The State of Grantseeking 2010

grantseeking report cover

PhilanTech and GrantStation are pleased to announce the release of The State of Grantseeking Report.

Between August 7 and September 7, 2010, PhilanTech and GrantStation conducted an online survey to take a snapshot of the state of grantseeking in the U.S.  The 839 respondents ranged from volunteer-run grassroots organizations to large national nonprofits.  

Other surveys and studies published in the last several months have reflected the challenging state of fundraising in the current economy.  Donations across the sector, regardless of the source, have been reduced as a result of the economy, and many nonprofits continue to struggle.

Our survey results were consistent with other findings.  Nonprofits face challenges in grantseeking: organizations spend a lot of time preparing grant requests, submit many applications, and may only get a few small grant awards as a result:

  • 42% of survey respondents said that in comparison with the first six months of 2009 the grants awarded were smaller;
  • Small nonprofits seem particularly challenged; 26% of nonprofits with budgets under $50,000 had not submitted a grant request in 2010, while 95% of respondents with budgets over $250,000 had;
  • Many of the grants awarded were under $10,000, including 161 under $1,000;
  • A “typical” nonprofit in this survey is receiving grants between $7,310 and $50,000;
  • The good news is that the majority of the organizations that submitted multiple requests received at least one grant.

While it’s still tough going out there for many grantseekers, we hope the results of this survey will be useful for grantseekers in thinking about how to prioritize their grantseeking activities, and we look forward to following up this research with the next State of Grantseeking survey in early 2011.

Download the full State of Grantseeking Report.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
October 12, 2010, 09:12 AM

Grant Dating, Part 2: Preparing for Your First Date

This is Part 2 of the Grant Dating series, following Part 1: Getting Out There.

That first date can be nerve wracking.  You've found someone interesting through a mutual friend or an online service.  You think they're cute (as foundations go) and you want to make a good impression.

Note: if you're looking for actual dating advice, you're in the wrong place.  If you want grant datting advice, read on.

Do your homework.  Before your grant date (whether it's a phone call or a meeting), learn whatever you can about the foundation, its funding priorities, what it has funded in the past.  Make sure you're up to date on innovations and new things in your issue area.  You want to be able to impress the funder with your knowledge.  There are few things that are more of a turn-off on a first date than not having some basic information.  (Note to those of you looking for relationship - not grant - advice and are still reading: Googling your date too much - and starting with detailed knowlede about them gets a little creept.  But it works well for grant dating.)

Prepare some questions to ask.  Remember, this is a relationship.  While you need to talk about you (and compellingly...more about that below), be sure to ask your grant date about him/herself, too.  Everyone likes to talk about themselves (to some degree), and asking questions can both build a rapport and provide useful information about how to prepare a proposal or move forward in building a relationship.

Be yourself.  You've gotten a first date with this funder.  Try to relax, and talk about your organization and what makes it great.  Don't try to talk in headlines -- present good, compelling information about your organization (both numbers and stories are good), but remember that this is a conversation, and that you're just starting to get to know each other.  Be sure that you're not saying anything in this first date that you won't be able to substantiate in a later date.  And remember that they liked you enough to agree to the date -- don't try to be someone you're not.

What are your tips for preparing for a first grant date?  What other grant dating advice would you like to read?

teddy bear date

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Author: Dahna Goldstein
October 04, 2010, 02:52 PM

Philanthropy Statistics Update – Giving Trends and the Economy

numbers in boxes

Following up on last month’s post about philanthropy statistics, here are a few more, drawn from the Foundation Center’s Highlights of Foundation Giving Trends, and GuideStar’s The Effect of the Economy on the Nonprofit Sector:

  • From the Foundation Center:
    • In 2008, 164,353 grants were awarded by a sample of 1,490 large foundations to 63,794 recipient organizations;
      • The average number of grants awarded by each of those 1,490 large foundations was 110;
    • The amount of grant dollars dedicated to program support (~50%) and general support (~19%) remained consistent with the previous year’s numbers;
    • All foundation types (independent, corporate, and community) prioritized giving for education and human services.  Independent foundations also prioritized giving for health, though that data could be slightly skewed by the large number of dollars the Gates Foundation has poured into health funding;
  • From the GuideStar survey:
    • 40% of respondents say that total contributions to their organizations decreased in the first five months of the year, compared to the first five months of 2009, while 28% stayed the same;
      • A previous GuideStar survey, whose results were released around the same time last year, found that 52% of respondents said that total contributions to their organizations had decreased compared to 2008.  The fact that fewer nonprofits are now reporting decreases is somewhat encouraging, but does not imply that those nonprofits that did not report a decrease this year are necessarily in good shape from a fundraising perspective;
    • Decreases in individual giving where the top-cited reasons for contributions decreasing (both fewer gifts and smaller gifts);
      • Given that individuals make up the largest percentage of donations to nonprofits, this is not surprising;
    • Corporate gifts and foundation grants also happened in fewer numbers and for fewer dollars;
    • Though fewer grants were awarded, 41% of grantmakers reported that the number of requests they received increased;
    • 62% of grantmaking organizations (both private foundations and grantmaking public charities responded to the survey) indicated that they had not made any major changes to their grantmaking practices.  Last year, 43% of grantmakers had made changes as a result of the economy.  In 2009, 20% said they had cut back on the types of programs they funded; this year, that number was down to 12%.  Here’s hoping it’s 0% in the next survey.


