it might take a bit longer.
Lastly, grant writers will need to create custom illustrations, charts, and projections (with the client’s help) to make the proposal more relevant. This takes up around 10% of the writer’s time.
These proposals aren’t just targeted towards private funders, but may also be public foundations. In fact, federal grants are much more attractive, but are highly competitive as well.
From healthcare to charity, animal care, research, and more, nonprofits of all shapes and sizes are highly dependent on grant writers and grant writing services.
Do Grant Writers Focus on Quick Deliverables?
On average, it takes about three weeks to a month to complete a well-structured and researched grant application. If writers are freelancers or working part-time, the process becomes a lot more difficult and takes longer if done right.
However, there are some grant writing services and freelancers who offer quick deliverables as well.
A grant proposal that's written haphazardly will very rarely result in a successful grant.
Delivering a 40-page grant proposal within a few days will mean that the writer didn’t go into as many details as they should have. Of course, sometimes circumstances dictate that you need quick deliverables without compromising on quality.
The only way to get a high-quality grant proposal in about a week or two is to hire a professional grant writer with at least 5-8 years of experience.
It's better in the long term to find a writer who has worked on grants specific to your industry and niche.
With past experience in a specific industry, the research time goes down significantly since these writers know what exactly it is that they need to target.
A Typical Time Table for A Grant Writer
Let's take a look at what a writer with a track record of winning private and federal government grants does during their work shift.
They start their work-day by spending the first few hours writing and editing their work if everything is ready.
Mornings are specifically productive for writing. In case writers already have all the research done, they simply have to put their thoughts down in a persuasive manner.
In case they need to do more research or illustrations, create graphs or projections, they can do that in the second half.
Grant writers usually get in touch with clients via LinkedIn, Zoom meetings, or simply by dropping them an email so that the clients can get back to them at their convenience.
How Much Do Grant Writers Get Paid?
According to Glassdoor, the average salary for grant writers in $49,661 yearly, while the complete salary range is between 35 and 70k.
Nonprofits, educational institutions, and various community health centers are the biggest employers for grant writers in the US. Organizations such as American Red Cross and Salvation Army are some of the better known names that look for grant writing expertise.
Columbia University currently has the highest paying grant writer job on Glassdoor.
Additionally, according to PayScale, expert grant writers can earn up to $20k in profit-sharing and $11k in commissions.
The grant writer salary is based on multiple factors, including:
- Written linguistic skills
- Overall customer service output
- Occupational history
Depending on where they’re employed, grant writers may get promotions that come with significant pay raises.
How Do Grant Writers Interact With Clients?
As mentioned above, before starting work on a project, grant writers spend a considerable amount of time discussing requirements, fundraising opportunities, the organization’s mission, and other relevant subjects.
The goal is to know as much as possible about their intentions with the grant, as well as ask for any and all material that could help their grant application be more appealing.
For research grants, this discussion also includes asking about the research process, the incentive behind it, goal, progress, coordinators, and more.
If there are any prototype pictures or alpha/beta results, they are also collected to strengthen their chances of winning the grant money. The resumes of all the people involved in the research process are also collected.
It usually takes about a day or two, sometimes even more, to collect everything necessary. After that, the writer is on their own.
They create an outline before starting work so that have something to work with. From this point onwards, the research process begins. If writers need anything else, they let the client know of their intention to discuss the project a bit more via email or direct message.
It is important to remember that clients pay a sum to the writers and therefore expect to remain in the loop in regards to how far along their project is.
The grant writing process is relatively slow, and clients know that well enough. Despite that, writers should make a point of welcoming any and all communication attempts from clients.
This was an up-close and personal look at what a grant writer really does in their professional life.
Of course, there will be some differences in actual responsibilities, based on the host company. Some employers may have them working on multiple different kinds of grant applications, while others may have a requirement for a single type of document
Grant writing is a complex blend of technical and creative writing and therefore has to be perfected over time if the writer is to succeed in the long term. It has mental stress factors, which is why it is essential that grant writers take leaves as and when necessary.
For those of you who are just starting out, we recommend you email a nonprofit organization or grant writing service for an internship instead of winging it from the start.
You will actually learn a lot about what a grant writer does, the research process, how to handle clients, and more. Once you are confident about your abilities, feel free to apply for a job within the professional sphere and make the most out of your years of experience as well as exceptional grant writing skills.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to the most common questions about what a grant writer does:
What does it take to be a grant writer?
To become a great grant writer you need to have excellent communication skills and be able to work well with people from a variety of backgrounds. You also need to know about the grant process, which typically starts off by reading through an application packet that includes information on what type of grant is being requested (i.e., research funding, community development), who's requesting it (the organization or individual) and why they're asking for funding in their particular field.
Is grant writing hard?
Grant writing is hard if you're not familiar with grant processes. But if you know what to expect and do your research, grant writing can be a very rewarding profession.
Can anyone write a grant?
To become a great grant writer, it's helpful but not necessary that you have a certification or Bachelor of Arts degree in English or Communications and several years of experience in a related profession. These professions include researchers, journalists or project managers within social services agencies on behalf of governments or private organizations.