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This is another one of an ongoing series of posts on Grant Writing as a Career. It discusses consultant retainer fees and prospect research fees. An earlier post discussed hourly fees and flat fees (also called per-proposal fees or per-project fees).


Consultant Retainer Fees:

Some grant writers will work under a retainer agreement for a small subset of select clients. Retainers work well when there is ongoing work and a long-term relationship exists between the client and the consultant.


Typically the retainer commits to and specifies a minimum number of hours of service per month and a number of months the agreement is to be in effect. It is paid monthly and may encompass doing prospect research, preparing proposals, and ongoing consultation. Both parties benefit from the predictability of the arrangement. The retainer depends upon the specific contract, but may be as much as $1,000 to $3,000 per month.


Prospect Research Fees:

Many consultants will do prospect research for clients. They may adjust their fees according to the length and complexity of the search for potential funders, and according to the size of the client agency. The deliverable product of the search is ordinarily a listing of possible grant sources as well as an analysis of probabilities and next steps for obtaining funding from identified best prospects. The more the client is able to set parameters (e.g., search terms, funding type, beneficiaries, grant award range), the more efficient a prospect search can be.


Charges for prospect research services vary widely. They range from $1,500 to $4,000 per funding report, and vary with its nature, extent, and complexity. Even brief reports may cost a client $125 to $500 per identified viable grant lead, or may be delivered at a fixed fee of $600 to $2,500 per search. Evaluations of identified grant leads, conducted in meetings with existing clients, may be charged at $150 or more per hour.


In an hour’s time, consultants who know how to use online databases efficiently often may identify hundreds of leads for foundation and corporate grants. Searches for potential state or federal grants seldom generate so many leads. For consultants, the time crunch comes in sorting out the dead-end leads from the viable ones, and the distant-deadline leads from the more proximate ones. For clients, only the viable leads hold any real value, but even a single subsequent grant award can make the costs of the search worthwhile.


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