The information provided below is a modified and appended version of an web-based article written by Goodwin Deacon, Founder, The Puget Sound Grantwriters Association (PSGA).


Fees for freelance grantwriters or consultants present a constant problem. At least once a week someone asks, Can I hire a grantwriter (or agree to work for an organization) for a percentage of the grants awarded? The answer is simply, No. Commissions are considered unethical by almost all professional organizations and funders; and they are neither ideal for organizations nor grantwriters.  

The Association of Fundraising Professionals states in its Code of Ethical Principles and Standards of Professional Practice: Members shall not accept compensation that is based on a percentage of charitable contributions; nor shall they accept finder’s fees.

The Northwest Development Officers Association says in its Statement of Ethics: Members shall…receive compensation based on usual and customary compensation practices in the development field. Accept no compensation based on a percentage of fundraising goals. Grantmakers frown upon contingency fees, and many will not fund your organization if they find out you pay consultants on this basis.


Funders seldom allow a grantwriter’s fee to be included in the program budget, and hiding the fee in another line would be dishonest. 

But how is that fair? an organization may ask; Why should we pay the grantwriter if we didn’t get the grant?

Proposals succeed or fail for a number of reasons, most of which are out of the grantwriter’s control.  Among these are:  

* Budget: whether the organization has a well-planned and balanced budget
* Feasibility: the strength of the project: whether it meets a clear community need
* Match: how well the project fits the funder’s interests and geographic criteria
* Organizational Capacity: reputation, track record, financial history, etc.
* Relationship: how well the funder knows and trusts the organization
* Collaboration: how well the organization partners with other organizations
* Competition: how many other requests the funder has received and from whom
* Funds and Timing: how much money the funder has available in this cycle  

Finally, a key element is the quality and persuasiveness of the proposal. This is the responsibility of the grantwriter and important. However, even the most eloquently written proposal will fail if other factors are not in its favor.  

We’re a small organization, just starting out. How are we supposed to pay a grantwriter if we don’t have any money? 

If you don’t have any money, you are quite simply not ready to apply for a grant. Grants should never be an organization’s first dollar. You need to raise funds from individuals first: people who believe in your organization and are willing to make a contribution to get you started. A good place to begin is with your Board of Directors.