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You've found the time to download the latest State of Grantseeking reports. In fact, you have them all — total, by annual budget, by mission focus, by service area, and by U.S. region.
Well, that's an awful lot of pages of data and words, and you want some quick-fix guidelines and benchmarks. If your organization is like those of many of our respondents, there is never enough time or staff to devote to grantseeking. And because a lot of these organizations are controlling administrative costs by cutting staff, there just isn't much time for additional research. Let's look at how to get the most valuable and applicable data from the State of Grantseeking reports in the least amount of time.
First, you need to determine how your organizations self-identifies. Do you think of your organization as rural? Is your organization's budget small? Is your mission focused on health care? It's OK to decide that your organization is mostly defined by one of the factors or to take an average or median figure from a variety of organization definitions.
Based on years of biannual report analysis, I find that annual budget, mission focus, and service area, in that order, have the most impact on an organization's grantseeking experience. Organizational age and U.S. region can also skew grantseeking techniques and results.
Next, you need to look at the funder types that are most likely to support your organization. The charts in these reports show the frequency of funding by source, such as private foundations, corporate giving programs, and local governments. They also show the median amounts of the largest awards the sources gave. This is where you will get an idea of which type of funder to apply to, by looking at the success rates of other organizations.
Finally, look at the sizes of the median largest awards. This data will give you an idea of reasonable award goals and help you to manage your stakeholder expectations.
Let's look at some of the variations by the size of the annual organizational budget. Organizational size determined by annual budget really is the key factor that influences the grantseeking experience. A larger budget implies a larger staff and greater organizational sustainability due to age and experience.
Forty-one percent of organizations with small budgets — under $100,000 — were staffed by volunteers, and 80 percent of small organizations were 25 years of age or under. However, 83 percent of extra-large organizations with budgets over $25 million employed over 200 people, and 71 percent of them were over 50 years old.
This is one reason why only 58 percent of small organizations submitted even one application compared to 97 percent of extra-large organizations: it takes time and staff to apply.
Of course, it helps to know which sources may look favorably upon your organization.
The federal government was the source of the largest individual award for only 2 percent of organizations with small budgets. But 42 percent of organizations with extra-large budgets received federal awards.
This data also has bearing because the federal government offers the largest awards: the median largest award in the most recent report was $109,625. But the application and award processes were longer and more complex than those of other funders, and the federal government rarely funds certain missions.
However, other grant sources, such as religious organizations, the United Way, and civic organizations, were the source of the largest award for 14 percent of small organizations as opposed to 5 percent or fewer of organizations of any other size.
Finally, the median size of the largest individual awards had an equally dramatic variation — from $5,000 for small organizations to $426,000 for extra-large organizations.
Now this information may seem obvious. We know that funders like to reach the greatest number of people with their dollars, and larger organizations usually have a broader reach or capacity. But having realistic benchmarks can help you quantify your general knowledge.
Let's run the same scenario on mission focus. In our survey, we ask that participants identify their missions based on the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities classification system. You'll find dramatic variations in funding sources and award sizes, which is likely due to the variations in annual budget size among the mission focuses.
I personally am fond of animal rescue groups, and I have three dogs rescued from puppy mills (my home office coworkers). So it is with a bit of chagrin that I share with you that the median annual budget for organizations with an animal-related mission is only $300,000, compared to environment organizations at $620,000 or educational institutions at $24,000,000.
Using the federal government example, you'll see that funding frequency ranges from 2 percent of animal-related organizations to 16 percent of environment organizations to 40 percent of educational institutions.
However, 57 percent of animal-related organizations reported private foundations as the source of their largest award, compared to 38 percent of environment organizations and 34 percent of educational institutions.
And keep in mind that success is relative. An animal-rescue organization that won a $25,000 award can be considered quite successful when the median highest award is $10,000. But an environment organization with a highest award of $25,000 would be underperforming when the median highest award is $65,000. An educational institution with a highest award of $25,000 would be in poor shape when the median highest award is $175,000.
To efficiently use the State of Grantseeking reports, you just need to know your annual budget and your mission focus.
Check for the funder types that are most likely to support your organization. These funders will be the sources of the largest individual awards given to organizations with your budget size and mission.
Then take note of the size of the median largest award for your budget size and mission. Now you have a reasonable set of award goals and a good idea of which funding sources to apply to.
Image 1: Bacho / Shutterstock
Other images: Ellen Mowrer
wow, so many great ideas)
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