Other than the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) not allowing this practice of its members, here are at least 5 reasons why…
Reason 1 – Few, if any, funders allow it.
Few, if any, funders allow you to build grant preparation fees into the budget. The common practice is to fund grants and expenses incurred only during a particular grant time frame – say July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011. Because grant preparation takes place “before” this allowable funding period – say April 2010, anything before or after the funding window would be considered “disallowed costs.”
I’ve only heard of 1 case in over 22 years where a funder actually allowed grant preparation costs to be included in the proposal. So, it’s common practice – 99.99% of the time – to fund grant preparation expenses from another source, such as discretionary funds.
Reason 2 – You may open yourself up for an audit and more trouble.
Here’s what grant expert Dr. Beverly Browning says…
“First of all, anyone who is out there working on contingency, spending their own money on utilities, office supplies, internet connectivity, postage and all the rest and writing themselves in to a grant, they are setting themselves up especially if it’s government money for an audit and possibly federal prison time.
You cannot use a new grant, new money that won’t be in for nine or ten months from now to pay old bills that occur before the actual date of the announcement of the funding in writing. Even if you wait to that date and submit an invoice to your client, your client still can’t pay you because you’re not supposed to be written in to the budget anyway. You’ve already done the work. It’s over and guess what… you just volunteered. You have no right to contingency.
There are so many lawsuits and sentencing both at the federal and regional courts level for grant writers gone bad. So I stop calling them grant writers because a grant professional knows better than the work on contingency. You get paid at the time you perform the work and depending on your credentials, experience and your own policies that you decide on. You can either get paid in increments as you present sections of the narrative or one payment at draft, one payment at final completion or in my case, I get paid a hundred percent up front, or I don’t turn the computer on.”
Reason 3 – You open yourself to unethical behavior and potential failure – that prevents future funding – because of a “win at any cost” approach.
Experienced grant writer Pauline Annareno has this to say…
“A lot of people look at it and say, ‘Well this is got to be win-win.’ You write a good grant, and you’re going to be compensated well. But in reality, a whole host of things occur often times… to the negative. I’m not saying it couldn’t be a positive win-win. But, often people will chase the dollars. I as a consultant might say, ‘Here’s a really good grant. I could really write this grant and get it funded.’
But it may not necessarily meet the goals of the organization. In the end, you end up writing such a strong program that they can’t implement. You’ve written to make sure to get those dollars. But, they can’t complete it satisfactorily. They get the grant. I get my percentage, my contingency. Everyone’s happy through the honeymoon period.
Then, reality sits in because I had put down that this community organization for example, was going to reach 50,000 people. They could barely reach 2,000. In the end, they fail. Funders do not forget failure. So that organization goes back for a second try. Their chances of getting a grant funding have become diminished. So that’s one problem when you take on that scenario of contingency. Everyone wants to assure that those dollars are gotten at any expense.”
Reason 4 – You may see no money even if your proposal is ultimately funded.
“I could write a very good grant application that just didn’t happen to get funded because there were so many applicants out there. My organization perhaps didn’t have enough experience or was just a touch off the mark on what the funder wanted. I don’t get paid for that.
However, the grant application can be used by the organization for another grant go around whether it be the same grant funding cycle or somebody else. They have gotten so much work in terms of the flushing out a program, an evaluation, a needs assessment… all those elements. They have this wonderful package or product that they can use over and over again. But, the grant professional will never see any money for their time and effort.”
Reason 5 – Lack of a dollar buy-in will make things harder.
Again, Pauline has this to say…
“There are so many entities out there that are such good entities. But, if you don’t have a dollar buy-in, it’s hard to get information that you need. You need access to information and you often need it in the moment right now because everything works around the deadline. If there’s not a financial buy-in, sometimes organizations don’t respond as quickly as they need to and so you’ve got a greater chance of failure.”
These are just 5 reasons why grant writers are not paid from a grant once awarded.