I was recently contacted by a non-profit desperately in need of a grant writer.  They offer a great community service, and I knew of a grant that would be just perfect for them.   Quite a few of the grants in their area have been pulled in the last few years, and this one is very narrowly targeted to their type or organization.  And the deadline for the 2009 season is just one month away.

So why am I talking about it on here instead of researching and writing away for them?  Money.

Like many struggling non-profits, they are seeking someone to do the grantwork on a commission basis.  Unfortunately, this is not a service that I offer.  Here’s why.

1) It lowers the client’s chances of getting the grant.

Most grant program funders require that every penny of grant money be accounted for on a line-item basis.  Many grants are required to offset project costs, not operational expenses.  It is legally required that the grantwriter reflect the grant acquisition fees in the grant proposal, and this lowers the chances of the grant getting approved.  If you were a funder, would you rather give $100k to a community center, or $95k to a community center and $5k to their grantwriter?  My goal is to get the client her grant, and I’m not willing to do anything that will jeopardize that, especially in the interest of my getting paid.

Further, there are some donors who wonder if your agency isn’t interested in investing in itself, then why should they be willing to do so, and on a much larger scale?

2) It is unethical to do grantwork on commission.

Don’t take my word for it.  Ask the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), the foremost grantworker’s organization in the country.  The AFP’s professional standards state that raising fundson commission unethical.  The AFP “explicitly prohibits percentage-based compensation.”  If a member gets caught doing it, their membership gets revoked.  Similarly, the Northwest Development Officers Association (NDOA), also discourages fundraising on commission for ethical reasons.  Finally, the American Association of Fundraising Counsel feels the same. Their website explains:

“Contracts providing for a contingent fee, a commission, or a fee based on percentage of funds raised are prohibited.  Such contracts are harmful to the relationship between the donor and the institution and detrimental to the financial health of the client organization.”

Why would I want to do something which the largest and most respected fundraiser associations in the country consider unethical?  Why would a client?

3) My professional services are valuable.

Whether a grant gets accepted or rejected is not always contingent on the quality of the program or the grant proposal.  There are many factors that influence this which are completely outside of the grant writer’s control.  Further, I am providing the client with a product that is her property, to use in other fundraising activities or in promotional literature.  I am also creating a relationship between the client and the donor organizations, and this is a service that has a strong value.  Even if the client does not get the grant this year, by creating a track record of quality proposals and operations, she increase her chances of receiving it in a future year.

For these reasons and others, I choose not to engage in the unethical practice of doing grantwork on a commission basis.

I hope that this has been of help in understanding my position.  As always, I welcome any reader questions or comments.

Write on… Kimberly.