The question a client asked a few years ago seemed to make sense on the surface: “If you believe in your talents and ability, write the grant application at no up-front cost to me, then if we get the grant I will pay you based on your results. After all, we are taking a gamble in applying for this grant – join our gamble.”
We did it their way, and they got the grant, and we got paid. But – it left a funny taste in my mouth and I thought about it a lot afterwards. After a lot of thinking and discussion, we arrived at this policy: Oak Square Consultants does not provide any services on a contingent fee basis.
The reasoning behind this contingent-fee policy is that although we may put out an excellent and responsive grant application, there are many factors in play that are beyond our control once the application is submitted.
Although our effort and performance may be thorough, and even exemplary, the application is only one part of the process and it is the only part where we have any control. The remainder of the process, including award decisions, are not susceptible to influence by us. Some examples of items that may be present and which affect the grant award results are:
– the presence or absence of other applications submitted during the program application cycle
– the nature of the projects contained in the other applications
– scoring preferences or discretion within the funding organization
– the amount of funding available for this application cycle
There is a more detailed explanation of this in another post, the one titled Why do you charge for grant application services – shouldn’t-it-be-free?
As a consequence of these facts, the approach we have adopted consists of three principal phases:
- In the first phase we provide a “first-look” at possible funding sources for a client’s project(s), based on a simple understanding of what they want to do and their schedule for doing it.
- This phase serves the dual purpose of identifying potential grant/loan/bond programs that may be a fit for the particular project, while allowing the client and us to get to know one another and see if both parties feel comfortable going forward.
- Fee: this service is provided at no charge.
- If there is consensus to proceed, during the second phase we make a comprehensive evaluation of the funding programs identified in the first phase, coupled with gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the client’s project(s).
- This is done to narrow the field of funding opportunities to those that are the best fit between the project needs and the program’s stated objectives.
- This second stage actually is the first phase of the application process, since matching each project with appropriate funding sources is the important first big step in creating a successful grant application. See Let the punishment fit the crime.
- Fee: this stage occurs after contractual agreement is entered into, and is generally an hourly-fee endeavor, since the scope of work is fluid and may shrink or grow depending on findings of the investigation.
- The third phase consists of preparation of the project-specific application(s) to the selected funding programs.
- In the case of larger dollar amounts, creation of a complete application often requires the engagement and coordination of outside expert consultants who consult on or prepare certain required portions of the application package (e.g., energy auditors/engineers, environmental specialists, technical specialists or project designers, business feasibility consultants, financial advisors, bond counsel, etc.). These experts are engaged directly by the client.
- We coordinate with the experts to make sure that their work is responsive to the application requirements and is fully integrated with the rest of the application package. See The #1 grant writing rule – NO STICKY-UPS!
- The final result of all this is the completed application, which is submitted to the funder for review and (hopefully) approval.
- Fee: since the application process for a given grant or loan is a fairly-well-defined scope of work, these services are provided on a lump-sum basis.
If you have any questions about contingent-fee issues, or if you want to talk about grants, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 863-712-1721.