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Does Organizational Staff Size Affect Grant Activity?

organizational-size-and-grant-activity_GrantStation-logo.jpgAfter a recent State of GrantseekingTM webinar, an attendee asked about differences in grant awards and grantseeking styles, based not on annual budget but on organizational size when measured by number of employees. It was a good question because we know that a lack of time and staff is the most frequent impediment to successful grantseeking, regardless of organization size. The following is a synopsis of grant activity as defined by number of employees: all volunteer, 1 to 5 staff members, 6 to 10 staff members, and, as a counterpoint, more than 200 employees. Here is what we've learned. ...

Let's start with some basic, and unsurprising, demographics: to state the obvious, organizational age and budget size increased in conjunction with staff size.

StaffOrganization AgeBudgetMission Focus
All volunteer <5 years (37%) <$50,000 (60%) Arts, Culture, Humanities (15%)
1-5 people 10-25 years (38%) <$500,000 (59%) Arts, Culture, Humanities (19%)
6-19 people 10-25 years (40%) <$5,000,000 (81%) Human Services (18%)
200+ people >100 years (42%) >$25,000,000 (62%) Education (33%)

It takes time to grow an annual budget, and that budget is what enables increased staff.

The question, however, was, "Does staff size affect grantseeking activities and success?" The short answer is "yes," but let's looks at some of the data that are available.organizational-size-and-grant-activity-image1.png

Because all-volunteer organizations usually lack personnel dedicated to grantseeking, it becomes a less consistent, ad hoc affair, resulting in few awards. Moving an organization from all volunteer to having 1 to 5 employees increases the likelihood of grant funding; moving the organization to 6 to 10 employees increases that possibility even more. Organizations with more than 200 employees rely less on grant funding because they have other revenue streams, including tuition and donations.

In addition, organizational size is affected by mission focus, or vice versa. According to the Spring 2014 State of GrantseekingTM Report, the median largest grant award for Arts, Culture, and Humanities organizations was $20,000, for Human Services organizations it was $50,000, and for Educational Institutions it was $200,000.

Median largest award size also increased with larger staff size:


Organizations that employed 1 to 5 people reported a median largest award of $24,000—nearly five times larger than the $5,000 received by all-volunteer organizations. Organizations that employed 6 to 10 people reported a median largest award 10 times larger than that of all-volunteer organizations, and over double that of organizations employing 1 to 5 people. And organizations that employ more than 200 people reported a median largest award of $375,000.

Does staff size affect grantseeking activities and success? Without a doubt, and there are two main change points. When an organizations moves from all volunteer to having employees, the consistent focus on the organization's mission and budgetary needs results in more dedication of time to grantseeking and larger grant awards. And when an organization moves beyond five employees, grantseeking becomes more than a filler task, resulting in even larger and more frequent awards.

Ellen Mowrer, GrantStation
© 2014, GrantStation

Ellen Mowrer is director of business and marketing for GrantStation, a premiere online fundraising resource that provides information on more than 6,500 funders accepting inquiries.

Topics: Nonprofit Leadership and Practice