SJ---Recently, in response to a post from a new fund-raising consultant asking how to initiate activities to obtain clients, I came up with a number of ways I used a number of years ago as I began my consulting practice following many years as a director of development. Your request relates to grant writing, but it occurred to me that with a bit of revision, those general fund-raising initiatives might serve your specific grant writing-related need as well. I hope some are applicable, and that the real grant writing professionals on this board might have additional suggestions---especially better ones.
When you are ready to start your own grant writing consulting firm, you might be able to secure freelance grant writing opportunities in some, or all, of the following ways:
• Send letters to development officers of non-profits in the geographic area of your choice (United Way, universities, hospitals, etc.), and let them know that you are available. Get your resume' up to date and ready. You might just make contact at the right time when an organization is in the middle of a full-time grant writer search, and could make good use of your freelance services. Not to mention the many additional non-profits with no such full-time staff position who are generally in need of the services of a freelance grant writing consultant.
• Be a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, or otherwise frequently attending the local chapter’s regular open lunch/program meetings. It is one of the best ways to get to know folks who work for non-profits and to have them know that you are in the consulting business should they have a grant writing need some time or other. True as well with board members of organizations who are at those meetings. It’s the best possible, “Let me have your card,” opportunity during the “Attitude Adjustment” half-hour prior to the usual lunch program. See your nearest AFP Chapter from their geographic search page:
• Make inquires at the AFP chapter, and other places where there might be opportunities to speak on grant writing topics. Offer your free lecture services. Maybe the local Library, United Way, Business Volunteerism organization, or University, would welcome such a talk as part of their production of seminars and community programs specific to non-profits, or general in nature. To stand up in front of a group comprised of individuals from non-profits, and deliver a talk on the process of grant writing, is one of the best ways for them to see and hear you in action.
• Identify fund-raising consulting firms or individual fund-raising consultants at work in your area. Do some research “through the grapevine” to know of the best ones. Perhaps a firm needs you as a new grant writing consultant to add it its team, or perhaps an individual professional’s business is growing and she or he would welcome a partner/colleague such as you.
“Expand The Market Potential!”
• Write an article of the type which might be of interest to your local newspaper’s writer on things philanthropic. Offer an article, or articles, on grant writing to some of the non-profits at work in your area for publication in their newsletters. Look for any opportunity to have something you have written to be published somehow, somewhere, in your community: i.e., Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, etc.
• From your two-three years of experience as a development professional, collect the names of the board members with whom were were associated, and get their addresses if you can, or you’ll need to do your own phone book research. Many of the board members whom you served or otherwise knew when you worked as a development professional, most likely are members of other boards of trustees for other organizations. Remind them of your good association with them during your development professional time with them, and ask that they consider your services when the need arises as they serve on the boards of other community organizations.
• Visit program officers and corporate contributions managers, or otherwise make known to them your credentials and availability to provide grant writing services. As they talk to grant seekers and grant getters, these stewards of foundation and corporate money many times want to be in position to name grant writing consultants for the benefit of those organizations to contact as a resource for their fund-raising needs. While it’s good to be mentioned in that way, we are especially blessed when those grant givers actually recommend us by name.
I've advertised, mailed and otherwise distributed my brochure---all with limited success, relative to time and expense expended for relatively scant return. What worked best over time, and accounted for almost all of my engagements with clients, was the good old “W.O.M.” (Word Of Mouth.) Do all you can to have your name readily recalled and mentioned when the subject of available, experienced, and capable, grant writing professionals comes up.
We wish you well in what is truly a most satisfying and meaningful profession.