Fall 2015 State of Grantseeking Report

Fall_2015_State_of_Grantseeking.jpg

Altum is delighted to share the results of the Fall 2015 State of Grantseeking report, conducted in partnership with GrantStation.

The Fall 2015 State of Grantseeking survey found that there was an increase in rates of funding from all government sources and from most non-government sources.

While lack of time and/or staff continues to be the greatest grantseeking challenge, there has been a 267% increase in competition for grant funding as the greatest grantseeking challenge.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Private foundations continue to be the most frequent funding source, the largest total source of funding, and the source of the largest single grant for most organizations;
  • While most grants include some indirect or administrative cost funding, 44% of Federal government grants and 51% of non-government grants included indirect rates of 10% or less;
  • While 89% of organizations reported that some or all of their funders require outcomes reporting, 34% reported that those funders never cover impact measurement costs.

The most frequent sources of funding vary by organization budget size:

In the survey, organization sizes are as follows:
  • Small budget - under $100,000
  • Medium budget - between $100,000 and $999,999
  • Large budget - between $1 million and $25 million
  • X-large budget - over $25 million
This information, combined with information from the report about funding trends by issue focus and service area (e.g., rural versus urban) can be used to help your organization decide which types of grants to pursue.  Other data in the report can help inform your approach to seeking funds to cover administrative/indirect costs, costs to cover outcomes reporting, and more.

Download the Fall 2015 State of Grantseeking Report
.

To learn more about how PhilanTrack can help your organization achieve better grantseeking results, watch this overview video or register for an upcoming webinar.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
November 17, 2015, 01:22 PM

4 Scary Things to Avoid in Grant Applications

It's that time of year: time for ghosts, goblins, and ghouls to emerge and make their mark.  While scary costumes and decorations can be fun, scary grant applications do not get funded.

Here are four scary things to avoid in grant applications:



1. Applications that ignore the funder’s guidelines or requirements

Most funders provide some sort of guidelines to tell grant applicants what they want to see – what they are willing to fund or not willing to fund, what their interests are, what information should be included in a successful grant application. And yet, a surprising number of grantseekers still submit grant applications that are outside the funder’s guidelines or do not include the required information. Why is this scary? It means the grant will not be funded, and the grant writer has probably missed the opportunity to build a relationship with this funder, since the funder will be unlikely to want to see another application if the first one is far off the mark. Missed opportunities for funding and impact? Scary.

2. Applying for grants that your organization won’t be able to handle or implement

The temptation is there. A new competitive grant with a big funding pool. The possibility for a grant that’s bigger than any grant your organization has ever received. It’s right up your alley. Your interests are perfectly aligned with the funder’s. You’ve written the most compelling grant proposal you’ve ever written. Then you win the grant, and it’s so big and the expectations are so great that your organization is unable to handle it. You have to hire new staff in a hurry, and they don’t get sufficient training. You have to scale up infrastructure, and the grant hasn’t provided enough overhead support (or maybe it’s a restricted project grant), so you can’t get your team the equipment it needs. The list goes on. This type of scenario can sink an otherwise successful organization. Terrifying.

3. Not proofreading before you submit

Typos? Frightening.

4. Getting too bogged down in detail

If you can’t see the forest through the trees while you’re writing, your prospective funder won’t be able to, either. It’s critically important to know all of the details of the program and how it will be implemented. But you don’t necessarily need to share every detail in your grant application. Provide enough information to give the program officer or other decision makers enough information about the problem your organization is tackling, why it’s important, and how your programs are addressing it, but not so much information that it’s overwhelming. The purpose of the grant application is to demonstrate the need and the opportunity for support from this funder to help your organization meet its goals and serve its constituents while also helping the funder meet its goals. There will be other opportunities for an interested funder to dig into the details with you. Get them interested first, then have the detailed conversation later. Too many details too soon can be scary.


Don’t make these scary mistakes in your grant applications!

While it’s up to you to avoid these scary grant writing mistakes, grant writing software can help with the rest of the process.

Learn

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kimstovring/15052960483
Author: Dahna Goldstein
October 30, 2015, 05:27 PM

Back to School - Grantwriting Basics

Back to school

If you've been on social media at all this week, you've probably noticed something: pictures of kids in clean, pressed clothes, posing (sometimes patiently) for their parents' obligatory first day of school photos.  Or, if you're a parent, perhaps you've taken (and posted) one yourself.

