Updated: Aug 12, 2022
Everyone who has ever written a grant at a nonprofit or volunteers at a nonprofit and writes a proposal to a local foundation can call themselves a "Grant Writer." Right? Sure, you can. You can even go on UpWork and put grant writer in the search bar, to read the short bios. You will find "writers" and "creative writers" who will have backgrounds with journalism writing, marketing content, and literary writing. You may even have some writers with actual grant writing in their background! WAIT! You just saw online a great deal with someone offering a grant writing course AND they will give you a "grant writing" certification. Such a deal!
Many grant professionals start in the development position and also do grant writing in a nonprofit. You are responsible for the fundraising, so you should be able to write grants just as well- right? After doing this dual job position, I truly believe that the primary job of a development position is to solely focus on cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship of donors. For real success in the grant world, one person focused on grant writing, submittal, and post-award management, is critical.
In the past ten years, there has been a change in the profession with development of grant credentials and high-level training that has pruned out the field. Professions are created with years of stringent testing, reviews of standards, and setting ethical standards by highly experienced professionals in the field. Just like the Grant Professional Certification (GPC), the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam was meant to monitor and enforce professional standards, a strict code of professional ethics, rigorous educational requirements and a commitment to serving the public interest. Can you imagine a world without CPA's, I know I cannot.
The GPC credential, or Grant Professional Certified, is an NCCA accredited program that validates knowledge of and competency in the grants profession through education, experience, professional development, community involvement, and a psychometrically sound examination. It is the first professional credential for individuals working in the grants field to be recognized by NCCA. The GPC credential is the only experienced-based exam of its kind. A professional certification or credential is an objective measure of a person's level of experience and expertise in the profession — as defined independently by professions as a whole.
A grant consultant who is a GPC needs to be able to educate nonprofit staff that may not have deep experience with grants. Determining grant readiness is also an important job of a grant professional. Writing grants that a nonprofit is not a perfect fit or is only minimally qualified for, OR because a similar organization won a large award from a community foundation, should be discouraged by a true grant professional. Grant writers, volunteers and sometimes a development staff person often will proceed with the submittal of such a grant, wasting precious time, and sometimes "souring" a foundation on a poorly vetted grant proposal.
But you and your organization will determine what your needs are and what type of assistance is required. Convey this to your grant manager or your grant consultant. Be focused on your funding needs, and DO NOT proceed like you are "shooting fish in a barrel"; e.g., going for anything you can vaguely qualify for to stop the bleeding you might have for lack of donors or a canceled special event.
Remember, if it is a national grant, you are up against competitors you do not know, and if local, funders talk-they do discuss organizations that come to them with a weak or ill-prepared request.
So have a grant strategy that correlates with your development plan, AND your strategic plan-it will help more than you can know! If you are contracting with a grant consultant-choose wisely, a certified grant professional makes a difference.
For more on how to get grant ready or place a strategic plan in place look for my next blog.