In Part 1 of Blue Avocado's series on hiring grantwriters, we compared grantwriters to unicorns: elusive, seldom-seen miraculous creatures, possibly mythical. In researching this article we reached out to dozens of grantwriters. Here you have a chance to meet two of them.
Anthony Izzo, a one-time English teacher, worked in Las Vegas real estate and other businesses before becoming a grantwriter.
How did you get involved in grantwriting?
My friends who were involved in the nonprofit world would show me proposals to companies they had written and honestly, I would cringe when I read them. So I just started helping people.
The most inquiries come from new organizations. A common misunderstanding is that they expect people to do it for free. I always ask them if they have a board, a lot of times they say, "Not yet." Because I say, "sometimes you have a board member who would do it for free."
For example, someone might think, "I've got a teen crisis center, here's somebody who funds children and families, they'll give to us." They don't know that maybe this foundation or corporation only gives to education. I have to see if they "get it." Is this really something they are dedicated to or is it a tax shelter for their husband's real estate company?
Let's say I'm a community nonprofit and I'm asking you to write a proposal to a local foundation for $15,000. How would you charge?
I charge up to $75/hour for research, writing, consulting, or doing a webinar. I'd ask them if they've looked at the guidelines, already sent in a letter of inquiry, whether they've had grants from them in the past and if they have someone for me to work with. If I don't have to do the research, it might take 20 hours but I might have one of the ladies on my team do it, charge them half, say $35/hour. That would come to $2,500, which is a lot for a $15,000 grant. It's a tough call for them whether it's worth it. A lot of times I tell people, "You know guys, you really aren't ready, it's premature for a grantwriter." But if you were an established organization, I'd probably charge around a couple of grand.
What should people look for in a grantwriter?
How organized they are. Their body language. Are they on the Internet or in a book? Are they "jiving" me or are they "on the square"? They [the nonprofits] need to be clear about what role they want me to play. Do they want to point me like a gun and then that's the last time they want to consult with me?
What else should we know about you?
I had a bit part in the movie Casino. I was one of [actor Joe] Pesci's friends.
You can reach Anthony Izzo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Goodwin Deacon of Seattle, Washington, like Anthony, is a former English professor turned grantwriter. Either as a staff member or as a consultant, she has helped raise funds for colleges and hospitals, musicians and gardeners. Sheâ€™s written proposals for grants from $10,000 to $100,000 as well as multi-million dollar capital grants. She and the Puget Sound Grantwriters Association also hold conferences and maintain a directory of freelance grantwriters in the area.
Letâ€™s say Iâ€™m a community nonprofit and Iâ€™m asking you to write a proposal to a local foundation for $15,000. How would you charge?
Letâ€™s assume the foundation doesnâ€™t have overly complex guidelines and wants a proposal of about 4-5 pages. I have to know how prepared the organization is: will I need to put together a basic description of activities and the organization? Have they thought through the needs statements, objectives, the budget? If theyâ€™ve done none of that, it might take 20-25 hours. If theyâ€™ve done everything, maybe 5-10 hours. The first grant always takes much longer than the next grant. I have to get to know them. Itâ€™s really fast when they already have a strong development person who just needs a hand.
Whatâ€™s your advice to nonprofits when hiring a grantwriter?
Donâ€™t ask about the success rate. Whether a grant succeeds depends on several things outside the grantwriterâ€™s control, such as the organizationâ€™s track record, how well it knows foundations. Two organizations can be doing similar work, and one can be at 85% and the other much lower, because they didnâ€™t have the connections.
What do you like about your work?
Iâ€™ve helped a lot of good organizations to get the money they need.
While we are grateful for Anthony and Goodwinâ€™s willingness to help Blue Avocado readers, please note that their inclusion in this article doesnâ€™t represent an endorsement by Blue Avocado.