April 2012 Featured Article
Good Grant Writing Involves
Much More than Putting Pen to Paper
Remember the old adage about buying a car? If so, have you kicked the tires of your grant consultant lately?
Securing a good grants consultant for your community involves some thorough research. There are five important considerations that every community should examine when it comes to engaging one. They can be summarized as “The Five S’s” of doing business and include: Stability, Success, Stipend, Standards and Staff.
The stability of a firm is important. It points to the long-term success of the company, which is something that your municipality should value. Firms that have been in business for a long time generally demonstrate the success and resourcefulness that you are seeking in a consultant. It means a contractual engagement with you will not be terminated halfway through a grant project because the consultant suddenly goes out of business or loses competent staff. This type of stability can also help you formulate a grants strategy over time. By working closely with your consultant over a period of years, you can develop a base of knowledge that all funding agencies like to see and a track record that will help your community approach grant funding logically and strategically based on program needs and key priorities.
Success is implied by stability, but success can also be measured in very simple quantifiable terms. How much money has the consultant secured for its clients? What types of grants have been obtained? Does the firm specialize in certain types of grant funding such as educational or recreational grants or does it demonstrate an ability to tackle a wide range of funding applications? These are all questions that you should ask your consultant to document as you engage or renew a contractual relationship. They are also questions that can be structured as part of your RFQ as you seek to review a range of possible firms.
Stipends or Fees are obvious considerations that often end up being a final determinant of a consultant engagement, but within reason, they should not be. Firms willing to prepare grant applications “on the cheap” may not bring the level of experience and professional know-how to the table that is necessary to ensure a competitive proposal. It is certainly fair and reasonable to compare costs, negotiate fees and structure the pricing of grant applications to fit your needs and circumstances, but ask questions about what you are getting for your money. Ask to see examples of comparable applications. Find out about the success rate and track record that the firm has demonstrated.
Albert Einstein once said, “Relativity is applicable to physics, not ethics”. There are firms in any line of business that are willing to represent an ability to solve problems, write grant applications or provide a service to a community without any regard to some reasonable expectation of success. A firm that is willing to charge your community to secure grant funding and does not let you know that a successful application involves a highly competitive national competition or that the grant program guidelines may not apply to your particular need is not the sort of firm you want to hire. So, do a little of your own research. Be prepared to ask pointed questions about how the grant program might apply to the project or initiative you want to fund. Talk directly with the program manager at the funding agency to ensure that you are on the right track.
Finally, a consulting firm is only as good as its staff. That means you want a firm that has people on board who are qualified, who have written similar applications in the past, who are good writers and who can craft your application for maximum competitiveness. That means being able to look at your community holistically and being able to describe the unique benefits that will accrue to your municipality as the result of a successful grant application.
Consider these criteria when engaging a grants consultant – or any consultant for that matter. Kick the proverbial tires! Find out what’s behind the bottom line so that you and your constituents can be assured of a quality product, and one that meets the needs of your community.
.Published April 2, 2012
Triad Associates is currently the League’s Grant Consulting Firm. Their firm, which is known for its expertise in community and economic development, including strategic planning, redevelopment, acquisition, relocation and funding, has brought diverse plans and projects to life by generating more than $580,000,000 for over 120 public, private and nonprofit clients throughout the Northeast region since 1978. Every member of the Triad team is personally committed and dedicated to the success of its clients and the projects that benefit communities.
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