Please Take the Spring 2015 State of Grantseeking Survey

Will_you_take_the_survey

Twice a year, we (PhilanTech, and now Altum) partner with our friends at GrantStation to conduct a survey about the current state of grantseeking.  Each time, we gain valuable insights about what is and isn't working well for grantseekers, who is funding what, what challenges are most pressing for grantseeking organizations - and we are happy to share those insights with the grantseeking community to help inform grantseeking strategies.

We've just opened the Spring 2015 State of Grantseeking survey, and hope that you'll take a few minutes to take the survey.

This year, there are new questions about Federal funding and support. These free reports, which will be published in early May, can serve as a valuable benchmark for organizations to review their grantseeking efforts, and will provide leading-edge information months earlier than other annual surveys.

Please take five minutes and complete the survey before March 31.  Results will be published on both the Altum and GrantStation websites.  Survey respondents can request an advance copy of results when completing the survey.

If you haven't already, you can download the Fall 2014 State of Grantseeking Report here.

Happy grantseeking!

 

Author: Dahna Goldstein
February 12, 2015, 01:01 PM

Please Take the Spring 2013 State of Grantseeking Survey

grantseeking questions

Twice a year, PhilanTech partners with our friends at GrantStation to survey nonprofits about the current state of grantseeking in the U.S.  We've gained valuable insights in the five reports that we have published to date, which we are happy to share with the nonprofit sector to help inform grantseeking strategies.

We've just opened the Spring 2013 State of Grantseeking survey, and hope that you'll take a few minutes to take the survey.

We've added some questions this year, based on feedback from the last survey in which we specifically asked what additional questions respondents would like us to include to ensure the survey is addressing the grantseeking issues that are most pressing for their organizations.  Those questions are:

  • What is the household income in your service area?
  • How would you describe your organization's location or service area? (rural, urban, etc.)
  • With which racial or ethnic group do those in your service area most identify?
  • Is your organization well known in your service area?
  • What is the age of your organization?

Please take five minutes and complete the survey before March 15.  Results will be published on both the PhilanTech and GrantStation websites.  Survey respondents can request an advance copy of results when completing the survey.

If you haven't already, you can download the Fall 2012 State of Grantseeking Report here.

Happy grantseeking!

 

Image credit: adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/6289600762/
Author: Dahna Goldstein
February 13, 2013, 01:54 PM

A Program Officer's Pet Peeves - Grantwriting Tips

This is a guest post by Theresa Sondys

 

As a foundation program officer, I am often asked what it takes to write a winning grant request. It may be easier to tell you the faults that will most certainly make it a losing one.

5. Say what? Avoid using overly academic, abstract, vague or pontificating language. Make the proposal easy to read and understand for anyone. What we don’t understand we don’t fund.

4. Budget Woes. The budget should be well-justified, show both revenues and expenses, and – most importantly – add up properly. After all, if you can’t manage your money, why should we give you any of ours?

3. What are you going to do? The key to a strong proposal is proving the likelihood that it will achieve its goals. When you write your objectives, follow the acronymic advice: “Keep them S-I-M-P-L-E.” Your objectives should be:

  • Specific – precisely what you intend to change through the project
  • Immediate – the time frame during which a problem will be addressed
  • Measurable – exactly how you will measure success
  • Practical – how each objective is a real solution to a real problem
  • Logical – how each objective systematically contributes to achieving your overall goal(s)
  • Evaluable – how much change has to occur for the project to be effective

2. A proposal that doesn’t fit – Research potential funders thoroughly and contact the funder to clear up any questions in your mind. Make sure your proposal matches the funder’s mission and objectives. Never ignore a funder’s guidelines in the hopes of ‘fitting’ your program into their niche. It almost never works.

1. Follow the instructions – When dealing with any funder, read the instructions before applying – then follow them (i.e., if the instructions say to double space the proposal, don’t single space.) Some foundations will throw out your proposal for this small, seemingly unimportant error.

