Grant applications are likely to be full of detailed rules, guidelines and requirements — so much so that an inexperienced grant writer can easily get discouraged. It’s tempting to think it would be easier to hire a professional grant writer even if your budget is tight. But would it necessarily be more effective?
Not necessarily. Remember that one of the keys to success is knowing and showing that your nonprofit is well managed and provides an important service that you are passionate about. Your story — and the stories of those whom you help — may not come through as authentically from a hired writer.
Take heart in the fact that funders often prefer an authentic voice even if it is not as polished as a consultant might be. What is most important is your story — one that touches the heart, evokes compassion, and makes the funder want to be a part of what you do. Rather than spending time fretting about sounding professional, make an effort to gather stories: from your founders, from staff and board members, and from the people you serve. Incorporate them in your message and you will increase your chances of success.
Consider these words from grant makers themselves:
Candy Hanford of Foundation Northwest was quoted in Foundation News & Commentary as saying that she finds that “sparks of brilliance” often come from rural areas where program staff are all volunteers. She says, “The feeling of passion and great ideas that come through override the typos and the spelling errors.”
The Hewlett Foundation expressed its preference for non-professional grant writers when they shared their experience that professional grant writers “are less persuasive and thus less competitive when they lack the voice and do not directly reflect the thinking of those involved in the conception and responsible for the execution of the proposed project.”
The Hewlett Foundation’s opinion is echoed in the comment of Joel J. Orosz of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, quoted in The Insiders Guide to Grantmaking: “All things considered, most grantmakers would rather read the real words of the applicant, however inelegant they might be, than read the more polished but less authentic words of the contract grantwriter.”