Deciding Between Grant Writing Companies? by AGS Staff

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Having GPCs on Staff

Hiring a grant writing company to support your organization with its grant applications and management is a cost- and resource-efficient way to improve your funding chances. It also takes the burden of work associated with grants off your or your team’s shoulders so you can focus on other important activities. The hard part is choosing the one that brings you the best chance for finding the right grants for your program, securing them, and effectively managing them. What makes it even harder to select a grant writing service is that anyone can call him or herself a grant writing professional since industry-wide guidelines dictating the “professional” definition are loose. In other words, most anyone can launch a website and add “professional grant writer” to a business card.

That is why the Grant Professional Certified (GPC) credential matters. The GPC is the only professional credential for individuals working in the grants field to be recognized by a national credentialing body, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). In use since 2007, the GPC credential is the only experienced-based exam of its kind. The Grant Professionals Certification Institute (GPCI) identifies grant professionals who display outstanding expertise and ethical practices as measured by a psychometrically valid and reliable assessment tool. GPCI maintains the ongoing validity of the credential through its job analysis, psychometric review, and ongoing monitoring of the GPC exam. It enables employers to make informed decisions for their hospitals, nonprofits, governments agencies, universities, and other grant funded agencies. Currently, 348 grant professionals are certified to use the GPC designation.

Assel Grant Services is a Long-Time Champion of the GPC Designation

Julie Assel, President and CEO of Assel Grant Services, has been a strong Grant Professional Certification (GPC) credential advocate since its early days, and she encourages all grant professionals to earn this certification. Grant writers are constantly demonstrating the complete value they bring to organizations seeking grant funding. The GPC credential reflects that comprehensive value.

No Other Grant Writing Firm in the U.S. Has More GPCs on Staff

Assel Grant Services has seven GPCs on staff, more than any other firm in the country. Our team’s strength isn’t only in its number of GPCs, but also in its wide variety of content experience and knowledge of local and national funding trends. Each one of our staff has years of experience serving some of the most vulnerable children, families, and individuals in our community and in our nation.

The Nine Competencies of Grant Professionals Certification

When you partner with a grant writing service with as many GPCs as Assel Grant Services, you can rely on receiving a specific set of validated competencies and skills.

In order for a grant professional to earn the GPC credential, he or she must prove their competency and skill in nine areas: grant research, organization development, program design, grant application construction and submission, grant management, ethics, professionalism, funder relationships, and quality writing. They are as follows per the GPCI.

Competency #1: Knowledge of how to research, identify, and match funding resources to meet specific needs.

  1. Identify major trends in public funding and public policy
  2. Identify major trends in private grant funding
  3. Identify methods of locating funding sources
  4. Identify techniques to learn about specific funders
  5. Identify methods for maintaining, tracking, and updating information on potential funders
  6. Identify fundable programs and projects for specific organizations
  7. Determine best matches between funders and specific programs
  8. Interpret grant application request for proposal (RFP) guidelines and requirements to accurately assess funder intent

Why it matters? A common mistake that grant-seeking organizations make is looking for funding in all the wrong places. Your organization will be more successful in its grant awards when your need matches the funder’s criteria. Too often, our team sees organizations courting funders who have a history of funding programs quite different than their own. With our competency and experience, the AGS team will guide you in the direction of funders who are interested in your mission.

Competency #2: Knowledge of organizational development as it pertains to grant seeking.

  1. Assess organizations’ capacity for grant seeking
  2. Assess organizations’ readiness to obtain funding to implement specific projects
  3. Identify methods for assisting organizations to implement practices that advance grant readiness
  4. Identify values, mission, and goals of your organization’s overall strategic plan as it relates to the grant process and grant seeking
  5. Identify methods of accessing and/or conducting mission-focused planning and needs assessments with applicant organizations
  6. Identify strategies and procedures for obtaining internal institutional support and approval of decision-makers for grant-seeking activities
  7. Identify effects of applicants’ organizational cultures, values, decision-making processes, and norms on the pursuit of grant opportunities
  8. Identify best practices in grant seeking that match organizations’ needs with potential funding opportunities

Why it matters? By nature, organizations can be overly ambitious or overly nervous when it comes to evaluating in-house capacity to seek and manage grants. Also, by nature, funders can have strict guidelines that organizations must prove they meet to be eligible for their grants. Our team  will objectively assess your organization’s structure and then help you increase your capacity to handle grants of all types and sizes to increase your chances of funding and management success.