All of this back-to-school-ness has gotten me thinking about getting back to basics.  In elementary school, kids learn the three Rs: reading, writing, and arithmetic (or 'rithmetic, for those really focused on alliteration).

What does getting back to basics in grantwriting look like?  For me, it's the three Rs of grantwriting: research, relationships, and writing:

  1. Research.  Good grantwriting starts with good research.  A really compelling grant application requesting funding for an animal shelter will never be successful when submitted to a funder that only supports education reform.  While that's an extreme example, less egregious examples abound: grantseekers submitting requests to funders whose priorities have changed without confirming the funder's current interests; grantseekers not thoroughly reading guidelines before submitting a request and being denied for not adequately meeting the requirements; grantseekers spending significant resources to apply for a big-name grant they are unlikely to receive, at the expense of smaller grants that are a better fit.  Another facet of research is being selective about which grants to apply for and which to skip.  Grantseekers are always looking for new funding.  But not every grant is a good grant or a good fit.  Some aspects of that relate to funding priorities and ensuring that the program, project, or initiative for which you are seeking funding fits within the funder's interests, but it's also important to calculate the net grant value (discussed in this blog post) before applying for a grant.
  2. Relationships.  Relationships are a key part of institutional fundraising, just as they are a key part of individual fundraising.  While grants are awarded by foundations, corporations, government agencies, or other types of organizations, the decisions are made by people.  Establishing and building relationships with those people is critical to grantseeking success.  When approaching a new funder, try to get to know the people.  It's beneficial in a number of ways: it helps the grantseeker gain a better understanding of the grantmaker's interests; it helps the grantmaker better understand the organization applying for the grant; it helps the grantmaker feel more valued in the process.  Grantmakers sometimes feel like they're treated by grantees like ATM machines: grantees are only interested in the check.  There are much more meaningful relationships that can and should be built with funders, not only because it helps the funder feel more valued, but also because both parties have much to learn from each other and can help each other.  Funders and grantees are all focused on addressing issues.  There is an immediate alignment of interests in that realization.  Connecting with funders - not only during the application process, but on an ongoing basis - can help inform both parties about what is working and what isn't working in addressing the issue or issues they both have in common.
  3. Writing.  Of course, a key part of grant writing is the actual writing.  As a grantseeker, take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of the person who will be reading your grant application.  Is yours the only grant application they will be reading?  How much will that person know about your organization before reading your application.  What do they need to know to evaluate whether your organization is going to be a good fit with their funding interests?  How will they be able to determine that your organization and your application stand out from the others?  Simply put, good writing is paramount.  When reading many applications, one that is poorly written can be easy to dismiss, regardless of the quality of the program the grant would support.  And persuasive writing is critical.  How are you making the case that the grantmaker should allocate some of its limited resources to supporting your organization?  Every decision to support your organization implies a decision not to support another organization.  Have you crafted your proposal in a manner that is sufficiently compelling for the funder to make that decision?  Have you used a good combination of qualitative and quantitative information to make your case?

What do you think?  What are your back to school tips for grantwriters?  What other grantwriting elements are fundamental?

Grant writing software can help manage all facets of the grantseeking process.

Learn

 

Image from http://img14.deviantart.net/bcdc/i/2012/239/3/f/back_to_school_by_textuts-d5cml39.jpg

 

Author: Dahna Goldstein
September 11, 2015, 10:55 AM

Spring 2015 State of Grantseeking Report

Spring_2015_State_of_Grantseeking

Altum is delighted to share the results of the Spring 2015 State of Grantseeking report, conducted in partnership with GrantStation.

The Spring 2015 State of Grantseeking survey found that there was a decrease in the rate of funding from most sources, including a 2% decrease in funding from community foundations and a 4-5% decrease in funding from all government sources.

While foundation giving reached an estimated $54.7B in 2013 and 2014 giving is expected to be higher, grantseekers report challenges when pursuing grants, including lack of time and staff to pursue grants and increased competition for funding.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • The median largest grant awarded was $43,800, the lowest since Spring 2011;
  • Grant funding comprised a greater percentage of the annual budget for medium-sized organizations than for either small or large organizations;
  • Frequency of funding from different sources correlates to organization size.  For example, while 18% of small organizations (budgets under $100,000) report that their largest award source was community foundation grants, 43% of extra-large organizations (budgets over $25 million) report that their largest award source was the Federal government;
  • Organization focus area suggests types of funding sources to pursue.  For example, arts and culture organizations may want to target local government grants in addition to private foundation grants, while animal-related organizations should focus primarily on private foundations.
Largest_Source_of_Funding_by_Mission_Focus_Spring_2015

Download the Spring 2015 State of Grantseeking Report
.