 Theresa Sondys

Theresa L. Sondys is the Senior Program Officer of Metro Health Foundation, a Detroit-based private philanthropy dedicated to helping metropolitan Detroit organizations meet the community’s health needs. Theresa does extensive work in the southeastern Michigan community. She is currently a member of the board of directors of The MINDS Program, President-Emeritus of Hamtramck United Social Services (a/k/a HUSS); and has served as president and chairman of various non-profit boards and coalitions. A woman of many talents, Theresa has held a variety of different positions including Legal Secretary, Administrative Manager, and Inspector for Nonconforming Material on a nuclear power construction site. An accomplished vocalist and author of two novels (The Pink Lady and Star-Crossed Murders), she is also an experienced speaker who has taught  workshops and seminars on Program Planning, Introduction to Proposal Writing, Grant-Writing, etc. Mother of two children, Theresa will be celebrating her 30th wedding anniversary later this summer.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
June 26, 2012, 12:00 PM

The State of Grantseeking - Spring 2012

state of grantseeking spring 2012

PhilanTech and GrantStation are pleased to announce the release of the State of Grantseeking Spring 2012 Report.

Ongoing declines in government and other funding and the resulting decreases in fundraising staff and resources continue to challenge grantseekers.  The 812 survey respondents indicated that the size and number of grants awarded are not keeping pace with the increased demands for their services.

Other findings from the survey included:

  • Most organizations applied for the same number or more grants, and increased efforts resulted in more grants for 31% of respondents, an improvement of 5% since the last survey.
  • The average size of grants increased from the same period last year.
  • Larger organizations struggled more with economic conditions, whereas smaller organizations continue to struggle more with the mechanics of grantseeking.
  • Despite ongoing reductions in government grants and increased competition for all types of grants, 78% of respondents felt optimistic that their grant funding would increase or continue at the same level for the next six months.  This represents a slight decrease in optimistic responses since the Fall 2011 survey.

The survey was open in February and March 2012.  While nonprofit organizations of all sizes responded to the survey, the majority could be considered small to mid-sized organizations:

  • 43% had one to five staff members.
  • Over half (63%) had budgets under $1,000,000.

The next State of Grantseeking survey will be conducted starting in August 2012.

Download the full State of Grantseeking Report.
Author: Dahna Goldstein
May 10, 2012, 11:36 AM

Grantseeking - Making Your Message Stand Out

I recently committed to raise $500 for an organization I care about -- the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), an organization that helps nonprofits across the sector use technology skillfully and confidently to further their causes. Since virtually every organization has some sort of fundraising appeal at this time of year, and I was going to be asking friends and colleagues to donate, I knew I needed to do something to make my fundraising appeal stand out.

So I wrote a song.

Dahna's-NTEN-Song

You can hear (and watch) it at http://www.razoo.com/story/Championgoldstein (and please consider making donation to NTEN! Every dollar donated will be matched by their board).

The process got me thinking about grantwriting and a similar challenge faced by grantseekers.

Foundation program officers read a lot of grant proposals.  In smaller foundations where there may only be one staff person, that person has very limited time and pours over a lot of information.  He or she may recruit trustees to read proposals as well (or the foundation may have a review process that involves trustees or directors or a grant review committee).  Even in foundations with more staff members, each person reads a lot of proposals.

Many - if not most - of those proposals are compelling.  They are written by organizations that have reviewed the foundation's requirements and have crafted a proposal that outlines how their organization meets those requirements, why the organization's work is important, and why it is requesting support.  (Nonprofits do this to varying degrees of success -- more about that in the coming weeks and months.)

The number of proposals submitted is increasing, according to the most recent State of Grantseeking survey - more nonprofits are submitting more grant requests to try to make up for funding shortfalls in other areas.

Now, more than ever, it's important to make your message stand out -- to convey memorable information in a compelling way to catch your reader's attention.

Here are a few tips:

  • Review the foundation's guidelines and ensure that your proposal addresses how your organization fits.  You have virtually 0% chance of getting a grant funded if it falls outside the foundation's stated guidelines;
  • Provide enough information to make a compelling case, but not so much that the funder is inundated.  We hear from grantmakers frequently that applicants send them more information than they request.  While that may seem helpful ("let's send them samples of our publications so they can see how great they are"), it generally isn't, and risks burying your message. A notable exception to this rule is if the funder asks for additional information (e.g., "please send us any other relevant information or publications").  Even then, be judicious in what you send;
  • Write compelling prose and use data where you have it.  Some funders will ask for information about impact or expected outcomes in quantitative form; some will not.  Particularly in the absence of specific direction from the funder, a mix of qualitative and quantitative information is a good way to go.