Competency #3: Knowledge of strategies for effective program and project design and development.

  1. Identify methods of soliciting and incorporating meaningful substantive input and contributions by stakeholders
  2. Identify methods of building partnerships and facilitating collaborations among co-applicants
  3. Identify strategies for educating key personnel about financial and programmatic accountability to comply with funder requirements
  4. Identify structures, values, and applications of logic models as they relate to elements of project design
  5. Identify appropriate definitions of and interrelationships among elements of project design (e.g., project goals, objectives, activities, evaluation)
  6. Identify design and development decisions used to create the program/project that are data-based (e.g., descriptive, qualitative, environmental, statistical)
  7. Identify existing community resources that aid in developing programs and projects
  8. Identify effects of accurate and defensible evaluation designs in program and project success and sustainability
  9. Identify any cultural competency or cultural diversity issues within the organization or project that will impact the design and/or grant development process

Why it matters? Quality project design is key. A high-quality grant professional can talk organizations through the programmatic aspects that funders prioritize – partnerships, logic models, evaluation, culturally responsive programming, etc. With funding tight across the grant landscape, it is important to connect with a grant professional who understands the nuances of each funder. Our team looks for and helps organizations build partnerships to expand your funding options. Having a high-quality program in place prior to applying for a grant can make the difference between being funded or not.

Competency #4: Knowledge of how to craft, construct, and submit an effective grant application.

  1. Identify elements of a standard grant proposal application
  2. Interpret grant application request for proposal (RFP) guidelines and requirements to ensure high quality responses
  3. Identify project management strategies for submitting high-quality and complete proposals on time
  4. Identify and cite accurate and appropriate data sources to support proposal narratives
  5. Identify appropriate, sequential, consistent, and logical presentations of grant-narrative elements and ideas among or within proposal components
  6. Identify proposal-writing approaches, styles, tones, and formats appropriate for proposing organizations and various audiences
  7. Identify appropriate and accurate uses of visuals to highlight information
  8. Identify effective practices for developing realistic, accurate line-item and narrative budgets and for expressing the relationship between line-items and project activities in the budget narrative
  9. Identify sources of cash, in-kind, and/or leveraged matches for project budgets
  10. Identify factors that limit how budgets are written (e.g., matching requirements, supplanting issues, indirect costs, prevailing rates, performance-based fees, client fees, collective bargaining, allowable versus non-allowable cost)
  11. Identify evaluation models and components appropriate to grant applications
  12. Identify methods for submitting proposals electronically and in hard-copy format
  13. Identify processes to effectively register and maintain organization in SAM, DUNS, and

Why it matters? Some organizations think they can apply for a grant at the last minute, but doing that may get your grant thrown out or not read due to a technicality. Grant applications, by and large, have a distinct format to which organizations requesting funds must adhere. This takes part experience and part paying attention to detail, especially when it comes to numbers and budgeting requirements. Creating high quality responses to each part of the grant application takes knowledge and skill as well as project planning to ensure all of the parts come together for an on-time submission. Our team knows exactly which funders expect what and how they want it submitted, as well as how to match the tone of your grant application to their expectations.

Competency #5: Knowledge of post-award grant management practices sufficient to inform effective grant design and development.

  1. Identify standard elements of compliance
  2. Identify effective practices for key functions of grant management
  3. Differentiate roles and responsibilities of project and management staff and other key personnel affiliated with grant projects
  4. Identify methods of establishing transitions to post-award implementation that fulfill project applications (e.g., document transfer, accuracy in post-award fiscal and activity reporting)
  5. Identify appropriate records retention for completed grant awards

Why it matters? Once your grant is awarded, funders expect a return on their money. In this case, their return is making progress toward and eventually accomplishing the goals and objectives your organization set forth to achieve. Your chances of a successful program or project hinge on how well your organization manages the grant from the beginning. Our staff helps you put a team and structure in place to maximize your resources and grant money so you can prove effectiveness to your funding party, and perhaps even gain additional or extended funding in the future.

