Grant Writer: What to know on Retainer Fees [2023]

Grant Writer Fees, image created by Midjourney
Grant Writer Fees, image created by Midjourney

Small businesses and nonprofits reach out to freelance grant writers to bring them good-fit opportunities for funding. To know how much to pay when you aim to hire grant writers, this post answers some frequently asked questions about the costs of grant writing services, including the required grant writer retainer fee.

If you are a nonprofit leader or an owner of a small business, then this post is specifically for you to help you with an overview of the topic.

First, let’s brainstorm the services that grant writers provide to you, our business owner and nonprofit leader.

Grant writing services aim to provide organizations with money to help them resume their work. Their work includes (not an inclusive list):

  • Researching opportunities
  • Communicating with team members on relevant grant opportunities
  • Writing competitive and winning proposals
  • Attending debriefing sessions on rejected proposals

The grant writer is more than just a technical writer. Of course, they should be aware of the technicalities required for each proposal to write; however, they also need an artful sense to create a winning story that shows the impact of your business.

Then, having said that, let’s know more about the grant writers’ retainer fee.

Let’s dig in.

Grant Writer Retainer Fee – The Narrative

A retainer fee is an agreed-upon amount of money paid upfront to a freelancer or a consultant for future services. The fee usually covers the initial expenses of a working relationship and offers priority access to the client in retaining the services of a consultant.

In our context, a retainer fee paid upfront to a grant writer usually covers the costs of researching relevant grant opportunities and making the go decision with the client.

According to the American Grant Writer’s Association (AGWA) Code of Ethics on retainer fees, “The Grant Consulting Entity may not accept compensation that is a retainer, bonus, commission-based, or contingency-based.”

Is the retainer fee for grant writers really beneficial?


Like any other typical retainer agreement, both parties commit to a specified number of work hours and months. Retainers work best when the relationship between the client and the freelance grant writer is long-term and when there is a steady workflow.

Additionally, the retainer fee ensures that the receiver, in this case, the grant writer, is committed. However, this does not mean that the outcome of a winning award is guaranteed.

How much for a grant writer retainer fee?

Usually, a new freelance grant writer can charge between $15 to $40 per hour. Expert-level grant writers, however, start their hourly rate at $100.

Since retainer fees are usually charged monthly, small agencies can pay as little as $500 as a monthly retainer fee. On the other hand, larger organizations are willing to pay up to $10,000.

Both parties should agree to the retainer fee upfront with other work arrangements included, such as the additional payments needed if the grant writer spends all the retainer fee.

Another essential thing to consider here when determining the fee is the amount of work you request from the grant writer. You, as a nonprofit leader or business owner can ask yourself these:

Are you ready with all your organization’s goals and needs, or do you need some help defining these too?

Will you ask the grant writer to research opportunities, or will you ask them to skip this and write the concept notes and proposals for the options you highlight?

Hiring a Grant Writer? Things to consider

Fiverr and Upwork are great places to look for grant writing potential to hire.

When you decide on the specific goals and deliverables you need from the grant writer, you will be able to set the fee and hire the caliber most suitable for your post.

Both platforms provide you with the possibility to check the profiles of freelances and know-all about their:

  • Availability
  • Qualifications
  • Hourly rates
  • Previous work
  • Work portfolios
  • Job success rates

You will also get the chance to read other client’s feedback on the grant writers’ work.

Also, you can look for the support of organizations that provide grant-writing services in specific.

You must ensure that whoever you hire understands the context you are working in very well. This is one crucial factor that helps in writing award-winning proposals. You also need to know the areas of expertise the grant writer is mainly skilled at. The areas of expertise here can include environmental, health, community development, child welfare, homelessness, education, arts and culture, animal welfare, human and civil rights, and many others.

These certifications increase the retainer fee (the grant writer fee in general) …

When you view the profiles of grant writers on any freelancing website, you will find some standard certifications that can double the hourly rates of freelancers.

Remember that a certified grant writer is always worth the additional money.

Here’s a list of these (non-inclusive):

  • Grant Professional Certified (GPC)
  • Certified Grant Writer®, by AGWA
  • (Advanced) Certified Fundraising Executive

In addition, many prestigious universities provide well-structured certified programs on grant writing that are offered online and offline.

Wrapping up – Final thoughts

Putting everything together, you, as a nonprofit and small business owner, now have a broad idea about grant writing retainer fees. However, before you think about any of the above, you’ll need to sit down and define your objectives and goals for including grant writers in your team. Once you do, you will find it easy to profile and select grant writers to help you achieve your goals. You will be able to set the required budget for the tasks required and the job description for your soon-to-be grant writers.

Of course, if you’re out of time and would like a consultant to help you plan this, here is some information on our freelancers’ work. I highly recommend it.

Meet The Author Of This Article

I’m Jenny Ayman, a project manager in the development field with specific knowledge and experience in capacity building and entrepreneurship programs. I aspire to transfer the hands-on experience I gain in my professional career through writing.

Also, if you need help planning your business, I recommend checking out some of our freelancer’s business plans or pitch decks!