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Author: Dahna Goldstein
August 25, 2010, 03:59 PM

Grant Dating, Part 1: Getting Out There

broken heart

You may have just had your heart broken.  It seemed like things were going well.  Everything was perfect on paper.  You were talking about it with friends.  You thought you had found the one.  And then, out of the blue, it ended.

Every grantseeking nonprofit has had this experience.  Your programs match the funder's interests and priorities.  You put together a thoughtful proposal, addressing the funder's particular interests, hoping to land significant funding.  It looks promising, and then it doesn't happen.

Like dating, grant dating is relationship building, and it takes time, dedication, interpretation of unclear signals, and some strategy.  And a little flirting doesn't hurt.

Step one - put yourself out on the market.  Even if your last grant date was a disappointment, you need to get back out there.  Yes, rejection hurts, but learn from it and move on.  You're good enough, you're smart enough, and, doggone it, people like you (with apologies to Stuart Smalley).

Putting yourself back on the grant market means doing a few things:

  • Take stock of your past funder relationships.  Have you stayed in touch?  Do you know their current priorities?  What happened to end the relationship?  Might they be open to exploring a future relationship?  If not, what can you learn about how to position yourself with other funders?
  • See who's out there.  Who is currently funding your issue area?  Your geographic area?  Start with the Top Five Resources for Grant Opportunities.  Even if a funder isn't currently accepting proposals, this could be a good time to start building a relationship.  You have to play the field a bit to find the right relationship.
  • Let your friends know you're dating.  A lot of funding relationships evolve from personal connections.  Do you know anyone at a foundation that hasn't yet funded your organization?  Does one of your board members?  Or a volunteer?  Ask for an introduction.
  • Create your online dating profile.  What is the impression you want to make on a prospective funder?  What information should be on your organization's website if a potential funder visits the site?  How can you put your best foot forward in an initial meeting?  It may only be a phone date, but you want to make a good first impression.  Be prepared to talk about your organization when you meet people at conferences, at networking events, or when you're introduced by a mutual friend.

Next up, preparing for your first date.  Stay tuned!



Image credit:

Author: Dahna Goldstein
August 10, 2010, 04:01 PM

Managing Grant Applications - Hope and the Magic Lottery

I just read Seth Godin's blog post entitled "Hope and the Magic Lottery."  In it, he advises entrepreneurs not to put any eggs in the basket of "hope and the magic lottery ticket."  In other words, he writes, don't expect that your elevator pitch is going to land a $2 million venture capital investment.  Instead, focus on growing revenue and delighting the people who are already your audience.

The same advice applies to nonprofits seeking grant funding.  While it's possible that your organization will get a multi-million dollar grant from Gates or Ford, for most nonprofits, that's a magic lottery ticket.  Focus instead on:

  • Delivering great services and telling good stories about your work to your current donors (and use your service recipients, when you can, to help tell those stories);
  • Build on existing relationships with the funders you already have;
  • Do your grant research and find those foundations and other funders that are specifically interested in finding our what your organization does and what makes it gre at.  Foundation staff generally don't like to receive proposals that don't meet the foundation's guidelines, and your odds of getting that kind of prop osal funded are slim to none.

Hope is important, but hard work, good research, and knowing your audience (the foundation staff and trustees who will be reading your proposal) will win the day.

lottery ticket

(image from:
Author: Dahna Goldstein
June 17, 2010, 02:51 PM

U.S. Foundations - The Mystery of Foundations

I was a guest lecturer the other night for a social entrepreneurship class at the University of the District of Columbia.  Along with Hilary Cherner of Arabella Philanthropic Advisors, I talked about the role of foundations in the U.S., and about running a social enterprise dedicated to serving the needs of foundations and nonprofits.

Hilary started by asking the students, all of whom are interested in social entrepreneurship, many of whom are mid-career, if they knew what a foundation was.  Only a few hands went up.  I was a bit surprised, but I shouldn’t have been.

