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Contingency Based Proposal Writing What is okay for some, is No-No for most

I always receive requests to volunteer writing services or asked to “work” my way into the organization by writing on a contingency basis. There are some consultants (both novice and experienced) that would agree to provide services this way as a way to build their portfolios.

As a seasoned professional, I would rather continue to show potential clients that I secured “X” amount of dollars for an organization rather than “say” I wrote a proposal for an organization. However you slice the situation, writing a successful proposal takes

TIME, ENERGY and EQUITY. To do this work pro bono is strictly up to the writer or consultant. Fundamentally, paying a percentage based fee would only be ethically wrong if it were ethically wrong to pay for a grant writer’s services. It is self-evident that the amount of money paid to a writer should be proportionate to the work involved. It would be unethical if a grant writer were to accept a guaranteed grant writing fee and then do a poor job of writing the grant. It would also be unethical for a grant writer to accept a fee for a grant that they were fairly certain the organization would not receive.
NO GRANT is GUARANTEED to be FUNDED. Most Funders do not allow their grantees to pay for grant writing service from grant monies. Organizations should pay a consultant from their operational budge. A proposal or application becomes the property of the client when a project is completed. Grant writers take the risk that the client will resubmit the material for grants from other funders. By working on contingency basis, a grant writer is assuming all the risk. By that I mean, all the hours of work necessary to complete an application are done without pay – unless – the grant is funded. This means the writer “puts up” all the time and effort in developing an application with no assurance of being paid.

Yes, there are risks involved – but what business doesn’t have to take risks? Both parties must consider what moral, ethical, fair and smart business . Here are some suggestions for the organization:
  • When hiring a consultant, do not look for someone who will work on a contingency basis. Look for someone who will work on a project on a volunteer basis for a specific time frame.

  • If you do not have the money to pay a Consultant – Raise it - Have a mini fundraiser, designate a certain amount of funds from your special events or fundraising budget for a consultant.

  • DO YOUR RESEARCH. Find out how much work goes into providing grant writing services. Conduct preliminary research on a specific grant and make sure the priorities of the funder match your organization’s mission and program activities. This will save time and money for you and the consultant. This research will also help you in hiring the right consultant too.

Always Remember, you get what you pay for. Sometimes zero investment equals zero return.
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