A Freelance Gig to Consider: Grant Writer

Hey! If you've got that skeptical look, I'm not kidding here. Grant writing, also known as proposal writing, is one of the most overlooked and underutilized freelancing opportunities out there. If you've got an eye for detail, a willingness to help specific communities, and can stay on top of deadlines, this may be worth looking into.

A grant writer is someone who assists or heads to process of getting donations and other monies for a nonprofit organization. LaQuetta Shamblee, who owns and operates The Grantbuilder, has this to say about getting funds for a living - 
"There are more than 100,000 private foundations in the U.S. that give grants to nonprofits, schools, and community projects. This does not include the grants available from major corporations that operate foundations and charitable giving programs. 
Starbucks, Target, Bank of America, Staples, Toyota, Boeing, and would you have thought that Ben & Jerry’s – yes, the company that makes the popular Chunky Monkey flavor ice cream has a foundation that awards grants." 
Tasks include, but aren't limited to, the following -

• Study and understand the history, structure, objectives, programs, and financial needs of the organization.
• Research grant opportunities from government and non-government agencies.
• Draft grant proposals and supporting documents based on the funding requirements of the organization.
• Submit proposals to grant coordinators for approval.
• Respond to internal and external queries on drafted and submitted proposals.
• Maintain positive relationships with fund providers and other stakeholders.
• Maintain records and submit reports related to grant opportunities.

What's the Difference between a Grant Writer and Freelancer?
Most grant writers have a bachelor's degree and/or experience in fundraising. They usually gain experience through internships or entry-level positions in a nonprofit organization. Often, at least two years of fundraising experience or nonprofit knowledge is required to get your foot in the door. These are usually full-time jobs that pay $40 - 75K a year with benefits.

Freelance grant writers may have the same credentials but a degree isn't necessary unless the client requests such. Otherwise, anyone with an aptitude for reading documents, creating budgets, and writing can excel in this field. The difference here is selling your service by proving that you're capable of bringing in the money.

Where's the Money?
Often freelance proposal writers are paid a flat fee or commission. In this instance, commissions are a percentage of the amount raised through donations. This is normally dictated by the client before accepting the assignment. However, unless you're working for a large organization that adds something to your network, I don't encourage volunteering.

The reason is the tasks grant writers are responsible for are pretty vast, even if you've been hired by a neighborhood nonprofit. While places like the Red Cross deal with millions of dollars every year, this justifies having someone on board with a broad sense of what's needed and how to achieve it. Smaller places tend to have a little more flexibility but deadlines must be considered. If you're a natural self-starter, you can gauge what should happen next without missing a beat.

How to Get Started as a Freelance Grant Writer
There are many online courses to learn the basics and more. Gale/Ed2Go offers a series of grant writing classes that are offered throughout the year. If you're in the Los Angeles area, Shamblee is a veteran grant writer who offers ongoing live and online workshops that are reasonably priced.

While there are few places that will allow you to learn on the job, it's best to inquire with each nonprofit to get the requirements. Since this is a time-sensitive process, it would defeat the purpose to have another person's hand to hold but it may be worth it to observe and assist with tasks like creating a presentation or preparing a budget draft. This is also a position where researching comes with the territory.

What Happens on the Job
Getting clients can be challenging, but newbies can start by soliciting their services to local nonprofit organizations. While larger nonprofits, like Operation Hope, often have their own grant writing team, smaller places are ideal for learning fundraising basics. When it comes to selling yourself as someone new to the industry, you can either present speculative cases to show off your ideals or knowledge about what's involved.

Although those who lack experience may want to work for free, a work-on-commission offer can't hurt. Or start on the lower end of a typical salary if you have proven experience in other areas like accounting or administrative support. You also may be required to attend meetings with the person running the organization and/or their fundraising team. Understand there will be some moments where a live meeting may be better suited, especially if time is tight.

Where to Get Basic Training
There are a multitude of online grant writing courses but choosing one that offers a certificate will give you the greatest exposure. Places like Coursera, Ed2Go, and Universal Class are offered for free within some library systems. However, some colleges also offer short-term training.

Once you get your feet wet, you may want to delve further into more complex opportunities. While there's no mandatory license or certification, the American Grant Writers Association is one of many organizations for continued learning and networking.