It happened to me again a few weeks ago. A client was choosing between me and another writer. I quoted my fee, and the other writer said she would write the grant for free, as long as she got the contract for the evaluation. It’s hard to compete against that, in spite of the fact that what she proposed is an unethical practice.
It’s easy to understand why grant writers/evaluators would want that deal. The evaluation contract is much more lucrative that the grant writing piece, and it usually continues for several years. However, grant writing and program evaluation are separate skills sets. In many cases, qualified program evaluators also write grants, but there are many grant writers who try to fit into the evaluation world because of the money.
The problem is that it’s almost always not allowed by a funding source to make an agreement for a service provider to be funded through the grant before the grant has even been funded and without going through a funder-approved selection process. For government grants, that means following your organizations established procurement process. For private funding sources, it could mean including the funder in the selection process or giving them a chance to review the process and approve the selection.
The ethical issue is that a grant writer proposing such an arrangement is a) giving the client the idea that such a thing is acceptable to the funding source when it almost always is not, and b) taking advantage of an organization’s desire to save money, even if it pushes them to do something that is illegal, at worst, or unallowable, at best – all so the writer can get his hands on a bigger pot of cash.
I am asked by potential clients to step into agreements like that more and more often these days because it is being offered to them by other grant writers. I always say no.
Unless it’s someone I really love (an organization I personally support and have decided to make a personal donation to), I never give it away for free.