Editor's Note: This article was originally published in 2017.
One of my first jobs outside of college was working for a nonprofit organization, organizing an extracurricular program, and supporting the program behind the scenes.
It was a small office, so most of the projects were based on an all-hands-on-deck mentality. My roles included fundraising, volunteer coordinator, event planner and social media manager.
At some point I also fell in the lap of writing scholarships … and now it's my full-time business.
Could it suit you too? How to become a scholarship holder.
How do I become a Grant Writer?
Writing grants is the process of developing a detailed application for funding from a particular institution.
Your job is to make the argument that the work of your nonprofit deserves funding. They do this by showing the company's past success, details of current and future plans, expertise, and overall ability to change the world.
By showing what your nonprofit can do, you help the donor understand how to spend their dollars and what impact they would have on the world's problems.
I've always been attracted to charity and writing, so the combination seemed to fit me perfectly. I researched new funding opportunities from local foundations, researched data and studies to support my organization's approach to changing the world, and I grasped the essence of our programs and why we deserved funding.
It was hard work and still is. Even for larger non-profit organizations, which are known names, only about every tenth grant application is accepted. It is a competitive arena and the task has its share of frustrations.
But patience and effort lead to rewarding success – for you and the non-profit organizations you work for.
Over time, I realized that there was a great demand for qualified, successful fellows. Many non-profit organizations outsource work because they don't have enough volume to justify hiring someone in the house. I took this nugget and went alone to build a scholarship writing business that now has seven writers.
How to start
If you are a strong technical writer with a passion for charity, writing charitable grants can be a worthwhile field. It's in high demand, but the work requires some very specific experience.
To become a scholarship holder, you should first gain a substantial amount of nonprofit experience. When writing scholarships, you need to speak competently about the inside of the nonprofit organization and its programs. So you want to make sure you are familiar with these areas.
Every community service helps you to gain experience. You can volunteer in an office, work on a fundraiser, or act as a project manager for a specific program. Better yet, sit on a board of directors for a local nonprofit and offer another area of expertise that you may have: accounting, legal, business development, or fundraising.
Take your expertise and interests and use them to open doors for charitable activities. This experience will help you better understand the inside of a nonprofit organization. This will serve you well as a scholarship holder who must summarize the strengths of a nonprofit organization in each of these areas.
They are also well placed to advise your customers on how to improve their processes and thus better compete for grants, and – just as important – to assess when a potential customer is not suitable for tracking grants.
From there, you want experience writing scholarships – a significant amount.
There are many classes and books on the subject, even certifications that you can aspire to. And there are generally local groups of fundraising professionals who offer conferences, training, and career development opportunities. All of these resources will provide you with the knowledge you need to be a strong scholarship holder and a helpful advisor to your future customers.
Not only did I work as an internal scholarship holder, I also attended as many courses as possible to improve my skills. I attended online scholarship writing courses, webinars on all nonprofit topics, and conferences dedicated to writing scholarships and collecting donations.
Attend charitable networking events and meet as many people as you can to learn more about your business.
Many nonprofits are also looking for volunteer fellows, which is a great way to gain experience and possibly get recommendations.
When you're ready to start your own business, read these 10 steps to start a business.
How Much Do Grant Writers Earn?
According to Glassdoor, scholarship holders can earn around $ 40,000 annually in smaller markets.
However, in larger markets, with more demanding projects and with a lot of experience, salaries can rise to over $ 60,000 a year.
Some scholarship writing jobs are short and sweet, and you'll only be charged a few hundred dollars. However, if you gain experience and climb the ladder, you can write detailed grant applications to federal agencies that can raise several thousand dollars per capita.
My first years of writing scholarships included lots of low hanging fruit and poorly paid appearances. In combination with other writing projects, I only earned about $ 35,000.
About a decade later, that number rose to $ 80,000. My business is flourishing and I have several regular customers, an army of writers to help me with my projects, and a comfortable income.
Megan Hill is a Seattle-based freelance writer and CEO of Professional Grant Writers, a team of nonprofit experts and development professionals who work with charities around the world.
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