Report on Grantseeking Highlights Challenges Nonprofits Are Facing

The median size of grants awarded to nonprofits this year shrank 8% from last year, a trend that may be compounded as organizations say lack of time and/or staff is the greatest challenge they face in seeking more grants, a new study has found.

Private/family foundations were the source of the largest grant awards for 29% of nonprofits receiving grants. Federal government grants accounted for the largest grants for 17% of the nonprofits, as did state government grants. Corporate foundations were the source of the largest grants for 12% of the nonprofits participating in the study.

According to The State of Grantseeking Fall 2013, based on a survey of nonprofits across the country, conducted by GrantStation and PhilanTech, nonprofits may have adjusted to the “new economic normal…possibly reflecting both economic improvement and organizational resilience.” [Download the full report from PhilanTech’s website]

Following are key findings, based on 1,108 responses to an online survey:

  • Over 80% of respondent organizations received awards in the first six months of 2013.
  • The number of award recipients during the first six months of 2013 increased by 21% compared to the fall 2012 survey.
  • In this survey, 31% of respondents reported receipt of larger awards than during the same period in the prior year.
  • Private foundations (28%) were the largest source of total grant funding, followed by Federal grants (18%) and state grants (17%).
  • Of survey respondents, 42% stated that grants contributed more than 25% of their annual revenue.
  • Compared to the fall 2012 survey, the median award size decreased by 8%, to $46,000.
  • Funding from all levels of government decreased between 5% and 9% compared to last year, yet government at all levels increased as the source of the largest grant award.
  • The median award size of the largest grant for organizations with government funding was 400% larger than that of organizations with no government funding.
  • Organizations with small annual budgets reported that 69% received an award; over 90% of medium and large organizations received an award in the first six months of 2013.
  • The median largest award size for small organizations was $4,975; medium organizations had a median largest award of $30,000, and large organizations reported a median largest award of $133,500.
  • The median grant size for rural organizations was 27% less than suburban (cluster) organizations and 47% less than urban organizations.

Challenges to Success “While lack of time and staff is still our respondents’ greatest challenge to grantseeking, and is frequently referenced in responses regarding other challenges, there continues to be less variation among the answer choices than in past surveys. This indicates that organizations have adjusted to the ‘new economic normal,’” the report indicated.

Following are the share of respondents who cited specific challenges as being the greatest barriers to their to grantseeking success:

  • Lack of time and/or staff, 19%
  • Research, finding mission-specific grants, 14%
  • Reduced funding, 13%
  • Competition, 11%
  • Relationship building with funders, 10%
  • Funder practices and requirements, 8%
  • Economic conditions, 6%
  • Internal organizational issues, 6%
  • Lacking a grant writer, 5%
  • Writing grants, 3%
  • Other, 5%


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