I was recently Debbie Downer during a discussion of grantwriting on commission. My position was that it is considered unethical by foundations, grantwriters, funders etc. for several reasons:
- A funder is not going to be happy if they find that 5% or 10% of an award is going to go to the grantwriter, and not toward program-related expenses.
- A flat percentage of a larger award would be considered “excessive” by any reasonable measure. For example, if the grantwriter receives 5% of a $1.5 million award, that’s $75,000 that isn’t going to go back to the support the program that the grant is funding.
- The work to write the application take’s place whether the award is made or not.
- Commissions place the burden of risk entirely on the grantwriter. Other professionals do not work “on spec”…such as the organization’s accountant or lawyer.
- Actual grantwriting is a small percentage of time required to create the whole package that encompasses a successful project. If the organization doesn’t have the money to pay their grantwriter, they won’t be able to convince a funder that they have their act together to pull off a successful project.
For further background, The NonProfit Times did a very nice article articulating these arguments.