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In Grantseeking Your Budget Does Matter

In Grantseeking Your Budget Does Matter

GrantStation is currently in the midst of its Spring 2018 State of Grantseeking Survey, and as you can imagine with an expected 3,500 to 4,000 nonprofit respondents, I receive feedback early and often.

One gentleman from a small nonprofit organization told me, “We were not eligible for the award because the funder required a paid executive director of $125,000 for two years, and a budget of $500,000 or more. Of course, if we had that kind of money there would be no need for a grant.”

And I understand his point, as I am sure that you do, too—grantmakers generally like to see capacity, as defined by organizational budget size, organizational age, and scope of services. But there are grantmakers who will fund organizations with smaller budgets, or all-volunteer organizations, or newer organizations, and those three things often go hand in hand.

The State of Grantseeking Survey results in free reports, both in total and by segments on organizational budget, mission, age, service area, and geographic region. I think that the State of Grantseeking report by annual budget size may well be the most useful because the grantseeking experiences of an all-volunteer organization with a $50,000 budget are very different from an organization with a $5 million budget. In addition, with capacity building and fundraising, you can exert a level of control over your budget. And data by budget size is of value to all respondents.

Let’s look at some demographics, experiences, funder types, funding frequency, and award sizes when viewed through the lens of organizational budget (based on results from the Fall 2017 survey, reflecting the data from 4,047 participants). For reference, here is how we defined the various budget ranges, and the median budget among the respondents.

Budget Range Range Name % of Respondents Median Budget Amount
Under $100,000 Small 15% $48,000
$100,000-$999,999 Medium 32% $350,000
$1 Million-$9,999,999 Large 29% $2,500,000
$10 Million-$24,999,999 Very Large   8% $15,080,850
$25 Million and Over Extra-Large 17% $65,000,000


As I mentioned, budget is the key demographic in the grantseeking experience. Larger annual budgets usually mean older organizations and more staff, and more staff means more time dedicated to grantwriting, which in turn produces more applications, which results in more awards.

In Grantseeking Your Budget Does Matter

In Grantseeking Your Budget Does Matter


The experiences of the grantseeker vary widely by organizational budget, from their level of grantseeking activity to their perception of the greatest challenges to successful grantseeking to their participation in and opinions on collaborative grantseeking.


Active grantseeking via a strong grant management program takes time and staff to create and grow. Application rates by annual budget size consistently reflect that process, with the understanding that organizations with larger budgets are generally older and employ more staff.

In Grantseeking Your Budget Does Matter


Among all respondents, 18 percent reported that grantseeking’s greatest challenges stemmed from the lack of time and staff for grantseeking activities, although this response ranged from 10 percent of extra-large organizations to 24 percent of small organizations.

In general, the challenges of competition, reduced funding, and internal organizational issues were reported more frequently as annual budget size increased. These larger-organization issues reflect the challenges involved in supporting and managing greater staff sizes and the programs managed by that staff. A lack of time and/or staff, the need for a grantwriter, and researching and finding grants were more frequently reported as annual budget size decreased. These smaller-organization issues reflect the challenges involved in managing an organization and its programs with smaller staff sizes or volunteer staff.

Grantseeking Challenge Small Budget Medium Budget Large Budget Very Large Budget Extra-Large Budget
Competition 8% 13% 18% 20% 23%
Reduced funding 4% 7% 10% 14% 23%
Economic conditions 6% 6% 6% 7% 10%
Funder practices/requirements 9% 12% 15% 14% 4%
Internal organizational issues 2% 3% 5% 10% 9%
Lack of time and/or staff 24% 22% 14% 11% 10%
Need for a grantwriter 15% 6% 4% 1% 3%
Relationship building with funders 3% 8% 11% 8% 6%
Research, finding grants 13% 14% 10% 7% 5%
Writing grants 9% 3% 2% 2% 2%
Other 7% 6% 5% 7% 5%


Annual budget, with the implied increases in staff and infrastructure in tandem with the increases in budget size, had a significant effect on collaborative activities.

