The State of Grantseeking
Both private and government grantmakers often require outcome data and reporting on the success of the funded projects and programs — and that data comes from inside your organization. But where do you get external data to provide benchmarks as you build your organization’s overall grantseeking program?
“The State of Grantseeking Report,” published annually, can be a key tool in this process. The primary objectives of “The State of Grantseeking Report” are to help you both understand the recent trends in grantseeking and identify benchmarks to help you measure your own success in the field. In addition, using comparable data for your organization’s budget size and mission focus allows you to manage stakeholder expectations for your grantseeking program.
I’ve analyzed the results and written reports for “The State of Grantseeking™ Survey” since 2012. Over the years, we’ve increased the depth and breadth of the questions (from 30 to 62 queries) and increased the core group of respondents (from around 700 to over 2,800). We’ve found that three factors consistently influence grantseeking success: 1) annual budget size, 2) mission focus and 3) number of applications.
1. Annual Budget Size
Organizational size determined by annual budget is a key factor influencing the grantseeking experience.
Larger annual budgets imply larger staff sizes, older organizations with proven sustainability and infrastructure, and staff dedicated specifically to grantseeking. Smaller annual budgets suggest fewer staff and younger organizations. For example, 77% of extra-large organizations employed over 200 people, whereas 52% of small organizations were still reliant on volunteers, with no paid staff. The variations in funding by budget size emphasize the importance of comparing your organization to organizations with similar annual budget ranges.
In “The 2019 State of Grantseeking Report,” organizational budget ranges are defined as:
Larger organizations consistently reported higher total awards. For all respondents, the median value of total awards was $160,000. However, there were substantial differences by budget range. Median total awards ranged from over $4 million for extra-large organizations to under $10,000 for small organizations.2. Mission Focus
Organizational mission focus is an equally important factor influencing grantseeking activities. Just as with organizational budget, variations in grant funding and sources become pronounced when viewed through the lens of mission focus.
Of the 25 mission focus choices in “The 2019 State of Grantseeking™ Survey,” which are based on the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities Classification System, 15 comprised 92% of respondent organizations. We combined the remaining mission focuses (each of which had under 2% of our 2,839 respondents) into the Other mission focuses category. This chart shows, by mission focus, the respondent rate and the median annual budget.
There were substantial differences in the median value of total awards by organizational mission focus. While your passion for your mission may be great, the willingness of grantmakers to support that mission varies.
Educational Institutions reported a median award total of $6.7 million, an outlier in total funding. Organizations with the other mission focuses studied in this report noted smaller total funding amounts. Housing and shelter organizations had a median award total of $533,200, while animal-related organizations reported a median award total of $19,000.
The following chart shows the median size of total grant awards reported by mission focus.
3. Number of Applications
While it can seem obvious, over the years, we’ve found it statistically significant that a larger number of applications was more likely to result in a larger number of awards. Three applications are the breakpoint; applying for at least three grant awards increases the frequency of winning an award.
Twenty-five percent of organizations that submitted one application won no awards. However, only 6% of organizations that submitted three to five applications won no awards. Of the remaining categories, 2% or fewer of organizations that submitted six or more applications won no awards.
The relationship between the applications submitted and awards won can be seen in the chart below.
Whatever your organization size, mission and grantseeking activity level, using the right benchmarks to compare your grantseeking program is crucial to its success. We’ve summarized the full report in a short key findings document, which may entice you to read the full report or take the short course.
One thing that many of the respondents had in common was a GrantStation Membership. GrantStation Membership helps you find new funding opportunities, build strong grant programs, write powerful proposals and win awards to fund your mission. We curate a wide range of funders that accept unsolicited requests, including foundations, corporate giving programs, faith-based grantmakers, association grant programs, giving circles, etc. At GrantStation, we provide the tools for you to guide your organization to increased financial support.
Ellen Mowrer is president and chief operating officer at GrantStation.com. With over 30 years in management, systems and marketing for a variety of businesses and nonprofit service providers, Ellen works with both clients and the GrantStation team in program adoption and management. In addition, she is responsible for marketing, promotions, finances, administration and "The State of Grantseeking ™ Survey and Reports."
She serves on the board of directors of Music for Everyone, an organization that cultivates the power of music for education and community building and is active in the fight against puppy mills, supporting A Tail To Tell, a mill-survivor rescue, foster and adoption organization, with four rescues of her own.