Organizations using PhilanTrack reported higher success rates than the average organization in the survey.  Specifically:

  • PhilanTrack respondents reported sources of funding at rates ranging from 13% to 80%, compared to 11% to 76% for all organizations.  In other words, PhilanTrack users received funding from all grant sources at rates higher than the average survey participant;
  • The median largest award for PhilanTrack organizations was $49,945, 14% higher than the median largest award for all organizations in the survey.

To learn more about how PhilanTrack can help your organization achieve better grantseeking results, watch this overview video or register for an upcoming webinar.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
July 07, 2015, 10:19 AM

What Grantseekers Can Learn from the World Cup

I admit it.  I didn't really care about soccer before June 12, and I now have World Cup fever.  And I'm not even American (or a citizen of any of the other countries actually represented in the World Cup).  But it's been exciting to watch and follow, and to witness (on TV and social media) the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, so I'm jumping on the bandwagon.

What Grantseekers Can Learn from the World Cup

What's been most exciting has been the upsets, the underdog stories of those countries that should not have made it through to the round of 16, but have prevailed nonetheless.  Those stories, and the World Cup in general, offer some valuable lessons for grantseekers.

  • Learn the rules, and follow them.  For the uninitiated, soccer's stoppage time can be confusing, as can corner kicks vs. goal kicks.  Once you learn the language of soccer, once you learn the rules, it's much easier to follow.  The same is true of grantwriting.  There are good practices to follow, and many grantmakers will have their own rules.  Grantseekers that don't play by the rules set by a funder they're approaching have little chance of success.
  • You have to play the full 90 minutes (plus stoppage time).  When games are frequently decided by a goal, teams that only play hard for part of the game aren't likely to prevail.  The same is true for grantwriting in two ways: don't wait until the last minute to put together the grant proposal.  Things can go wrong at the last minute (a bad bounce in soccer, or the inability to reach the one person in your organization who knows the answer to a key question for the grant proposal), so it's best to work on grant proposals progressively.  The other way in which the need to play the full game is true in grantwriting is that every part of your grant proposal needs to be equally strong.  If you write a great needs statement but have a weak budget, your proposal is unlikely to be funded by many grantmakers.  A proposal that is consistent and compelling throughout will go much further.
  • But don't give up if you're down a goal near the end of the match. There have been several great stories of games that came down to the wire - games that were tied until the very end, or games where one team was down and then rallied in the last minute or two of play, or even into the stoppage time.  In grantwriting, if a grant seems just out of reach, stretch to go just a bit further to reach your goal.
  • Don't write off the underdogs.  It's true that a lot of grant funding goes to larger organizations - to hospitals, universities, or national organizations.  If your organization isn't one of those larger organizations, you may consider yourself an underdog in terms of grant funding.  This World Cup - and even the US team - has shown that the underdog should never be counted out.  If your organization meets a funder's guidelines and your programs fit with that funder's mission, think about going after the grant even if you're the underdog.
  • Winning outright isn't the only way to move forward.  The US team lost to Germany and still advanced to the round of 16 because it had the same number of points as Portugal, but a better goal differential.  The lesson learned here for grantseekers is that getting the big grant isn't the only way to win in grantseeking.  Of course, getting grant funding is the ultimate goal, but grants - particularly first-time grants - that are awarded are frequently smaller than the amount requested.  While that may not feel like a win, a) some grant funding is better than no grant funding, and b) getting a small grant, doing great work, cultivating the relationship with the funder, and submitting stellar progress reports about how the grant funds were used to help both your organization's and the grantmaker's missions can lead to larger grants in the future.

What do you think?  What other grantseeking lessons can be learned from the World Cup?

 

Photo: watching the US vs. Germany match in Dupont Circle in Washington, DC.
Author: Dahna Goldstein
July 01, 2014, 11:36 AM

"Ugliest" Grant Tracking Spreadsheet Contest

PhilanTech is pleased to announce the first "Ugliest" Grant Tracking Spreadsheet Contest. 

Many nonprofits use complicated or messy spreadsheets to track their grants, funders, contacts, proposal deadlines and more.