Finally, think about the one thing that you want your reader to remember when they put down your application, and ensure that message carries through the proposal.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
December 14, 2011, 05:53 PM

The State of Grantseeking - Fall 2011

State of Grantseeking Fall 2011
PhilanTech and GrantStation are pleased to announce the release of the State of Grantseeking Fall 2011 Report.

Grantseeking activities seem to be stagnating as nonprofits try to find new sources of funding to replace reduced government and other funds.  The 928 survey respondents indicated that while they were still actively searching for grant funds, the state of the economy and increased competition for fewer grant dollars presented challenges.

Other findings from the survey included:

  • A majority of organizations applied for more grants, but increased efforts only resulted in more grant funds for 26% of respondents;
  • The average size of grants decreased from the same period last year;
  • Economic and organizational conditions present the greatest challenges to nonprofits’ grantseeking efforts.  Researching and finding grants was cited as the greatest challenge by 31% of nonprofits, while competition for a reduced amount of funding dollars was the greatest challenge for 23% of nonprofits;
  • And yet 81% of nonprofits think their grant funding will be consistent or better in the next 6 months.

The survey was open from August 18, 2011 until October 2, 2011, and received 928 complete responses.  While nonprofit organizations of all sizes responded to the survey, the majority could be considered small to mid-sized organizations:

  • One third (33%) had one to five staff members; and,
  • Over half (60%) had budgets under $1,000,000.

The next State of Grantseeking survey will be conducted starting in January 2012.

Download the full State of Grantseeking Report.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
December 05, 2011, 11:00 AM

Hot Weather Grantseeking Lessons - Conserve Energy and Stay Cool

thermometer

 

It’s 97 degrees in DC right now.  The heat index is over 100.  In addition to making me appreciate air conditioning and wish that I had a swimming pool, days like this make me think about how best to expend energy.  Doing anything outside causes me to think about the most efficient ways to accomplish what I need to accomplish.  At the risk of sounding lazy (I’ll blame it on being Canadian and generally disliking temperatures over 80 degrees), I think there are some good lessons for nonprofits seeking grants.

  • Conserve energy by doing homework first. Before writing a letter of inquiry or a full proposal to a foundation, do some homework.  Use the foundation's website, the Foundation Center, and/or GrantStation to find out about its programs, its grantmaking priorities, and what types of organizations and programs it has funded in the past.  If the foundation's priorities and grantmaking history don’t relate to your organization or program, submitting a proposal (even an LOI) is not going to be a good use of your energy.  There are other funders out there that may have more of an interest in what you do.  Find them before expending energy on low-likelihood grant pursuits.
  • Stay cool. When talking to a prospective funder, whether on the phone, in a written inquiry, or in a proposal, stay cool and present your case, ensuring that you're taking the foundation's perspective into account.  If things don't go the way you want them to (if the program officer tells you that your program doesn't fit the bill, or if your proposal is declined), stay cool and try another avenue.  Doing your research ahead of time, and focusing your energy on the prospective funders that are the best match for your organization or program will also help on this front.
What are your tips for conserving energy and staying cool in grantseeking?

 

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/matchity/27049516/

Author: Dahna Goldstein
June 09, 2011, 05:23 PM

The State of Grantseeking - Spring 2011

state-of-grantseeking-survey

PhilanTech and GrantStation are pleased to announce the release of The State of Grantseeking Spring 2011 Report.

Between January 17 and March 2, PhilanTech and GrantStation conducted an online survey to take a snapshot of the state of grantseeking in the U.S.  The 867 respondents ranged from volunteer-run grassroots organizations to large national nonprofits.  

While grantseeking and related activities are on the rise, they have not increased enough to return to pre-recession levels.

