Job Description: Grant writers find funds for non-profit entities and write proposals that explain and justify potential uses for those funds. They develop resources, research funding sources and prepare contract proposals for a variety of organizations. Grant writers may also administer major contracts and negotiate contractual provisions with potential partners.
Training and Educational Qualifications: A college degree generally is required for a position as a writer or editor. Although some employers look for a broad liberal arts background, most prefer to hire people with degrees in communications, journalism or English. Many grant writers have backgrounds in fundraising/development. Sometimes they enter the field of grant writing as writers who have worked in development communications, including working on grant proposals; other times, they have worked as directors of development or in other development offices in which grant writing was part of their position.
Job Outlook: Employment of writers at nonprofit organizations is expected to increase; however, the availability of jobs varies depending on funds available to pay staff as well as the expectations of the organization in how to pursue grants. Some grant writers work as consultants who are independent contractors rather than full-time employees.
Salary: Grant writers earn between $40,014 and $66,379.
• Many jobs are located in New York City or Washington, DC where there is a high concentration of non-profit organizations and foundations; however jobs can be found in fewer numbers throughout the country.
• Excellent research skills are normally required for grant writers who must accurately research funders to which they aim to send grant proposals so that they have the highest chance of obtaining funding based on the written proposal.
Did you have an internship in this field prior to starting your job?
I did not actually have an internship in the traditional sense of the word, but I learned on the job when I worked as the staff analyst and grants specialist for a local elected official. I also took some seminars and workshops and did some reading.
Do you know of which companies have the best internships in this field that are known to help launch a successful career?
The Arts and Business Council of New York has a wonderful Multicultural Arts Management Internship Program for minority students, which may include development work if the intern and the organization for which he or she works choose to do so. This program is sponsored by Con Edison.
Where are the best cities to live to find jobs like yours?
New York City, by far. Many, many foundations are located here, as are many, many non-profits and also The Foundation Center library, although much of this work can be done via Internet, email, phone and fax from wherever someone lives.
What is your typical day like?
I juggle different clients and their needs on a daily basis. Some need me to research potential funding sources and this mostly involves doing searches on the Internet. In particular, I use The Foundation Center’s online database, to which I am a subscriber. Once these funders are identified, I confer with the client to narrow the list to the ones that best fit their organization’s needs.
At this point I then carefully read each funder’s guidelines to see how they would like to be approached initially by a non-profit organization. There is a lot of give and take with the client at this point via email and phone to gather the information I will need to write the grant proposal.
The final step is writing the actual proposal, letter or application, which may include doing additional research to gather statistics relevant to the proposal. I then email the proposal to the client with a list of additional attachments that must included and any other steps that must be taken.
On a given day I might be working on any of the tasks listed above, as well as attending meetings with current or potential clients, doing administrative work for my business (such as bookkeeping or marketing), returning calls and emails and attending educational or networking events.
What are your job responsibilities?
To identify and help secure funding from foundation, corporate and government sources for my non-profit clients.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Writing the actual proposals.
What do you dislike about your job?
The length of time it sometimes takes to cultivate a client and then to get to the point where there is a signed contract and I am able to start.
Have you had any turning-point or “light bulb” moments in your career that have helped you get to where you are today?
When I worked for a local elected official providing technical assistance regarding fundraising to non-profits, I realized how much I enjoyed doing that sort of work. I decided to leave that position because I was ready to enter the development field (“development” is the technical name for fundraising).
How did you know you wanted to pursue this career?
I enjoyed helping various organizations that were all trying to make the world a better place in one way or another. I felt I was directly contributing to their success. In particular, I enjoy helping organizations in the arts, environment, education and science fields.
How did you get into this industry and how did you get your most recent job?
I met the executive director of a non-profit theater when I was working for the local elected official. That led to my working as the development director (chief fundraising manager) for the theater for six and a half years. When I decided I wanted to leave my previous job and find a position doing development work full-time, I contacted the executive director myself. He was looking for someone and hired me. I left this position as development director in June 2006 to start my own business. As a working mother of an eight year old child, I needed to balance work and family life better. By consulting as a grant writer I am able to do so.
What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
Along with the theater’s Artistic Director of Latino Programming, I helped initiate a program at the theater that commissioned new dance work from Latino and Latin American choreographers. We received funding for the program from the very start, including some funding from the NEA. The program continues to this day and most of the choreographers have been reviewed by the New York Times for their work, which is a major accomplishment for them. In fact, one of the choreographers is now one of my clients.
If you weren’t doing this job, what similar careers might you consider?
Someday I want to start a “green” business that helps people help the environment. I just don’t know exactly what kind of business yet!
To what professional associations do you belong?
I belong to the Association for Fundraising Professionals (AFP). I also recently joined the National Association of Female Executives
What professional publications and Web sites do you read?
I regularly use The Foundation Center’s Web site and am a subscriber to some of their online newsletters. I don’t get much time to read any other publication regularly.
What advice do you have for others who would like to pursue this career?
There are now programs offered by some colleges if you are interested in fundraising as a career. For example, New York University’s George H. Heyman, Jr. Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising offers both a Master of Science in Fundraising and Certificates in Fundraising or Grantmaking and Foundations.
If you do not want to go this new route, be sure your writing and researching skills are top notch. Read fundraising journals such as the Chronicle of Philanthropy. In addition, AFP has more than one conference per year where you can learn the basics of fundraising if you are new to the profession.