Competency #6: Knowledge of nationally recognized standards of ethical practice by grant developers.

  1. Identify characteristics of business relationships that result in conflicts of interest or give the appearance of conflicts of interest
  2. Identify circumstances that mislead stakeholders, have an appearance of impropriety, profit stakeholders other than the intended beneficiaries, and appear self-serving
  3. Distinguish between truthful and untruthful, and accurate and inaccurate representations in grant development, including research and writing
  4. Identify funding sources that may present conflicts of interest for specific grant seekers and applicants
  5. Identify issues and practices pertinent to communicating information that may be considered privileged, proprietary, and confidential
  6. Identify unethical and illegal expenditures in a budget
  7. Distinguish between ethical and unethical methods of payment for the grant-development process
  8. Distinguish between ethical and unethical commitment, performance, and reporting of activities funded by a grant

Why it matters? Unintended or otherwise, any whiff of unethical behavior or practices can and will nip in the bud your chances of being funded, or worse, having funding rescinded. Our team keeps a close, objective eye out for any behavior or practices that could be construed as unethical and advises your organization on its consequences to help ensure funding stays intact. This is a very serious competency for your grant professional to have, considering an ethics violation can not only make it impossible to attract funding from agencies, but also can tarnish an organization’s reputation.

Competency #7: Knowledge of practices and services that raise the level of professionalism of grant developers.

  1. Identify advantages of participating in continuing education and various grant review processes
  2. Identify advantages of participating in professional organizations that offer grant developers growth opportunities and advance the profession
  3. Identify strategies that grant developers use in building social capital to benefit their communities and society at large

Why it matters? This competency serves the grant writing profession as a whole. By raising the level of professionalism in grant developers, organizations that rely on them can be sure they are getting grant professionals who are staying on top of the latest trends in research, writing, project design, and project management. With seven GPCs on staff, Assel Grant Services is clearly dedicated to advancing grant developers’ professionalism.

Competency #8: Knowledge of methods and strategies that cultivate and maintain relationships between fund-seeking and recipient organizations and funders.

  1. Identify characteristics of mutually beneficial relationships between fund seeker and funders
  2. Identify strategies to determine funder-relation approaches that suit fund-seeking entities’ missions, cultures, and values
  3. Identify methods of relationship cultivation, communication, recognition, and stewardship that might appeal to specific funders
  4. Identify methods for collaborative efforts among the grant manager, program manager, and support staff during funder site visits and site evaluations

Why it matters? A mistake many organizations make with grant partners is not treating them the same as they do their major individual or corporate donors. While understandable given the formal nature of requesting funds and the disconnect that can result in the grant process with large foundations, it’s important to maintain a strong relationship. Our team provides proven tips for being proactive and transparent with your communication, gracefully acknowledging your funder’s support, and hosting a successful site tour or visit, if requested.

Competency #9: Ability to write a convincing case for funding.

  1. Make a persuasive argument
  2. Organize ideas appropriately
  3. Convey ideas clearly
  4. Use conventions of standard written English
  5. Use information provided
  6. Follow formatting guidelines

Why it matters? Grammar, spelling, and the ability to make a compelling case matter to those reading your grant application. Not to mention, many grant applications include rules that stipulate page and word counts, so every sentence is important. Our grant writers are well versed on creating the right tone and voice for any grant application, and at heart they are proficient writers.

You Cannot Underestimate the Value of Your Grant Writing Service Having GPCs on Staff

When outsourcing your grant writing and support to help win more grants, ask yourself one question: Would you hire someone to prepare your taxes just because he or she is good at math? With potentially hundreds or thousands of dollars at stake, your organization cannot afford to hire the wrong grant writing company just because they are good at writing. Assel Grant Services has seven GPCs on staff, more than any other firm in the country, because professionalism, experience, and proficiency in all aspects of grant writing and management matter to your mission.

GPC Competency 7: Knowledge of practices and services that raise the level of professionalism of grant professionals.  Skill 2: Identify advantages of participating in professional organizations that offer grant developers growth opportunities and advance the profession.

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