Messy grant tracking spreadsheets can result in missed proposal or progress report deadlines, duplicated information, lots of time spent, and headaches!

Ugly Grant Tracking Spreadsheet

Does your organization use an ugly grant tracking spreadsheet?  Think it's the ugliest?  Show us, and you could win a one year PhilanTrack online grants management system for nonprofits license for your organization and get rid of the spreadsheet!

Learn more and enter your organization's ugly grant tracking spreadsheet!

Author: Dahna Goldstein
November 05, 2013, 10:00 AM

The Fall 2013 State of Grantseeking Report

State of Grantseeking Fall 2013 Report

PhilanTech and GrantStation are pleased to announce the release of the State of Grantseeking Fall 2013 Report.

The seventh semi-annual survey provides a snapshot of grantseeking activities and challenges in the US.  A decrease in government funding at all levels has pervaded the grantseeking world, and nonprofits, still recovering from the economic downturn, are struggling with fewer resources.  As such, lack of time/staff to pursue grants is a top grantseeking challenge for survey respondents.

Other findings from the survey included:

  • Grants comprised at least 25% of the total annual budget for 42% of organizations.  Organizations that received government grants were more reliant on grants as a larger part of their overall funding;
  • Rural organizations are more reliant on grant funding, with 50% of rural organizations reporting that grant supplied at least 25% of their total annual budget;
  • 75% of organizations reported receiving grants from private foundations, followed by 60% from community foundations and 57% from corporations;
  • Federal grants decreased by 24% as the largest total grant funder compared to the fall 2012 survey.

The next State of Grantseeking survey will be conducted in early 2014.

Download the State of Grantseeking Fall 2013 Report here.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
October 29, 2013, 01:36 PM

What Grantseekers Can Learn from the Government Shutdown

closed for business

The government shutdown is hardly news at this point, and has directly impacted at least 800,000 government workers who have been furloughed.  It has also impacted a lot of businesses frequented by those workers.

While the full economic impact of the shutdown is still unknown, some nonprofits are directly feeling the effects.  Federal agencies, including NIH and NSF, have suspended their grantmaking programs for the duration of the shutdown.  While some nonprofits had already received grant allocations for the year from those agencies before October 1, some hadn't, and it's unclear what the impact of delayed funding cycles will be going forward, even once the government has reopened for business.

So what can grantseekers learn from the government shutdown?

  • Diversify your funding sources.  As we've written about before, relying too heavily on a given funding source (whether a single funder, or a single type of funder) can be risky for nonprofits.  If your organization has historically relied heavily on government grants, start building relationships with private foundations and corporate giving programs.  Connect with the community foundation in your area.  Think about adding individual donors and fees for service (if your organization provides services for which you can charge) to your sources of funding.  Your organization may not be directly impacted by the shutdown (and I hope it isn't), but it's never a wrong time to think about diversifying your funding sources.
  • Have a plan B. While your organization will hopefully never be in a position where a major funding source disappears overnight, it's always good to have a plan B.  When crafting your grantseeking strategy for the year, chart out how much money your organization needs from grants (versus other funding sources) to support your programs, which past funders you expect to support your organization again, which new funders you plan to approach, and the expected grant amounts from each.  Then think through what will happen if some of the grants you think are sure things don't come through.  Sometimes foundation priorities change, economic conditions shift and diminish foundation assets, or something happens like a government shutdown.  Knowing where you'll be able to make up any shortfall is critical.  And raising more money than oyou need is also a good thing.  You can always put additional money raised into a reserve fund (though be careful if any of the grants awarded are restricted) or offer more programs and services with the additional funds.
  • Store your grant information online.  What would happen if you were unable to access your organization's office for several days - or several weeks?  Would you miss a grant proposal deadline?  Or a grant report deadline?  How would that impact your grantseeking for the year?  How would it impact your relationship with your funders?  By storing all of your grant-related information online, in a system like PhilanTrack, you can access your grant information and write your proposals and reports anywhere, at any time, to ensure that you're able to keep your grantseeking going, even if there are unexpected events that prevent you from accessing physical files in your organization's office.

To learn about how the PhilanTrack online grants management system can help your organization's grantseeking efforts, request a demonstration, or register for a webinar.

 

 

Photo credit: adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/bcostin/3449288718/
Author: Dahna Goldstein
October 07, 2013, 10:30 AM

PhilanTech - Best for the World

PhilanTech Best for the World

PhilanTech is honored to have been named "Best for the World" for creating the most overall social and environmental impact.

