Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What services do you provide? 

Strategic planning, assessments, grant fundraising, consulting. Occasionally, training.

Plans and assessments are tailored for each organization. Those services can include assessments of programs, general operations, and/or governance (boards of directors).

We offer technical assistance with grants and strategic planning. Our plans are usually 3-5 years, and we have an excellent track record with grants.

We provide grant fundraising, a more comprehensive service than grant writing, because it also includes researching and vetting leads, planning the ask, building and analyzing grant pipelines, stewarding relationships with funders, and communicating efforts to key stakeholders. We can work with you based on your group’s needs.

Our consulting is offering guidance about management of nonprofits and/or the development capacity of an organization. (fundraising and stewarding good relationships with funders and the communities served)

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. Best practices apply to many types of organizations and industries. We primarily support 501(c)3 nonprofits, although we also work with state agencies, counties, cities, school districts, and foundations.

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 freelancer, and started Upward Development in 2014.

As of December 2022, Andi had written about 280 grant proposals in concert with nonprofit staff and board members, and completed more than 30 strategic plans and assessments. Andi has worked with about 60 nonprofits in several U.S. states. Their focus includes human services, education, arts and culture, environmental, and anti-poverty work.

How much does it cost to hire you?

Please see the Contracts and Rates page for more information.

We provide free estimates. Contact us.

The ultimate cost of a project or contract depends on many factors: 1) complexity in terms of making judgment calls vs. doing more routine, standardized work, 2) the number of hours required to complete the scope of work we agree to, 3) the urgency of the timeline, 4) the organization’s readiness and level of communication, 5) the capacity of people to support the process, and 6) factors outside our control.

If your organization wants a highly detailed planning process, grant, or community assessment, the cost will range from $15,000 to $25,000.

For small plans and assessments, and small and medium grants, the cost is $5,000 to $10,000.

Do you offer discounts?

Sometimes. We are thoughtful about your financial resources and have intentionally set affordable rates. We have an excellent record of providing above-and-beyond value for our clients.

Discounts are typically offered only after completing an initial project together, and the initial experience is a positive one.

If a proposed project is large enough or a group enters into a long-term retainer contract, a discount will 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. We are still masking indoors.

Andi is comfortable using Zoom, TEAMS, Google Conference, GoToMeeting, and Skype for videoconferencing. That is our preferred method for clients an hour or more away from Eugene, OR. We do conference calls sometimes.

Email is a good way to communicate quickly, 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.

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.

What training courses do you provide?

I haven’t done much training during the pandemic, but are always open to considering opportunities to share my knowledge! The topics may include grant fundraising, budgeting for programs and nonprofits, researching grants and community assessment data. We occasionally take part in panels with other development professionals, and welcome those inquiries as well.

Please see the Training page for more information.

We customize the experience for each organization, group, and individual served.

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 (PowerPoint, white board) and time for questions.

More Grant Questions

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? 

  • State and federal grants –  35%
  • Foundation grants – 50% (includes small family, large regional, statewide, and community grants)
  • Corporate, association, commission, charitable groups, United Way grants – 15%

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:

  1. Experienced health care organizations with licensed mental health professionals already on staff.
  2. Applicants with the capacity to manage a large, complex federal grant. (At least 1.5 FTE should be dedicated to the management of an award, preferably more.)
  3. Organizations with significant staff and a medium-to-large budget

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:

  • Above 30% is OK.
  • Above 50% is good.
  • Above 75% is fantastic.

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.

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.