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Getting grants gets tougher?

September 5th, 2011

From my vantage point: getting grants for local non-profits has been more challenging in 2011. Some possible reasons: U.S. stimulus funds are sparse, California’s fiscal crisis, and foundations grants are highly competitive. This year is not over yet, so I hopeful for good results. Thankfully, I obtained about 71% of the grants I wrote/researched in 2010, and my production is higher this year.

It always helps to get perspective from the field.

Grantstation and Philantech published their 2011 State of Grantmaking Edition survey results earlier this year. Key findings:

Who gets grants and where do they come from?

The survey queried 897 Respondents from across the US, including non-profits, and municipalities, in the fields of education, human services, arts/culture, health care, social services, community improvement, youth development, housing/shelter, and environment.

Of these respondents:
• 76% receive grants from private foundations.
• 58% receive grants from community foundations.
• 50% receive state grants
• 48% receive federal grants
• 40% receive local grants

The average organization received funding from between 3 and 4 various grant sources including private foundations, community foundations, corporate grants, federal, state, and local grantors.

• 34% of respondents indicated their largest grant was from a private foundation.
• 18% said Federal grants were their largest single grant source.

How much do organizations rely on grants?

The smallest and largest organizations in the survey reported the least reliance on grants. Nearly 70% of organizations with budgets over $5M indicated grants cover less than 28% of their funding.

Mid-size organizations, with budgets between $1M and $5M annually rely the most on grant awards as a steady source of revenue: 35% of midsize groups report that grants comprise 50% more of their funding.

Who writes the grants, and how much time do they spend writing grants?

As a professional grant writer, this fact was particularly interesting to me: only 6% of respondents used contracted grant writer, of those, only 36% received 3 or more grants. In contrast, in 77% of the organizations, paid staff writes grants, and, of this group 52% received 3 or more grants. Median organization submitted 5 grant requests spending 137 hours on proposal writing.

Of the 762 organizations that submitted at least one grant request in the last six months of 2010, less than half (42%) had submitted six or more requests. For the last six months of 2010, the majority of organizations received 1 – 5 grants with the highest percentage (29%) receiving 3-5 grants.

Last year, I wrote 32 proposals for seven groups, or 4.6 submissions per agency. All of them received at least one grant, and the one received eight! Of the 32 submissions, 23 awards were given, nine declined. Average of 3.3 successful grants per client – a 71% success rate — raising a little over $1.2M for worthy Sonoma County non-profits. This year, sadly, my success rate appears to be lower, but I could see a turnaround in the last quarter. The State of Grantseeking Fall 2011 survey due our shortly to see how others are doing. For more see: or

Let’s get some grants!

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