Making the Most of Your Grant Consultant

Hiring a grant consultant is one way for grants-driven nonprofits to maximize their productivity and gain new perspectives and expertise. “Consultants can be an asset to a busy development department that’s working hard to keep up with deadlines,” said Holly Thompson, contributing editor for The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “But the partnership will be most successful when roles and expectations are clearly spelled out from the beginning.”

Thompson noted that the most effective consultants take a behind-the-scenes role that positions the organization for success. The consultants:

  • Research funding opportunities and study funding guidelines;
  • Advise organizations on proposal strategy and content;
  •  Share knowledge of funder priorities and interests;
  •  Facilitate contact with funders; and,
  •  Write and assemble proposals and draft proposal budgets.

The organization’s leaders and development staff should drive the proposal strategy and help the consultant gain access to the resources she needs to develop a winning grant request. Leaders should play a front-and-center role at site visits and in other conversations about the context and content of the grant request. Funders want to hear firsthand about the vision and goals of what is being proposed, and they want to assess the organization’s capacity to carry out the project.

A skilled grants consultant can generate more strategic funding opportunities, raise the quality of proposals, and kick up the volume of requests that get out the door. “But even the best consultants cannot speak with the same level of authority, knowledge, and commitment as those leading and doing the work on a day-to-day basis,” Thompson said.