Two common questions I am asked around grant writing are:
- Can you pay a grant writer a percentage of the grant?
- Can compensation for grant writers be written into the grant?
5 Payment Issues
This article includes 5 issues related to paying grant writers to keep in mind in hiring a grant writer or being hired as one. Included are paying a commission from the grant and including fees in the grant itself:
This may surprise you. The Grant Professionals Association (GPA) is a professional association for grant writers. The GPA code of ethics states that it’s “members may accept performance-based compensation, such as bonuses, provided such bonuses are in accordance with prevailing practices within the members’ own organizations and are not based on a percentage of grant monies.”
According to GPA, a finder’s fee is a “payment made for introducing a nonprofit to a funder and/or contingent upon the nonprofit receiving a grant from that funder.” Not only is this unethical for its members, but GPA states that its members “shall take care to discourage their organizations from making such payments.”
A commission is a “flat-rate fee or percentage paid for services rendered when a grant is awarded,” says GPA. GPA’s ethics say unequivocally “no” to commissions or any form of percentage compensation. In other words, stay away from commissions or anyone who writes grants for a commission or even encourages it.
When to Be Paid
One online service provider’s website says that it requires 50% up front, 25% at the first draft and 25% on the final proposal submitted. For my interns, I require the full fee up front. The reason is because one small business owner once hired an intern to write a grant for one of his inventions. The intern did all the research and wrote a draft. The inventor took the intern’s draft and submitted it pretty much as is. He got funded, but never paid her a dime. Ouch!
Fees Written Into the Grant
GPA says, “Compensation should not be written into grants unless allowed by the funder.”
Ultimately, the decision about whether or not to pay a grant writer a percentage of the grant or from the grant itself lies in the hand of the funder. If a funder allows this, then it is allowable. If a funder says, “No,” then it’s a mute point. You won’t get the money anyway.
If you are a member of a professional association like GPA that has ethical statements that you agree to as a member (that state that you will not do something like this), then you put yourself at risk of being expelled if you do this yourself. Keep in mind that how others within the grant profession – locally and nationally – perceive your choice can affect current and future projects, too.