Saying No to a Bad Grant Writing Contract

Freelance grant writers are either really busy or wishing they were.  Of course when you are you long not to be but that’s another story.  Running your own business can be a little scary financially because you’re always “betting on the come”, that is you’re always anticipating there will be another contract coming along.A man's hand held out for a handshake

Success brings contracts to you.  You won’t need to advertise beyond having lots of business cards handy.  People talk about grants in the grant world and agencies often know who is getting people funded, and those that aren’t become invisible and find other work quickly.

The hard part in being a grant writing business owner is turning away a contract.  It can be even harder to do when the chips are down and the economy is bad; in those times, even a bad contract can look good.  Here are a few signs of a bad contract.

  1. The client wants you to write it solely on a contingency basis.  I always hesitate if the client isn’t willing to invest some money, put some skin in the game.  I mean come on people, do you as a grant writer really want to assume all the risk involved?  A client who does not want to invest money, won’t invest time either and you’re going to have a tough time writing the proposal at all.
  2. The client hems and haws for a long time before giving you a contract.  You may be dealing with someone who doesn’t trust you, or who doesn’t know what they want to do.  In either case, go slowly and make sure you’ve talked to them enough to be confident and to give confidence.
  3. The client is impossible to contact.  Potential clients who are too busy to return my call before a contract is signed are unlikely to be any better afterward.  I find that these kinds of clients are better off going with someone else.  I need the client to be committed to producing a fundable proposal, my reputation is on the line.
  4. The client wants to write a grant that is clearly not aligned to their mission or programs.  Go slow here.  This is hard to turn down, especially when a client with cash to pay for your services and you may be strapped for money.  Remember, that you’re in this for the long haul and unfunded grants hurt your business.  If in your opinion, the client as no hope of reciving the funding, don’t take their money.  They may be angry at first, but help them understand why and they will respect you for not gouging them.
  5. Time considerations are also primary.  Be sure that you don’t get greedy and take on too much work.  This is also a temptation in the grant business because if you’re good, lots of agencies will be knocking on your door.  If you take on too many grants to do a good job on any of them, you’ll be searching for clients instead of them searching for you.

A good grant writing contract is one for a grant that you have a reasonable expectation of success in writing and/or for which you have adequate time to develop a successful application.  A bad contract can mean a bad client, a bad opportunity, or the straw that broke the grant writer’s back.  Say NO to bad contracts to ensure the long term success of your grant writing business.

Now that’s sexy!