This is one in an ongoing series of posts on Grant Writing as a Career. Based on a review of consultants’ websites, it discusses hourly fees and flat fees (also called per-proposal fees or per-project fees). A later post will discuss: retainer fees; prospect research fees; proposal review and editing fees; and general consulting cost recovery.
Perhaps surprisingly, some professional grant writing consultants do not quote fees – least of all online – since each proposal and each client is different and they want to honor and preserve their uniqueness in some way. Other consultants may charge by the hour or by the proposal – and go into great detail in describing how they do so.
Competitive applications to corporations or foundations tend to be significantly less complex (and thus less costly for clients) than competitive applications to units of local, state, or federal government. In addition, the amount of effort required to develop a strong proposal (and thus ultimately costs to clients) tends to rise in proportion to the amount of funding requested. Both tendencies affect how consultants determine their fees for writing grant proposals.
For consultants, charging hourly rates tends to reduce the risk of lost income by reflecting more closely exactly how long it takes to develop a given proposal. For potential clients, this arrangement may appear to be disadvantageous, since it seldom sets a limit on what getting a given proposal ultimately will cost.
Hourly rates for writing grant proposals vary greatly. They start as low as $15 per hour for inexperienced consultants to develop the most basic proposals for shallow-pocket clients to submit to private grant makers. Rates may surpass $100 per hour for highly experienced consultants to develop complex proposals for deep-pocket clients to submit to state or federal agencies. A higher hourly rate also often reflects a consultant’s record of success in winning grants. Hourly rates for skilled grant writers tend to average from $50 to $70 per hour, or the equivalent of from $1000 to $1400 per 20 hours.
An alternative to charging by the hour is to charge a flat fee (also called a per proposal fee or a per project fee). Usually a consultant will perform a thorough analysis of the details of a Request for Proposals (RFP) before estimating the hours needed and calculating a flat fee. While a consultant may charge a minimum flat fee of $2,500 for a proposal to a private grant maker, it may require a minimum of $4,000 or more for a proposal to a federal agency.
For consultants, charging flat fees puts a premium on being able to predict how much time developing a given proposal will take. It also puts a premium on consultants being able to develop the proposal efficiently so that the effective hourly rate of income on the work remains acceptable. Potential clients may regard a flat fee as more advantageous than an hourly fee, since it allows them to anticipate the maximum cost of getting a proposal developed.
The floor for a flat fee tends to be at least $1,000 for the most basic proposals for shallow-pocket clients to submit to private grant makers. Some consultants set the floor as high as $3,500 or $5,000 or even more. Flat fees may surpass $10,000, $12,000, even $15,000 for a complex proposal by an experienced consultant for a deep-pocket client to submit to a federal agency.
Many consultants will adjust their fees depending on the nature of a funder. While a quoted general per-proposal rate range may be $1,000 to $8,000, they may charge less for an application to a foundation or a corporation than one to a state or federal agency. Alternatively, a consultant’s quoted fee range for foundations may be $500 to $6,000 while its quoted fee range for government grants may be $1,200 to $15,000. Beyond these variations, a consultant may charge extra for preparing a proposal having a very short lead-time before it is due, not matter what its source.
Often consultants will require advance payment in full if the flat fee falls below $3,500 or some other predefined threshold. If the flat fee exceeds $3,500 or some other given threshold, they often will require from 50% to 70% of the total fee to be paid in advance. And they will require the balance to be paid either upon delivery of the completed proposal or within 15 to 30 days thereafter.