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Myth: Grant writers should create proposals for free.

Reality: If it’s worth having, it’s worth paying for it.


This post is part of a series on Myths in Grant Seeking.


The Myth of Deferability reflects durable misapprehensions among grant seekers about what are acceptable arrangements for compensating individuals or firms that develop competitive grant proposals. Among its most persistent variants are: ‘Paying a grant writer on a commission basis is good practice’ and ‘Applicants can pay grant writers on a contingency basis.’


The reality is that the codes of ethics of several professional associations consistently prohibit grant writers and other members from contracting to be paid based either on a fraction of the amount of a grant award (commission) or on a positive funding outcome (contingency). Among such codes of ethics are those of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), the American Grant Writer’s Association (AGWA), and the Grant Professionals Association (GPA).


There are many compelling reasons for such prohibitions. One reason is that the final proposal, as a work product delivered to the applicant, has value for the applicant’s future funding pursuits. The work product retains such value regardless of its immediate funding outcome.


A third variant of the Myth of Deferability occurs as: ‘Applicants can pay grant writers out of their grant awards.’ This variant holds a grain of truth. Federal regulations permit pre-award cost recovery for proposal development if a specific agency indicates it will do so in a specific proposal solicitation. The rules for the same kind of cost recovery for nonprofits differ — in significant ways — from those for units of state and local government. In the private sector, most foundations in fact prohibit post-award recovery of an applicant’s pre-award costs for proposal development, thus giving wings to the Myth of Deferability as a myth.


The next post in this series on Myths in Grant Seeking will address the Myth of Discretion.


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