If you have a background in writing or journalism and researching companies and initiatives is your idea of fun, a career in grant writing could be for you.
You may be able to work in this field part-time, on the side, without quitting other work you love, and many grant writers even work in a freelance role. Since the tools for this job are limited to your own skill, a computer, and an internet connection, this job can be completed from anywhere as well — perhaps even from your home.
One of the best perks of grant-writing? Your work can help change lives and make the world better.
But, who hires grant writers? And what do grant writers do? Most of the time, businesses and nonprofits that need help to secure funding for various projects through grants hire these professionals to seek out and apply for money from organizations that give out these funds.
What is a grant writer?
To understand what kind of work a grant writer does, you need to understand how grants work in the first place. Grants are funds gifted to companies and organizations by public and private foundations. These funds are typically awarded to help the organization reach a specific objective, such as conducting research or developing a new product. An example would be a research lab that seeks out grants to do its research on thyroid cancer. A grant is a gift, but it is only given for a specific purpose that is usually aimed at a philanthropic goal.
Grant writers are the professionals who put together the proposals for companies and organizations that are seeking grants. Many grant writers work for a single organization with the goal of helping them qualify for as many grants as possible, while others take on freelance grant writing projects.
Thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to work as a grant writer from home, although you’ll need to build up some experience on your resume before you’ll be able to secure clients. Thankfully, there are many opportunities to get that kind of marketable experience (read on!).
What kind of tasks do grant writers do?
The tasks that grant writers complete can vary slightly depending on the position they work in. A grant writer who works for a single client may spend some of their time researching grants to apply for, whereas a freelance grant writer mostly focuses mostly on creating the grant paperwork required for grants their clients wish to apply for.
Other tasks grant writers complete include:
- Grant writers research grants to ensure the client’s project fits with the goal of the grant. Since grants require money and resources to pursue, grant writers need to devote time to figuring out which grants are worth going after.
- Grant writers read over grant guidelines. Before a grant writer can get started with their work, they have to read over information about specific grants to ensure they follow listed rules when drafting their proposal.
- Grant writers create proposals. Grant writers use their time, expertise and creativity to write compelling grant proposals that explain why a client’s project is important. They often include stories that explain the company’s commitment to specific causes — such as the environment or children. Grant proposals need to be factual and informational, but they also need to be motivational and interesting enough to stand out.
- Grant writers work with clients and donors. Not only do grant writers need to be able to communicate with their clients and answer their questions, but they may also speak with prospective donors regularly. That’s why excellent communication skills are required for this job, even if you work from home.
What skills do you need to become a grant writer?
To work as a grant writer, you need to have excellent writing skills as well as the ability to write persuasively. You are asking for money, so you need to explain why your client needs the money and why they deserve it over all the other people who apply. You also need to have attention to detail and solid proofreading skills since you may or may not have someone available to edit your work.
Having organizational and multitasking skills is also important since you may be juggling several clients and grant proposals at once. Finally, you need to be great at research to work successfully as a grant writer since you’ll need to research plenty before you start each proposal as well as during the process.
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Steps to becoming a grant writer
If you think you want to become a grant writer but aren’t exactly sure where to start, these basic steps can help you lay the groundwork:
Step 1 (maybe): Earn a degree or take courses in writing.
Often, grant writers who work for individual clients get their start with a bachelor’s degree in English or a related field. The exact field you earned a degree in doesn’t matter so much, however, provided you have excellent writing skills and enough attention to detail to get the job done.
In lieu of earning a full-fledged degree, you can also consider taking courses in fields of study that could help with this pursuit. Courses in journalism, English, creative writing, and public relations are a good place to start.
Step 2: Study the art of grant writing.
Beyond brushing up on your writing skills, you can also take a class to learn about the art of grant writing itself. Fortunately, the internet is home to all sorts of free and inexpensive resources that can help. Some colleges and universities offer courses in grant writing online, for example. There are also certificate programs you can earn in this field, which may be a good idea to bolster your resume.
As an example, the American Grant Writers’ Association offers online courses in grant proposal writing and grant consulting as well as a certificate program. These options are both fairly inexpensive and could be a good way to hone your skills and start your career on the right path.
Step 3: Gain some experience.
