Many people ask me “when’s the best time for the grant writer to get involved?” The answer to this is “it depends.” To find the best timing for your needs, ask yourself the following 10 questions:
Your Business Structure
- Are you functioning as a business or an individual? While some arts and humanities grants target individuals, many grants are for businesses.
- If a business, are you a small business? Are you “for profit” or “non-profit?” Whatever type of business you have developed will determine what types of grants you can apply for.
- Is your business registered (if required)? Many federal grants require registration in the DUNS and SAM systems prior to application. This registration can take time, so shouldn’t be done at the last minute.
You will need to know your business structure prior to hiring a grant writer. Consult with a lawyer, tax advisor, or financial advisor for the pluses and minuses of various business structures. Once the structure is determined, appropriate registration can generally be done concurrent with grant writing / editing.
- Do you know what you are doing? Do you know what you want to do, test, or develop, as well as the steps that you’ll need to accomplish to achieve your goals?
- Is it written down? Often, companies or individuals have prepared briefing summaries, abstracts, market analyses, powerpoint presentations, or other documents related to their upcoming project. These can all be useful for the grant writer in preparing the proposal.
- Have you done the research? The proposal should indicate that the applicant has done their homework on current practices and competing ideas or projects, including citations. While grant writers may also be good researchers, they are generally not the expert in all fields, or as well-versed in the topic as the applicant.
Have you developed a budget? Often the last item developed is the budget, and it shows. Some reviewers begin by reviewing the budget for this reason. A sloppy budget that doesn’t add up, doesn’t match the objectives, doesn’t include funding for key personnel, or includes funding that isn’t identified someplace in the proposal can impact your chances for success.
If the answer is “yes” to questions 6, 7, and 8, congrats! You are on your way to being ready to hire a grant writer!
- Have you identified a grant to pursue? The grant writer will tailor your information for the targeted grant, but typically will not set out searching for a grant that fits the proposal. While this is something that a grant writer could do, it’s best to consult with local resources and/or search online within your field to narrow the field of appropriate grants. With so many potential avenues for grants, your grant writer will not know all of your grant options within a topic.
- Have you developed supporting documents for the proposal? Many grants require other documents be submitted along with the proposal, such as letters of support, resumes for primary researchers, references, etc. While these documents may be able to be developed concurrent with the proposal, you are wise to begin early so you aren’t rushing a potential supporter for a last-minute letter.
Again, if the answer is “yes” to questions 8 and 9, you may be ready to hire a grant writer!
- Writing or Editing? If you have already written the proposal and just need a fresh set of eyes for editing, this approach will generally be the fastest and least expensive since most of the actual writing has been done. However, writing a proposal from scratch can certainly be done, provided the applicant is fluent with what is being done, who will be participating, and how much the project will cost and can communicate that information with the grant writer. This approach may also require that the grant writer seek out appropriate references and citations, if required, since written material and background on the project may be limited. Writing from scratch typically will take longer and cost more than editing.
These are just 10 questions to ask to determine if you are ready to hire a grant writer. If you have others to add, please add them in the comments.