You as a Grant Writing Consultant: Work From Home, Do Good and Make Money
In today's dismal economy, many smart, passionate and good workers are looking for employment. The interesting outcome of this scenario is that folks who have spent years in one career are not finding opportunities in their current field and begin to consider an entirely new one. I think this is both a brave and smart move if done correctly and with patience.
What makes me reflect on this new wave of job-seekers is that my field of experience seems to be getting a lot of notice. I have been a grant writing consultant for the past nine years. While I spent the previous seven years before this in the nonprofit development field, it was still considered a risky venture (at least in my own family) for me to give up full-time employment and work from home on a freelance basis. It is with great pleasure that I can report to you that everything has worked out fine and that I don't regret for a moment choosing this course of employment.
That being said, did I achieve a successful career overnight? Did grant writing jobs just fall into my lap? Did I win every grant I applied for? No, no and no. But I want to encourage those who have sought my advice in getting started as a grant writing consultant with three simple words – just do it. Talking about it and wishing you were already one (and making money at it) will not achieve your dream. You have to start at the beginning. Not only is this a great career for those who want to begin a new one, it's also great for spouses that stay at home with children and want freedom and flexibility in both caring for their family and making money at the same time.
Your primer is simple to get started:
Establish a track record of getting grant applications funded – this can be accomplished by volunteering your time and talent for nonprofits that you are passionate about (those that cannot afford a grant writer are grateful for your willingness.) You gain experience and they gain a chance at grant funding.
Begin spreading the word that you're in business – become involved in nonprofit professional groups such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Association of Grant Professionals.
Seek out grant writers that have been in the business for a while, have achieved some degree of success and ask them to mentor you - this can be as simple as thumbing through their old grant applications, seeking their advice on where to find grant funders and asking them for assessment of your proposals.
Your patience and willingness to succeed are key ingredients for success. Like any new field, it will seem strange (what in the heck is a BOD* roster that the application is asking you to provide?) and will take time to process a new way of thinking. But let me end on this note – it's not rocket science. I didn't go to a “special” school for accreditation, I didn't complete a “certificate” course and I certainly didn't pay the thousands of dollars that some businesses require to teach you any and everything you ever wanted to know about grant writing. I did something radical and it worked – I practiced! I probably turned in some not-so-awesome grant work but I at least I was trying. And in the beginning, if I got turned down for a grant I did something even crazier – I called and asked why!
What I'm preaching to you here is common sense but I know that sometimes it just takes a push (gentle nudge?) in the right direction to get some folks going. So now that I've done so, what are you waiting on?
*What is a BOD, you ask? Board of Directors (don't worry – you'll learn the lingo in time.)