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Return on investment (ROI) is a useful metric for tracking productivity in grant seeking. Unlike some others, it takes the perspective of those who pay for grant writing services rather than of those who provide them. Its calculation should cover the costs of a grant writer’s activities that precede a grant award notification. Among such costs are prospecting, planning, researching, writing, and publishing – but not managing or evaluating or reporting. The latter are among the costs of having a grant and keeping it, rather than those of seeking one.


Multi-Year Grants

Some grant awards yield multi-year funding. Often they require multi-year budgets at the time of initial application. In such cases, if only one proposal will secure a multi-year grant, then I’d count the entire approved budget toward ROI in the year it was first funded. If a multi-year grant will require a separate proposal each year, then I’d count each year’s award toward ROI in the year it is awarded.


Grant Requests and Grant Awards

Sometimes grant awards differ from grant requests. If a funder awards a grant for an amount less than or more than what a proposal requested, then I’d count that actual award amount toward ROI, not the requested amount.


Some proposals may have sub-budgets (or sub-contracts) for partners in a project or initiative. So long as they form part of the same grant award, I’d count them toward ROI.


Formula Grants

Some proposals may be for formula-based grants, not competitive ones. I’d count these grant awards toward a grant writer’s overall ROI, since there are still costs incurred (investments) in preparing such proposals. Clearly, I wouldn’t count such grant awards toward that part of a grant writer’s ROI that may need to reflect results strictly in securing competitively awarded grants.


Grant Management

If a grant writer performs other functions in a development office, such as grant administration, I’d record and report them but I wouldn’t count them toward ROI. The cost of investments in managing or retaining grants is arguably distinct from the cost of pursuing them. Planning that leads to new (or renewed) public or private grant awards – whether competitive or formula – may count toward one’s ROI as a grant seeker; managing existing grant awards is seldom if ever a grant-seeking function, and should not count toward ROI as a grant seeker.


Withheld Grant Proposals

Some grant leads may prove to be dead ends. And at times – even up to the last moment before a deadline – an applicant may decide not to submit a proposal. I’d count both situations toward calculating ROI. The former because it reflects prospect research, which is a function that’s part of seeking a grant award. The latter because a withdrawn or withheld proposal still incurs costs (or investments) in developing the proposal, even if it never gets out the door.


One Comment

  1. Reblogged this on we work with words and commented:
    This is about ROI regarding hiring a grant writer (grant seeking), verses ROI of the actual project (grant management).

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By Grant Management Basics, Part 2 - Palmetto on 15 Dec 2015 at 5:36 pm

    […] is necessary for a variety of reasons, most importantly to ensure compliance and maximize the ROI or return on investment for both the funder and funded […]

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