The findings suggest, though, that grantseeking activities are starting to stabilize, with grantseekers submitting requests and receiving awards at rates similar to the same time period last year, marking an improvement from the last State of Grantseeking Report, in which nonprofits indicated that fewer requests had been funded than in the previous year.

Other findings from the survey included:

  • Mid-sized organizations relied the most on grant awards as a steady source of revenue;
  • Government grants make up the bulk of the funds awarded, but private funders continue to play a significant role.
  • Grant writing consumes an inordinate amount of staff time, with many organizations using word processing and spreadsheet programs for these often repetitive tasks.

Other recent studies suggest that foundation giving will increase in both 2011 and 2012.  The next State of Grantseeking survey, to be conducted in August 2011, will ask grantseekers about that trend and other patterns, challenges, and opportunities for grantseeking in the U.S.

Download the full State of Grantseeking Report.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
April 26, 2011, 01:37 PM

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 Management in Nonprofits - The Cost of Managing Grants

I've written before about Project Streamline, the initiative now housed at the Grants Managers Network that is working to improve grant application and reporting practices.  I'm a fan of the initiative -- not only because it supports what we're doing here at PhilanTech, but because I believe in the potential it has to improve grant-related information, practices, impacts, and social outcomes for the whole nonprofit sector.

dollar sign in circleGrant writing, as anyone who has written any grant applications on behalf of a nonprofit knows, is a time consuming affair.  Grantmakers generally request a lot of information in fairly particular ways -- they are giving away money and have a responsibility to ensure that they are giving it to the organizations that will best meet their missions and their donor's intent, not to mention to organizations that will use the funds well.  But there is a significant cost to the information collection practices -- both at the front end of the process (the proposal) and the tail end (the final report), and sometimes in between (the interim report(s)).

A Center for Effective Philanthropy report determined that 13% of every grant dollar is spent on grants administration.  From Indicators of Effectiveness:

Over the 2.1 year duration of the average grant, a grantee spends roughly 100 hours preparing the proposal and engaging in evaluations and other formal monitoring.  The average time required of grantees by the 23 foundations [in the survey] ranged from a high of 227 to a low of 26 hours per grant.

The median grant size for the grants awarded by the foundations in the study was $129,000.  $129,000 is a significant grant, so spending time putting together a good proposal and monitoring the funded initiative is not an unrealistic expectation. 

But what about a $10,000 grant?  If a $10,000 grant requires a similar amount of time to prepare and write the proposal, then monitor, write, and submit reports, how valuable is that grant to the nonprofit?

Assuming an average nonprofit staff member hourly rate of about $25 (based on a $50,000 salary, working 2,000 hours/year), that $10,000 grant nets $7,500 to the nonprofit.  One quarter of the grant is spent administering the information that the funder requires about the grant.  And if the staff salaries are above average (or if the executive director spends some time on the proposal, etc), the return on investment for the nonprofit diminishes that much further.

I'd argue that the return on investment for the funder is much lower too.

Nick Geisinger at the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers has taken this calculation one step further, looking at the cost to the sector of the grants administration process, with a figure he calls the net grant to the sector.  The math goes like this (from Nick's post, "Paperwork vs. progress: the case for streamlining"):

To determine your net grant to the sector as a whole, you would include costs incurred by the applicants that don’t receive grants.

Here’s an illustration of this issue, modified from a previous column:

  • A small nonprofit spends about $400 per working day on salary and benefits for its development person.
  • If this person spends a total of one day applying for your $10,000 grant, half a day managing it, and one day on the report, your net grant was $9000.
  • If 10 other nonprofits sought the grant unsuccessfully, your net grant to the sector was $5000.
  • If 25 applied, you de-capitalized the sector. Yikes! (Note that this example does not take into account CEO and CFO time spent managing relationships, etc.)

Applying that logic to all grantmaking in the nonprofit sector, the costs are staggering.

I'm in the midst of compiling some data from a survey PhilanTech conducted with GrantStation entitled "The State of Grantseeking 2010," and a future post will apply the costs of managing grants to that survey data.

In the meantime, please check out Project Streamline for information about how to streamline your grants administration.

 

 

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/2568935346/

Post updated to include photo credit.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
September 08, 2010, 11:28 AM

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