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How To Recognize and Avoid Grant Scams

I decided to do something a little different with #TuesdayTips this week and drop a blog post. Lately, I've been hearing more and more about people and organizations getting hit by grant schemes. This type of scam has been around for a long time, I believe that there has been an uptick due to the buzz happening around COVID-19, economic recovery, and social justice grant opportunities.

Regardless of the cause, the reality is that there are people out there who want to profit off of others' lack of understanding and education of ethical grantsmanship. Grant scams are misleading marketing practices or "get rich quick schemes" targeted towards nonprofit organizations. The motive of grant scammers is to do or promise certain things in an effort to gain your trust to get your money. And more often than not, they'll take your money and you may never hear from them again.

I don't want this to happen to you, so here's a couple of things you can do to protect yourself (and your organization) from grant scrams:

1. Be cautious of anyone who tries to guarantee you'll win a grant if you hire them. No one, I repeat, no one should GUARANTEE that they can win grants for you. There are so many factors that are at play when it comes to winning grants... and once we hit submit, the outcome of the application is outside of our direct control.

2. Don't hire grant writers that you have not properly vetted. In a world where information is widely available and everyone has access to social media, anyone can CLAIM to be an expert grant writer. Please don't fall for it. Take some time to check for receipts: Do they have a bio? Professional references or affiliations? Credible experience? If you're finding it hard to find receipts or they refuse to provide them, that's a red flag.

3. Only hire grant writers that are knowledgeable of, adhere to, and uphold industry standards. This tip is probably one of the most underutilized and underappreciated gems of wisdom. Just like any other industry, the field of grantsmanship has ethical standards that all professionals SHOULD practice. Please make sure that the grant writer you're looking to hire is aware of and practices ethical grantseeking. You can find our code of ethics via organizations like Community Centric Fundraising, Grants Professional Association, and Association for Fundraising Professionals.

4. Don't pay anyone to write grants for you if they haven't assessed if you're truly grant-ready. I've set this before, but grant writers are your partners, not miracle workers. That being said, it is impossible to create a competitive application without checking to see if your organization's foundation is IN ORDER. If the grant writer you're looking to hire does not take time to get to know your organization to see if you're in a position for grants (or at the very least conduct a document review) it's probably a red flag!

5. Make sure that you get some form of proof on grant project progress and application submissions. If you've paid your hard-earned money to someone, then you have the right to know how the project is going and receive proof of grant submission. This can be a simple project plan or a copy of the receipt from a funder.

I want you to do your due diligence, be attentive, and use good judgment. I hope these tips have empowered you to protect yourself from grant scams.

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Sheleia Phillips


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