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A Guide for Breaking into the Grant Consulting Field

As you can guess, the majority of our attention is occupied with giving the best unfunded ideas opportunities for support. On the flip side of this, however, is our desire to see talented young social impact professionals become more involved in grant consulting, philanthropy and evaluation. Many grants consultants serve as evaluators on our committee and it has been our pleasure to watch their careers advance. For one, it’s a great position to be in: you play a big part in helping great ideas develop into powerful organizations that can attract support and be formidable agents for change. More importantly, new voices in general are needed in the grants management world to help correct flaws in the current system and think of intuitive ways we can help organizations grow.

Our evaluators have found value in being a member of our learning community. Many of our evaluators have attended, spoken at, or helped to plan our events, read our articles, or listened to our podcasts. From speaking with members we have learned that many have seen their own proposals improve, but also that they have joined giving circles, foundation boards, taken new jobs in philanthropy, and been promoted within their own organizations. It has been a pleasure assigning proposals to them over the years while watching their careers advance and their impact grow.

We wanted to share some of the advice we have learned about advancing a career in grants management.

Breaking into grant consulting is not an easy proposition. There is no typical career path that determines how you get there. Yes; grant writing is the obvious one, but this doesn’t automatically prepare you for consulting. If you have only been writing for one organization, or one type of organization, then you might have too narrow an understanding to help organizations in different focus areas.

Serving on a grant review committee in an organization is another way of making inroads, but it suffers the same limitations as being a grant writer: the criteria and process used to determine winners might not applicable to other organizations, and in some cases, the rubric being used might end up shutting out more good ideas than expected.

If you aim to become a top-level grant consultant who not only raises dollars but adds perspective to organizations and pushes the needle of what’s possible in philanthropy, however, it’s best to get the widest range of writing and evaluating experience possible. Given this preference, we have a few recommendations for aspiring grant consultants to do exactly that:

Get involved with a Giving Circle through GrapeVine 

We would argue that one of the most important traits of a good grant consultant is the ability to determine the originality of the idea and whether it is described thoroughly. Joining a Giving Circle provides you with the opportunity to get experience doing this. 

Giving Circles are not a new concept. People have been gathering in groups to better their communities for thousands of years. But the practice has been gaining popularity in recent years and has been promoted by the organization Philanthropy Together and their annual event the WeGive Summit (our founder spoke at their inaugural Summit). There is probably already a Giving Circle close to you focusing on issues you care about with members of your community already contributing. Find them and join them through GrapeVine.

Work for a Nonprofit for Years and build Grant-Writing Skills

Speaking for myself, if I was considering hiring a grant writer my first question would be about which organizations they have written grants for and how many grants they have received. In order to have a good answer to that question you will need to have a long track record of experience. The best way to do that is to work for a nonprofit in their grant writing department. You could also find a local organization that needs a volunteer grant writer and get to work.

You might also find an established grantwriting consultancy or fundraising support business that is hiring associates or junior level folks. Right now is a great time to be looking for a job in fundraising – most organizations need help and many are in a position to hire. 

Join the Unfunded List evaluation committee

Do you have experience managing and evaluating grants? Are you looking to gain more experience while giving back in a rewarding way? We accept professionals from all backgrounds in order to give our candidates the widest range of feedback. If you do not have any experience reviewing grants we will be happy to give you some. Before you know it, you will be very experienced.

Click Here to learn more about becoming an evaluator.


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