What services do you provide?
Strategic planning, assessments, grant fundraising, and training.
Planning and assessments (development consulting) are tailored based on each organization. It can include assessments of operations or governance (boards of directors), technical assistance with grants or fundraising systems, and/or strategic planning for a period of 1-3 years.
Grant fundraising is more comprehensive than grant writing, because it also includes researching and vetting leads, planning the ask, creating and analyzing grant pipelines, building relationships with funders, tracking results, and communicating efforts to key stakeholders. We can do it all for most types of grants.
Training is delivered through workshops or one-on-one support, depending on the organization’s needs.
For more information about how we support organizations, please see the Services page.
Do you only work with nonprofits?
No. The principles of organizational development and effective management are common to many types of organizations and different industries. We primarily support 501(c)3 nonprofits, although we partner with the public sector (school districts primarily), associations, foundations, and private businesses when they build stronger communities.
How much experience do you have?
Andi began working in nonprofits as a staff member in 2003. They have written grants since 2008, and started doing assessments and strategic planning in 2009. In 2012, they became a freelance specialist, and started Upward Development in 2014.
As of December 2019, Andi had written more than 250 grant proposals in concert with nonprofit staff and board members, and completed more than 30 strategic plans and assessments for organizations. Andi has worked with 50 nonprofits in several U.S. states, including human services, education, arts and culture, environmental, and anti-poverty organizations.
How much does it cost to hire you?
The ultimate cost of a project or contract is driven by many factors: 1) the project’s complexity in terms of judgment calls vs. standardized work, 2) the number of hours required to complete the scope of work we agree upon, 3) the urgency of the timeline, 4) the organization’s readiness to complete the requested project, 5) the capacity and willingness of people to support the process, and 6) factors outside our control that cannot be predicted in advance.
Do you offer discounts?
Sometimes. Regardless, we are thoughtful about your financial resources and have intentionally set affordable rates. Andi is regularly complimented on being considerate about financial resources for nonprofits.
Discounts are typically offered ONLY after completing an initial project together, AND if the initial experience is a positive one. Small organizations (<$250,000 annual budget) may receive a discount if it is necessary for them to access our services. Discounts are not guaranteed.
If a proposed contract is large enough (50+ hours) or is consistent over a number of months (retainer contracts), a discount may be offered on the regular hourly rate.
How do you interact remotely with clients in different areas?
We do whatever it takes to make the project successful and meet people where they are.
In person meetings are important, especially at the beginning of a project. That’s where we generate organic, robust communication of the type required for this work. We try to minimize travel costs for the best use of everyone’s resources, and conduct ourselves in a safe manner to support good health during social distancing periods.
Andi is comfortable using Skype, Google Conference, GoToMeeting, and Zoom for videoconferencing, and we use conference calls for occasional meetings.
Email is a good way to communicate about technical issues and detail-oriented topics, and it is preferred for document share. We don’t find email to be the best tool for in-depth discussion, and prefer a phone call, videoconference, or face-to-face meeting for that.
We’ve used Google Drive, Dropbox, Slack and Microsoft Sharepoint (OneDrive) for sharing and editing documents. For complex projects (like grants with multiple sections and many readers, or assessments with a remote team editing sections) a $250 fee is charged to clients who insist on using one or more of these (or similar) options. Although email may seem dated these days, cloud-based tools require additional hours to navigate systems, troubleshoot the inevitable IT issues, and convert/reformat documents.
What training courses do you provide?
Grant fundraising, budgeting for programs and nonprofits, online research, panels with other development consultants, federal and state grant writing, and more.
Please see the Training page for more information.
We customize the experience for each organization, group, and individual served. Rather than develop a series of canned modules, we learn about specific needs and address them through tailored training.
We develop engaging 60-90 minute courses and and deliver them in an informal classroom-style setting. Workshops always include written handouts, a visual presentation and Q&A for participants.
Is a case for support the same thing as a case statement?
Yes. Case for support is a newer term. These fundraising communication tools can be used with donors and/or serve as source documents for grant writing and sponsorships. They are a necessity before undertaking major campaigns, so your messaging is consistent, effective, and powerful.
Can we pay you with a percentage of the award if we win a grant you help us write?
No. It doesn’t meet the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Code of Ethical Standards, and it’s not in a nonprofits’ best interest to pay fundraisers in this way. The fundraiser (human as we are) might be more tempted to chase big money than help you stay mission-focused and working on your most important goals. Communities benefit when organizations and institutions invest in training and retaining good fundraisers who are committed to the causes they serve.
