November 3, 2022
I have been a grant writer pretty much my entire career. I always loved the work because it let me write professionally. (Who says a philosophy degree isn’t marketable?!) But more importantly, I enjoyed it because good grant writing makes good things happen. I loved winning proposals for important community projects. As a consultant grant writer, I loved working with nonprofit leaders to identify programming gaps, and find funding to address those gaps.
But having worked in-house at nonprofits, and then as an independent consultant to a handful of organizations, I felt that there were challenges with both models. Too often, I saw early career grant writers hop from organization to organization in order to grow their skills, advance their careers, and be exposed to different types of grants and organizations. (And, yes, I was guilty of this myself!) These nonprofits were likewise spending six or nine months training a relatively inexperienced grant writer, and then losing them after a year or so, only to re-start the expensive hiring, onboarding, and training process. And in the meantime, their grants programs stalled.
Later, as an independent contractor, I got to work with a lot of nonprofits and gain expertise on diverse topics quickly – but I missed having a team of other people to work with. I wanted to share advice, cultivation strategies, program ideas, and trends in the sector. I wanted to invest in the best research tools and have a robust grants database that would benefit all of my clients! And, I noticed that nonprofits were stuck in an inefficient position by paying me hourly. It is expensive to pay independent contractors who have high-level development expertise to also do a lot of the day-to-day work like managing the grant calendar and submitting proposals.
So I started Elevate with a clear purpose, a distinctive team model – and MANY questions.
Our purpose, which has never waived, is to ensure nonprofits have access to the best grants expertise in the country.
Our team model has been refined over the years, but remains the foundation on which Elevate is built. It is also how we stand apart from other firms. Simply put, when you work with Elevate, you get a whole team of people with distinct roles, training, and expertise. You get access to a high-level strategist and team manager; the dedicated support of a highly skilled grant writer based on how big your grant calendar is; and you get a data professional to manage your calendar and ensure all of the details are captured. Instead of hiring three people with these distinct skill sets, you can work with Elevate. Instead of trying to find a “unicorn” who can do it all, we hire, train, and support excellent fundraisers – and assign you a team based on your needs.
So, we had a clear purpose and a unique model,but the rest of Elevate was up for discussion, iteration, and improvement. I won’t detail the (literally) thousands of questions that I had – and the hundreds which we have systematically asked and answered over the past decade.
But I will tell you one question I had back then, sitting on my couch, planning Elevate’s future: I did not know if nonprofits would want to work with a firm like Elevate. Or if they would want to keep working with us over time. My clients at that time only knew me; they had hired me; they trusted me. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to translate that expertise over to people they did not know.
But year after year, our nonprofit partners have answered that question with a resounding YES!
YES! They want to work with our amazing staff. Our clients appreciate the diverse professional skill sets, past work experiences, and personal perspectives and backgrounds our staff bring to their work.
YES! They will stay with Elevate for years and years. Even as nonprofits have a growing option set of other firms, individual consultants, or in-house staffing, they continue to choose to partner with us to grow and sustain their grants program. They value our consistently high-quality work, our industry-leading win rates and ROI, and the stability we bring to their development departments.
YES! They will stay with Elevate as their needs evolve. Over the years, we have dedicated increasing staff time and leadership to working with clients to make sure they are in the right contract and scope of work to ensure their needs are met even as these needs shift over time.
YES! They trust us – and hold us accountable – to continue to improve our services. This past decade has had its ups and downs: as we have grown, we have improved the quality of our services and increased the consistency of our work. We have worked hard to respond promptly and thoughtfully to client feedback so that we consistently improve our work and the service we provide.
YES! They see the benefits of Elevate’s shared expertise, insight, and resources. Not as competition and scarcity – but as a mutual benefit that supports all of our nonprofit clients. They appreciate that we have a deep bench of expert staff and a long roster of clients.
A particular part of Elevate’s growth that I am most proud of is that with Elevate’s own expansion, our clients actually get more personalized attention and support than ever before.
As we have grown, we have not cut corners for clients – in fact, we have invested a lot in ensuring that our staff can focus on client work. In 2021, after a long COVID year that hugely impacted the sector, we adopted a priority of providing our team with the “Space to Succeed.” We reduced staff workloads by 20% for Grant Writers and over 10% for Team Directors, meaning our staff have more time and space for each client.
We also built out a stellar team of trained supervisors who support each member of the staff in navigating their work with their clients and teams. And, our excellent Data Team continues to grow and excel, bringing new insights to our work with clients and to the sector as a whole! (See their most recent blog post here.)
As we look ahead to 2023 – our 10th Anniversary Year! – we look forward to continuing to be a trusted partner to over 100 nonprofit partners every day. Thank you to everyone who continues to support us on this journey!