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What does a Grant Specialist do?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A grant specialist supervises the process of applying for grants offering funding opportunities relevant to the organization the specialist works for. Many grant specialists are public employees, representing organizations like schools, cities, and government agencies. Others may work for private organizations that rely heavily on grant funding, such as nonprofits. There are no special requirements to become a grant specialist, although a bachelor's degree is usually preferred and many companies will not hire people without experience.

The grant specialist is responsible for identifying grants potentially applicable to the organization the specialist works for, using resources like grant listings and automated databases. The specialist examines the terms and conditions of individual grants to confirm the organization is eligible, and then files a grant application. Grant applications typically require extensive paperwork and supporting documentation, and being able to fill out applications accurately and in detail is an important skill.

Grant specialists are typically at work on multiple grants at once. Some may be in the very early stages, while others may be further along in the application process. If grants are approved, the grant specialist makes sure the terms of the grant are met, providing reporting and disclosure information to the granting agency or organization if requested, and meeting any other requirements. For example, it may be necessary to document how the money was used to continue qualifying for grant funding.

Many grant specialists have degrees in fields like communications and business administration. Grant specialists need to be able to keep multiple applications organized, to network with a variety of people in the process of identifying funding needs and meeting them through the use of grants, and to be able to communicate clearly in their applications. This type of work also requires people skills, as it may be necessary to interact personally with sources of grant funding and a personable, friendly grant specialist is more likely to win a fierce competition for grant monies.

People typically begin careers as grant specialists by working in the office of a specialist who can provide mentoring, training, and exposure to the grant application and filing process. Over time, office staff can achieve more independence, until eventually they are filing grants entirely on their own. Once a high level of competence is reached, people can explore the possibility of applying for higher ranking positions in the office, or seeking work elsewhere, with other organizations in need of the services of a grant specialist.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Mykol — On Dec 03, 2011

When I read about what a grant specialist job description is, that sounds like what I do, except I don't get paid for it!

You don't have to be a professional to write a grant, but it sure helps to know a little about what you are doing.

This can be a slow, painstaking process even for those who do it on a regular basis. I have been applying for grants for our nonprofit business, and have sought some help from a professional.

I know grant specialists who do this for a living don't make much money, but if you don't have any money to work with, any amount you might have to pay is too much.

I decided I would put in the time to do this myself instead of paying someone else. It seems like once you get it done the first time, it will be a little bit easier later on down the road.

At this point, I am still waiting to see if I was successful or not. In the mean time I am looking at other possible areas I can pursue. There doesn't seem to be a shortage of opportunities out there if you are just able to find out about them.

By John57 — On Dec 02, 2011

I know a lady who doesn't have any formal training in being a grant specialist, but has applied for a couple of them.

I am involved in a small, local theater company. This is a nonprofit group that doesn't have much money, but likes to put on quality performances for the community.

One of the regular directors took it upon herself to see if they could get some grant money. She has spend countless hours going through the paperwork and filling out and submitting the proper forms.

I can see how having some kind of formal training would be helpful and also cut down on the amount of time just trying to become familiar with everything.

Once the grant is submitted, then it is is a matter of sitting back and being patient to see if all of your hard work paid off or not.

We were able to get a nonprofit grant for a few thousand dollars one year that was really helpful. It took a lot of work though, and I don't know if she will continue to pursue this or not.

By popcorn — On Dec 02, 2011

@letshearit - You should go to your local small business office and see if they have anyone who can help you apply for government grants. There is a non-profit small business program that runs in our city and they will do pretty much anything to help a small business out.

My friend actually had the small business office help him write a professional business plan so he could get financial backing for his idea. They also pointed him in the right direction for tax breaks and programs that offered help with business organization. I imagine that a grant specialist would be available to you through any non-profit group set on helping small businesses grow.

By letshearit — On Dec 01, 2011

Does anyone know where you can find a grant specialist if you are looking to apply for government grants?

My friend and I have a growing business and we are interested in applying for some national grants that would give up the funds to expand. We know that to get grants for your business you have to really sell yourself well, and have a solid business plan.

We know our business plan is good, but we have no idea how to secure government grants for small businesses, so we really need help. We are willing to invest to get a grant specialist who can help us out.

By strawCake — On Nov 30, 2011

@sunnySkys - Well keep in mind that if your friend (along with a lot of other people who hold grant specialist jobs) works for a non-profit, her employer probably doesn't have a lot of money. That's why they need apply for grants in the first place!

Yeah, you probably won't get rich working as a grant specialist. But if you at least work for a worthwhile organization, you would probably get a lot of satisfaction out of doing your job right and getting grants for your employer.

By sunnySkys — On Nov 30, 2011

@Azuza - I have a friend who works as a grant specialist, and you're right on about patience and organizational skills being important when you apply for a non profit grant.

I have to say, I think I would hate this job. From what my friends tells me, it sounds very tedious. Also, you have to have a good eye for detail, and I'm more of a "big picture" kind of person. I don't think I would get very far in the grant application process. It sounds like a lot of very detailed work.

Then, after all that work, my friend only makes around $35,000 per year. I don't think that's enough money for a person with a bachelor's degree and a specialized skill.

By Azuza — On Nov 29, 2011

It seems like organizational skills are probably the most important skills to have to work as a grant program specialist. From what I've read (and what the article said), applying for grants is a very specific process. Especially when you're applying for a government grant. If you don't follow protocol, you lost your chance at the grant!

Also, I think patience is probably another important skill. Applying for a grant can be a lengthy process-it's not like you apply, and then get the answer the next day. You have to wait quite awhile before you find out if your organization got the grant or not!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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