Next up you’ll want to gain some experience, and this may just be the hardest part. After all, how do you gain experience writing grants when nobody has hired you yet?
The best step to take here is to look for volunteer or internship opportunities. A good place to start is the American Grant Writers’ Association since they partner with numerous organizations that work with and hire professionals to craft grant proposals. The AGWA also sponsors a Grant Conference for grant writers who want to stay on top of industry trends or meet other grant writers in their niche.
On Indeed.com, there are usually some openings for grant writing internships. At the moment, there are several available, including opportunities for contract grant writing work and full-time trial positions. FlexJobs.com also offers some unpaid grant writing internship opportunities on their website as well as links to paid jobs.
You can also try your hand at networking with other grant writers. They may know about entry-level opportunities you could explore or be willing to show you the ropes. Attending conferences like the AGWA Grant Conference or the annual conference sponsored by the Grant Professionals Association can also help you get your foot in the door. Also, check out Facebook groups for grant writers. There are several that can be easily found online, including one for “professional grant writers.” You can probably learn a lot from people already working in this career, and it can’t hurt to join and see what these groups are all about.
Finally, keep in mind that your prior work experience could lead to a paid job as a grant writer, particularly if you worked for a nonprofit. The more you know about a specific industry, the more attractive you will be when being considered for other positions in that industry. If you worked in healthcare in your previous career, for example, you may have a leg up when it comes to finding work writing grants in the healthcare niche. If you have worked in a field where grants are awarded regularly, you may already have contacts you could reach out to for advice.
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How much do grant writers earn?
Pay in this field can vary widely since some grant writers work for companies and others are self-employed. The good news is, you have the potential to earn a lot more than your peers if you can handle a large workload and keep your clients happy.
As an example, Salary.com says grant writers get paid up to $76,457 as of July 2018. Still, your pay will depend on a wide range of factors including your experience, education, certifications, and even where you live.
Grant writers can earn $100 per hour or more, although that’s usually only if they have a lot of experience and the ability to research and write quickly — and get results for their clients (grants!). Most newbie grant writers will earn closer to $40 or $50 per hour.
Pros and cons of becoming a grant writer
Consider these pros and cons before you look for work as a grant writer:
Advantages of working as a grant writer
- There’s a strong possibility you can work from home
- High income potential, since you will control your time and how much you charge
- You can use your skills and expertise to help causes you care about
- The work can be interesting, and you can meet inspiring people
Disadvantages of working as a grant writer
- It may be challenging to gain grant writing and industry experience at first
- Self-employed grant writers need to pay their own benefits and take care of their own taxes
- You may need to spend some time finding and securing clients
How do you find jobs in this field?
When it comes to finding grant writing jobs, there are several options to consider. You can seek out traditional employment or you can try to build a freelance grant writing career. Some tips that can help include:
- Check the big online job boards such as Indeed.com and CareerBuilder. Even googling “grant writing jobs” can help you find job boards with positions listed in your area.
- Reach out to local nonprofits and organizations that are likely to qualify for grants. Offer to help them pro bono, then leverage your experience for your portfolio and resume.
- Set up an account on Fiverr.com noting your writing experience and grant writing abilities. You may be able to find entry-level freelance work writing grants for companies.
- Update your LinkedIn profile to show you have grant writing experience and a renewed focus on this career path.
- Set up a profile on FlexJobs.com. This website connects working professionals with employers who want to hire remote workers. By creating a profile and listing your applicable grant writing experience, you are expanding the pool of companies and employers who can find you.
The bottom line
A career in grant writing may be challenging, but you have the potential to work with companies who are making positive changes in the world. With the right skills and experience, you may even be able to find grant writing work you can do in your spare time and from home.
With that in mind, it’s important not to let a lack of experience get in your way. If you have a background in writing or a way with words, you may have more applicable skills for this job than you realize. Take the time to build up your portfolio and your resume, and you could be writing grant proposals from home in no time.
Holly Johnson is a financial expert, award-winning writer, and Indiana mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting and travel. Her personal finance articles have been published in the U. S. News, Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, and Life Hacker. Holly is founder of of the family finance resource, ClubThrifty.com, and is the co-author of Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love. Learn more about Holly here.