Two common questions I am asked around grant writing are:
- How much does a grant writer really make?
- How do I pay a grant writer?
In this article, you will learn the two most common ways to pay a grant writer: salary and fee.
Grant seeking is researching and finding prospective funders. Grant writing is putting together a written proposal that is submitted to a specific funder.
Both jobs of grant seeking and grant writing may fall on the shoulders of salaried employees. Some of the typical positions that might write grants are grant writers, grant analysts, development directors and hybrid combinations (i.e., in which grant writing is part of someone’s administrative duties).
According to Salary.com, the range for grant writers (as determined by surveys of Human Resource offices) is $46,500 to $65,000 per year. The average salaries are:
Grant Writer = $50,000
Grant Analyst = $58,000*
Development Director = $78,000
*It is interesting to note that grant managers are paid more (i.e., valued higher) than grant writers in many cases.
According to PayScale.com, the pay range is $35,000 to $65,000. However, when you add benefits, this rises to $72,785.
Indeed.com claims that they make an average of $49,000. In Reno (where I live), the average is $42,000.
The second common way to pay a grant writer is fee-based.
Two common ways to get paid a fee are: hourly and a set fee.
When I was hired to write my first grant proposal in 1988, I was paid $20 an hour. If I remember correctly, that first contract was capped at $1,250 or 62.5 hours. I put in over 100 hours.
After 14 successful grants, my hourly rate doubled to $40 per hour. By 2001, fees had more than tripled. Agencies were paying me $75 per hour. In 2003, this rose again to $100/hour. What is interesting is that as a result of increasing the number of successful grants, I needed fewer hours to complete a grant. It actually cost the agency less in the long run. In other words, when you are successful, you can charge more. But, you need less time to complete the process.
Today, agencies hire me for $250/hour. For that price, you would think that agencies couldn’t afford me. In reality, they can’t afford not to hire me.
I’ve seen ads for grant writers that range from $25/hour on the low end to $96/hour for self-employed freelancers. This varies region to region. Also, keep in mind that no benefits are paid to freelance grant writers.
Take a moment and search on the Internet. What I found was that many grant writers and businesses charge a set fee. For example, they might charge a certain fee for funder research – like $500 – and a fee range for actual proposals such as $500-3,500. Normal rates require 1-2 months advanced notice. Shorter timelines and more complicated grants warrant higher charges.
One alternative model I have used is to offer agencies opportunities to hire interns from my grant writing school, mentoring program or nonprofit virtual assistant (VA) program. In formalized internship programs I’ve created, agencies pay a set fee that covers payment to the intern (usually at a $15-$25/hour range for a set amount of hours, like 75). Interns do funder research or actual proposal writing.
The set fee also includes a small stipend for the mentor. This way, agencies get a highly motivated intern at a fraction of the price of a high cost expert. Plus they get a mentor – an experienced grant writer – as a supervisor and consultant for pennies. I plan to let you know through this newsletter if this service is offered in the future.