Foundations play a significant role in the U.S. According to the Foundation Center’s latest research, there are over 75,000 grantmaking foundations in the U.S., and they collectively awarded almost $43 billion in grants in 2009.

But the average American doesn’t really know what a foundation is or what it does.  NPR listeners hear about foundations underwriting their favorite public radio programs, and many Americans have heard something about the Gates Foundation, and perhaps about Ford and some of the other big foundations.

Even among the most engaged American citizens, those who hold leadership, committee, or board-level positions with community organizations, more than half could not name a foundation when asked, according to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the Packard Foundation’s Philanthropy Awareness Initiative.  Sixty percent of those polled considered themselves relatively uninformed about foundations, and only a handful (11%) could provide a specific example of the impact of a foundation on an issue they cared about.

Philanthropy's Awareness Deficit The report about the survey, Philanthropy’s Awareness Deficit, quotes Joel Fleischman, author of The Foundation: A Great American Secret, citing a report conducted in 2003 by the Council on Foundations showing that only 11% of the general public could name a foundation.  While the most engaged Americans clearly fared better, this does not bode well for the overall perception of foundations and what they do.

Not surprisingly, those who had direct experience with foundations (for example, if an organization with which they were involved received foundation grant funding) had both more knowledge of and more favorable views towards foundations.

These findings and others point to an ongoing need for greater transparency in the foundation world.  The engaged Americans who knew of foundations and their impact knew more about community foundations than private foundations.  Perhaps increased knowledge of foundations at large would increase involvement in and donations to community foundations in the short term, and to private foundations and philanthropy in general in the longer term.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
June 14, 2010, 12:00 PM

Top 5 Resources for Grant Opportunities

top five clock
This is the first in an occasional series of “Top 5 Resources” posts.  Each of these posts will propose a list of the top 5 resources for a particular category or issue, and ask you to suggest others if I’ve missed something that you think should be in the top five.  I’ll revisit and revise these lists from time to time, based on any input received in the comments on the posts.

The objective of these lists is to help compile an efficient reference and resource list for people working in philanthropy – people who work for or with grantmakers or grantseekers – in keeping with PhilanTech’s mission to help social sector organizations maximize social impact.  These lists, modified with any good suggestions received through comments, will be added to the Resources section of the PhilanTech website.

So without further ado, here are the top 5 resources for finding grant opportunities:

  1. Foundation Center
  2. The Foundation Center is a national nonprofit that provides information about the foundation world to the philanthropic sector and others who want to learn about it.  The Foundation Center maintains a database of the more than 98,000 grantmaking institutions in the U.S., drawn from their tax forms, other public documents, and voluntary reports submitted by foundations.  It offers subscription-based access to its Foundation Directory Online (FDO); the FDO can also be searched for free in any of the Foundation Center’s libraries or cooperating collections.

  3. GrantStation
  4. GrantStation is an online funding resource for organizations seeking grants throughout the world.  A subscription-based service, GrantStation provides up-to-date, researched information about current funding opportunities.  Grantseekers can search for foundation, state government and federal government funding opportunities, in addition to international funding opportunities.  GrantStation also publishes the GrantStation Insider, a weekly update of current funding opportunities, grant-related training opportunities and more.  Note: the Insider is sent at no charge to all subscribers to PhilanTech’s free mailing list.

  5. CharityChannel
  6. CharityChannel is an online community for charity professionals in which articles and book reviews are published by nonprofit sector professionals.  Available for a small subscription fee, the resources in CharityChannel include Don Greismann’s Grant Opportunities.  Don Greismann publishes a weekly e-newsletter that includes current funding opportunities, and has written prolifically about grant opportunities, and the tools of the trade.

  8. is the clearinghouse for Federal government grant opportunities.  Applicants can search for current opportunities and can apply for Federal funding opportunities.

  9. GrantsAlert
  10. GrantsAlert is a free, ad-supported, website that lists grant opportunities, with a particular emphasis on education grant opportunities for nonprofits, schools, and districts.

There are other research organizations that provide current information about local or issue-oriented grant opportunities, like Jankowski Research in the DC/MD/VA area (where PhilanTech is headquartered).

What are your favorite resources for finding grant opportunities?  Add your favorites to the comments below.

(Full disclosure: GrantStation is a PhilanTech partner.  We like them a lot.  And I’m on the Foundation Center’s DC Library Advisory board.  Both organizations are great resources for grantseekers and for the philanthropic sector at large.)


Top 5 graphic by 

Author: Dahna Goldstein
June 10, 2010, 12:00 PM

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