Exploring the Roles of the Grant Writer and the Grant Manager

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During a September 2021 webinar titled Learn How to Apply for and Manage Federal Grants, Grants Works staff outlined some of the differences between a grant writer and a grant manager. This post was written to highlight some of the key functions of each profession because we are frequently asked if there is an overlap of their responsibilities and how their roles may be similar or different.

These two roles are sometimes confused and there are several reasons for this. One primary reason is that many people are aware of grant writers and that they prepare proposals with the aim of helping an organization obtain grants to fund its programs, services, or projects. Fewer people know what a grant manager does. 

Much More Than Writing

What some people may not know is that grant writing is much more than writing. In fact, before any writing begins, and if the organization is “grant ready,” the grant writer collects a wide range of information and data about the organization such as the specific goals, objectives, and outcomes of its programs.

The grant writer also gathers, analyzes and integrates research to support the proposal. In many instances, the grant writer also compiles supporting documents and works with the organization’s finance or accounting staff to help prepare an application budget that reflects the program or project as described in the proposal. 

Tasks that may be completed by a grant writer before and while writing a grant proposal

What Does the Grant Manager Manage?

The bulk of a grant manager’s responsibilities is in the post-award stage of the grant lifecycle. However, some grant managers also oversee pre-award activities such as coordinating complex grant applications, preparing the grant application budget, and writing some of the components of the application in collaboration with a grant writer.

Grant managers that manage government grants must:

  • read and understand the terms of the award and any regulatory requirements
  • lead any required organizational policy and procedure changes
  • ensure grant reports are submitted on time
  • collaborate with several teams
  • monitor grant budgets and expenses charged to the award
  • serve as the primary point of contact with each grantor
  • advocate for compliance, and
  • work closely with in-house or external data management partners.
Brief list of a government grant manager’s responsibilities

Some large organizations have both grant writers and grant managers on staff. Others hire a freelance grant writer to work with in-house subject matter experts while also having a grant manager on staff to oversee existing grants, especially organizations with government grants.  

A Delicate Balancing Act

In other instances, organizations have only a grant writer on staff and that person is responsible for all pre-award and post-award activities. These scenarios can be challenging because the grant writer must identify funding opportunities, write grant proposals, and manage the applications. Once awarded, the grant writer also manages the reporting and compliance requirements of existing grants while keeping an eye on new funding opportunities. 

This can be an even bigger challenge if the organization has been awarded government grants and expects the grant writer to manage the tasks previously described as well as ensuring compliance with award terms, agency regulations, statutory requirements, and other government guidance.

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