67 companies worldwide were recognized by the nonprofit B Lab, with the release of the second annual 'Best for the World' list. The B Corp Best for the World List honors businesses that earned an overall score in the top 10% of all Certified B Corporations on the B Impact Assessment, a comprehensive assessment a company's impact on its workers, community, and the environment.   Read the full press release, or articles about the Best for the World companies in BusinessWeek or FastCompany.

So why does this matter to you?  Our values align with yours.  We want to help you be successful in pursuing your own social mission.  And we have the right tools to help.

Does your organization give grants?  Learn more about how PhilanTrack can help you achieve your grantmaking goals.

Does your organization seek grants?  Learn more about how PhilanTrack can help you achieve your grantseeking goals.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
April 17, 2013, 10:45 AM

How Being More Empathetic Can Help Nonprofit Grant Writing

Empathy in Business

I attended a really interesting event last night hosted by Arlington Economic Development entitled "Empathy in Business."  The panel discussion, moderated by Jonathan Aberman of Amplifier Ventures, featured Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka, the Meyer Foundation's CEO, Julie Rogers, and the President of George Mason University, Angel Cabrera.

I was intrigued by this panel for two reasons:

  • I'm a firm believer in the power of business to help address social issues and inequities
  • There seems to be a common disconnect between business and "touchy feely" terms like empathy, with business terms generally falling in the more intellectual realm, and nonprofit terms generally falling in the more emotional realm.  I was curious to see how "business" and "empathy" would interact.  

Also, the notion of Carly Fiorina and Bill Drayton on the same panel was just intriguing.

The panel definitely didn't disappoint.  It was provocative, but not controversial; all of the panelists agreed that empathy is an essential part of business (and nonprofits, and parenting, and life in general).

A few of my favorite quotes:

  • "Any good business is one that focuses on its enlightened self-interest" - Carly Fiorina
  • "Empathy is the tool that makes business happen. It starts with listening." - Angel Cabrera
  • "Empathy is a cornerstone of what it means to be human." - Julie Rogers
  • "Ask not what your Executive Director can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your executive director." - Julie Rogers.  She was actually wearing a pin with that quote
  • "Empathy based ethics are foundational to our society, including business." - Bill Drayton

My main takeaway from the event is that empathy is a key value in business, even (and maybe particularly) in businesses that do not have an explicit social mission.  If we accept Dr. Cabrera's notion that empathy starts with listening (which all of the panelists seemed to do), then creating a sustainable business -- one that will last and produce value for a long time -- requires starting with empathy.  That means listening to investors, to customers, to employees, to communities -- and using their perspectives to guide business decisions.  It also means not valuing the perspective of investors over all others. 

So what does this all mean for nonprofits and for grant writing?  That nonprofits should be - and are - motivated by empathy is obvious, and probably missing the bigger point.  What does it mean for nonprofits to be more empathetic?

To me, the key word is listening.  To be more empathetic, nonprofits have to listen - to donors, to constituents, to employees, to communities.  What that means for grant writing is two key things:

  • Listen to your funders and prospective funders.  Foundations have missions, too.  They make funding decisions based on those missions.  Trying to fit square pegs into round holes in terms of mission fit and funding priorities isn't really listening to the foundation.  Listen to the foundation.  If your organization is a good fit with its priorities, then apply (and see the next point).  If it isn't, then move on.
  • Listen to your constituents.  What do your service recipients need?  What are they getting from you?  What are they not getting from you?  Use their voices and perspectives to keep guiding the development and fine tuning of your programs and services.  And communicate those perspectives to your funders and potential funders when you write grant proposals.  Ultimately, everyone is trying to accomplish the same thing -- to help improve outcomes for the population or area that your organization serves.  By listening to your constituents, you can better convey to your funders how support your organization will help them better meet their own missions.
  • Listen to your employeesDan Palotta's TED talk is getting lots of attention (for good reason!) at the moment.  While he advocates better pay for nonprofit employees (and I agree), what I'm advocating here is listening to your employees' non-remuneration-related needs, as well as to things they express as challenges and opportunities to better serve your constituents. 

What do you think?  What is the role of empathy in nonprofits in general, and in grant writing in particular?

 

Author: Dahna Goldstein
March 15, 2013, 01:49 PM

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