Independent grant consultants quickly recognize that consulting with clients can be an art in itself. Clients will have a range of reasons and needs for requesting grant funding and working with a grant consultant. Few clients will know the best solution for their project before contacting the grant consultant. To submit a competitive proposal or application the grant consultant must be able to help the client focus and organize their thoughts.
The most difficult and time-consuming aspects of preparing many grant proposals is getting information from the client. Many clients think that there is “free money” and funding for “any idea they think of”. This is supported because they “heard of someone” who received lots of grant money for that very purpose.
The fact is that this information is skewed at best and more likely improbable. Consultants often have to spend some time early in the process educating their clients on how the process actually works and the types of projects which are more fundable than others.
Other times the client may have a hidden agenda. Financial information is particularly difficult to receive from clients. Some clients are just looking for money, any money. If one idea is not strong enough they will try another, and another.
In many research oriented grant applications, the Engineer or PI is uneasy about discussing the real technology and innovative process of their project in fear that reviewers will steal their ideas. This reluctance can cause a delay in getting sufficient information to compose a competitive narrative, or perhaps cause enough trepidation as to not give any information at all.
Working with clients is a two-way street. Choose your clients carefully. Clients often screen the grant writer, and in the same sense, the grant writer should screen the client. Do not take on bad business. It is better to give the client advice on how to become “grant eligible” in the future than to take on an unfundable client right now. Ensure there are good values, match, and approach with client. This will make for a more mutually enjoyable working relationship.
Remember that when all is said and done, it is the clients decision on what should or should not be included, not the consultants. Regardless of all the good advice the grant consultant provides, it is the client who makes the final decision on what goes into the final grant submission. The goal of a grant consultant is to facilitate the best decision-making information to the client.