Why do you charge for grant application services? Shouldn’t it be free?

“Can you write the grant for free, and we will pay you if we get it?”

This question comes up sometimes: can the grantwriting fee be paid contingent on receipt of the grant? I have encountered this request numerous times. The rationale put forward is that if I as a grantwriter am confident in my product, why would I not be willing to join the client in the risk of paying for grantwriting services…?

There are a couple serious flaws in that line of thought.

FLAW #1: The most basic flaw stems from a misunderstanding of how the grant system works and how grant awards are determined. Goals and guidelines are provided by the grantmaker, but even if an application fits with the goals and follows the guidelines scrupulously, it still may not receive an awarded grant.

First, grantmakers have limited funds and are unable to grant every request. Second, there is no way a grant applicant can know what other projects may have been submitted in pursuit of the same grant, or how each of those other unknown projects will be viewed by the grantmaker’s review board.

As a result, once the completed application has been submitted, the entire process and its outcome are beyond the knowledge or control of the applicant and their grantwriter.

FLAW #2: From a practical standpoint, firms that practice and advocate the at-risk form of grantwriting (and there still are some) must factor into their fee structure and business model the fact that they will have success (and be paid) only on a percentage of the grants they write.  This means that their company has to be able to absorb the lost labor costs expended on writing the grants they do not receive.

This may be handled by raising the fees charged for successful grants to offset the losses incurred on the grants that are not successful. Or, in a misguided effort to control those losses, there may be a tendency to try to keep costs down by skimping on research or by re-using narrative portions written for prior grant applications. Thus the “no-cost” grantwriting approach creates a false economy, because the fee charged may be higher than it should be and/or the quality of the final product may be lower than it should be.

HOW WE DO IT: As a result of observing and considering these factors, the grantwriting services we provide at Oak Square Consultants are made available on a fee basis only. Our clients are afforded the benefit of our full attention in customizing the grant application to the particulars of their situation, and they do not have to worry that our fees have been inflated in order to cover losses suffered on unrelated, unsuccessful grant attempts.

This has proven to be a transparent and satisfactory way to address the situation for both us and our clients.