In Grantseeking Your Budget Does Matter

Sixty-four percent of organizations with budgets of $25 million or more participated in collaborative grantseeking in the first six months of 2017. In comparison, 15 percent to 44 percent of organizations with budgets under $25 million participated in collaborative grantseeking in the first six months of 2017.

Collaborative award frequency also increased with organizational budget size. Of those organizations that did submit a collaborative application, larger organizations more frequently reported winning an award. The response “unsure” may reflect submitted applications for which award decisions were still pending at the time of the survey.

In Grantseeking Your Budget Does Matter

Funder Types

Our survey results show that there are types of funders that are more likely to support an organization based on segmentation by annual budget size. Knowing what type of grantmaker funds other organizations like yours, and to what levels, can help you in choosing where to devote your energies.

For example, Other Grant Sources, which includes religious organizations, the United Way, donor-advised funds, civic organizations, and tribal funds, are much more likely to support smaller organizations (23 percent) than larger organizations (5 percent to 10 percent). And the federal government is much more likely to support organizations with budgets of $25 million and higher (87 percent) than small organizations with budgets under $100,000 (13 percent).

In general, organizations report more funding as they increase in budget size. Private foundations, by far the most frequently reported funding source among all organizations, were still only a source of funding to 53 percent of small organizations, whereas private foundations were a funding source to 90 percent of organizations with budgets between $10 million to $24,999,999, and 89 percent of organizations with budgets of $25 million and higher.

This chart will give you an idea of which type of funder to apply to, based on the success rates of other organizations.

Funding Sources Small Budget Medium Budget Large Budget Very Large Budget Extra-Large Budget
Private Foundations 53% 79% 86% 90% 89%
Community Foundations 43% 63% 70% 73% 69%
Corporate Grants 34% 52% 68% 77% 75%
Corporate Gifts 18% 25% 35% 43% 46%
Federal Government 13% 26% 52% 71% 87%
State Government 19% 38% 59% 73% 81%
Local Government 22% 33% 49% 61% 60%
Other Grant Sources 23% 10% 7% 8% 5%

Award Sizes and Support Types

Now, let’s look at the sizes of the median largest award. This will give you an idea of reasonable award goals and help you to manage your stakeholder expectations. The median size of the largest grant award is a key benchmark to measure organizational grantseeking success. Median award size is profoundly impacted by organizational budget size and the implied staff size and scope of service or reach.

In Grantseeking Your Budget Does Matter

Support types of the largest award also varied by organizational budget size. Of the 24 specific support types, each of those in the chart was selected by at least 4 percent of respondents within one budget range.

Project or program support was the most frequently reported largest award support type for organizations from all budget ranges, although the rate was lower for small and medium organizations. General support was more frequently reported by small and medium organizations.

Support Type Small Medium Large Very Large Extra-Large
Advocacy 6% 2% 2% 0% 0%
Building Funds 3% 3% 3% 6% 4%
Capacity Building 5% 6% 5% 5% 2%
Equipment 2% 2% 3% 4% 2%
Events/Sponsorships 5% 2% 2% 0% 0%
General 23% 23% 19% 9% 6%
Infrastructure 2% 1% 1% 3% 4%
Matching 4% 2% 2% 1% 1%
Mixed 2% 2% 4% 4% 6%
Project/Program 28% 42% 48% 53% 51%

Do you find this type of information interesting, and more importantly, of value to you and your organization? If so, please participate in the Spring 2018 State of Grantseeking Survey, and make a note to download the resulting free reports in May 2018.

Ellen Mowrer is president of GrantStation, a premiere online funding resource for organizations seeking grants throughout the world. Providing access to a comprehensive online database of grantmakers, GrantStation helps nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and government agencies make smarter, better-informed grantseeking decisions. GrantStation is dedicated to creating a civil society by assisting the nonprofit sector in its quest to build healthy and effective communities.

Topics: State of Grantseeking Survey Grantseeking Nonprofit Budget Size