Why a Retainer Agreement Might Be Right for Your Organization

If you are like most nonprofit organizations, you have been regularly applying for grants and even winning some. Congratulations! But chances are, you haven’t been winning as many grants as you should and haven’t been getting the most out of the grant relationships you have. That’s because most nonprofit organizations are approaching their grants process with a task management mindset:

  • Reading grant guidelines and just applying

  • Trying to send applications to as many funders as possible

  • Writing grants the same way your agency or other staff members did in the past

  • Thinking that your proposal is the only thing influencing its approval

To be consistently successful at winning grants, you must manage them in the context of a total grants management program:

  • Make grant writing part of a larger grant development campaign and weave it into your organization’s overall fundraising strategy

  • Make funder matching a priority and focus on the bullseye

  • Utilize grant writers with specialized training and experience

  • Leverage expert research techniques to find the best opportunities for your organization

  • Develop relationship capital with foundations and other funders

  • Use best practices and proven systems to increase your success

Retainer Agreements provide clients with a set number of hours of guaranteed work each week in exchange for a reduced hourly professional service fee. Here are some of the potential benefits that a grants management retainer agreement could provide, especially over more traditional task-driven arrangements.


Benefit #1 - All Inclusive

Unlike task-driven agreements, retainer agreements are a more inclusive arrangement. Much like all-inclusive resorts, a retainer agreement takes your entire experience into consideration and includes everything in the agreement from the beginning. No more surprises, no more nickel and diming.

Benefit #2 - Very Predictable

Because you know what to expect from the beginning, it’s much easier to calculate and maintain cash flow - especially compared to working with providers on either a per-project or per-hour basis. That’s because you know exactly how much you are spending each month and what you are getting for that money.

Benefit # 3 - More Resources

Implementing an effective grant strategy requires putting together your own team of writers, project managers, strategists, researchers, relationship builders, and content creators. Often, these jobs are all piled onto an already overworked development person or department. A retainer frees up your valuable development staff and provides you with all the resources you need in one place, at a cost you can afford.

Benefit #4 - Accountability

Finding time here and there to work on your grants campaign, or hiring a grant writer to perform one or two tasks can leave you with an empty feeling and no real knowledge of what your ROI is. However, reliable and dedicated grant management, month after month, can ensure you’re seeing a plan come to fruition. This is how a retainer model establishes trust, credibility, and accountability.

Benefit #5 - Long Term

Following a sound grants management program is a marathon, not a sprint. It typically begins to deliver a return on investment after six to nine months and continues to grow from there. That’s why you’ll need a reliable partner who’s in it for the long haul with you to be sure your grant funding goals are getting met.


Retainer agreements help nonprofits build winning long-term grant programs that increase revenue, and free up key personnel to focus on leading the organization. Contact Faust Fundraising for more information about how a retainer agreement might help your organization.

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