Also, it’s good to remember that nonprofit development consultants and grant fundraisers have acquired a valuable set of professional skills. This knowledge-based work deserves fair compensation for services provided, whether a grant is approved or not. It should be similar to the way accountants, mechanics, health care practitioners, attorneys and other specialists are paid.
Do you just write grants?
No! We can offer a lot more, and are very good at figuring out the A-Z when those steps don’t yet exist. We see the forest and the trees, which is useful in complex, fast-moving organizations. We’re also committed to excellence and best practices in nonprofit management, governance and staffing. That curiosity can take a variety of forms in supporting organizations.
What types of grants have you written?
How many hours does it take to write a grant?
That depends. In the course of writing hundreds of proposals, it’s taken Andi (the Principal Consultant) anywhere from 4 to 125 hours per application. We hear stories of grants being written in an hour or two, but don’t believe them, or rather, don’t believe they can be sound proposals of the type we think nonprofits and funders deserve.
To help answer this commonly asked question, Andi developed a resource for the time it takes me to write grant proposals, broken down by the type of grant. You can see it here. (Every fundraiser is different, this just reflects our experience as a relatively efficient, very thorough grant writer.)
No two grants are alike, and in determining how long it might take, we take into account many factors.
Are there any grants you won’t write?
Yes – one. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). By our estimation, it is a 150-200 hour project for the lead writer/project manager. They are highly competitive and specialized funding opportunities meant for:
Those interested in SAMHSA grants are encouraged to partner with an experienced lead applicant in their community. Those who are qualified to be competitive may contact Andi for a reference to a different grant writer.
If we hire you, can you re-use material in another grant proposal?
Somewhat. “Who we are” and “what we do” can be re-used and adapted for new proposals. Single-page program overviews with brief testimonials from clients or participants are great to reuse, and not just for grants.
Budgets can be emptied and re-built for another grant as a time-saving measure, although every grantor requires different budget formats and presentations of information, so this is of limited re-use, although very important to have clear and consistent budgets for programs and organizations.
If you really mean, “Can you cut and paste material to write multiple proposals quickly and win loads of grant money for us?” the answer is NO. We believe funding our partners, colleagues, organizations, people, and communities deserve better.
In our experience – and based on guidance from other professionals – careful alignment of everyone’s goals, thoughtful, sustainable projects, the timing of requests, and relationships are far more important.
We want to get a grant to launch a new program. Can you help us?
Hopefully so! First we’ll ask a lot of questions about how you determined the need for the program or project, what other sources of funds you might leverage, the organization’s commitment (dollars, people, and hours), and your plans to sustain it once the grant funding ends.
If you aren’t prepared to answer or haven’t thought that far ahead, it’s best to do more planning first. Those are the types of questions that funding partners ask in grant applications and contract proposals.
What’s a good success rate for a grant writer?
After talking to many professionals in the field, we think the following is reasonable for 10+ grants written:
The return on investment for organizations that hire professionals and achieve 70%+ rates can exceed 10:1!
Andi has even achieved 20:1 and greater a few times, depending on the size of proposals written.
Is Andi any good at this?
Reasonably, yes. Over 11 years, they’ve achieved a 71% success rate with grant applications being funded (85% federal and state; 55% foundation). They’ve won about 60% of the funds requested, for a total of $23.5 million dollars that’s invested in communities in Oklahoma and Oregon.
Andi had some years at 90% and some years at 50% for success rates, and struck out completely with a few nonprofits. That was disappointing for all.
Andi has been fortunate to work with top minds, has ethical practices and high standards, and chooses to serve relatively high-functioning nonprofit organizations. They have always been willing to work hard to learn any craft or profession well, and were fortunate to do a lot of grants (80+) in 2-3 years’ time under expert tutelage from several experienced professionals. Like many colleagues in this tiny field, Andi respects the craft and takes pride in their work.
Why are some grant writers unsuccessful?
Success depends on many factors outside the control of grant writers – the type of grants written, the number and type of applicants you’re competing against in that round, needs in the community that are important to funders to address, the alignment of the request to the funding partner’s priorities, whether an organization is “chasing money” (DON’T!), the level of engagement of the board, the fiscal health of the organization, etc.
For a blog post on this topic, please see Why is it so hard to win grants?
As grant writers, we should be picky about the organizations we support, and insist on good planning for projects and programs. (This includes equity, inclusion and being led by a diversity of voices – primarily the people we serve.)
Of course, we don’t all have that luxury all the time, and there’s a lot of pressure to succeed in this field. It contributes to a high burnout rate. If you understand that personally, please accept my sympathy and thanks for your service to the field.