Grantseeking’s Greatest Challenges
In the Spring 2018 State of Grantseeking Survey, we asked, “What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge to successful grantseeking?” Respondent commentary on grantseeking challenges stretched to 191 pages.
Survey respondents continued to report that grantseeking’s greatest challenges stem from the lack of time and staff for grantseeking activities (21%).
Adherence to varying funder practices and requirements (13%), difficulty in finding grant opportunities that matched with specific missions, locations, or programs (13%), and increased competition for finite monies (11%) were also frequently cited as the greatest challenge to successful grantseeking.
The most frequent grantseeking challenge of lack of time and staff is directly related to the most frequent techniques used by organizations to control costs.
Respondents were asked, “How did you reduce your indirect/administrative costs?” Over half (54%) reported that they had reduced indirect/administrative costs by eliminating staff, while 31% reported increased reliance on volunteer labor.
Allow me to repeat this: 54% of survey respondents controlled costs by eliminating staff, but 21% of respondents say that a lack of time and staff prevents them from successful grantseeking (which regularly results in organizational growth and success).
The majority of respondents shared their frustration with the fact that more responsibilities were placed on fewer staff members, resulting in little time to devote to grantseeking. This lack of time and staff increases the perception that funder practices are arduous, and adds to the sense of disconnect between organizations and funders, the government, and the community as a whole.
Many respondents across all focus areas stated that there was limited funding for their specific mission, and many respondents told us that there is a greater need for non-restricted funding, regardless of mission focus. Some respondents also referenced the changing political landscape and the proposed state and federal funding reductions and resulting confusion. The word cloud below, which gives greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in source text, was created using their comments.
Here is a sample of representative comments from survey respondents:
- The stringency put on various organizations under different government rules and regulations, and the priority area(s) of organizations vs. donor agencies are the biggest challenges to overcome.
- We are in a small community and many regional or national grantmakers focus on larger markets.
- Handling the increased compliance requirements while having the same number of staff members is a challenge.
- Our greatest need is for general operating costs (salaries), and most grants available are for specific programs. Little to any funding is available for staff salaries, particularly for religious organizations.
- Several of the issues apply. Research is very time-consuming. Writing grants has become easier with online processing, but it is still time-consuming. Lack of staff to write grants is always an issue. Also, smaller charities are always competing with the large, national ones. If your annual budget is not high enough, they do not want to hear from you. Well, if my budget was higher, I might not need the grant!
- We are finding that there are fewer funders in our focus areas and the grant requirements are becoming much more specific.
- We often don't have the time to work on new initiatives that come with grant projects. I would love to do more but too often we are focused on our current projects.
- We struggle to find time to identify good matches with grantmakers.
- Funding sources are shrinking, and competition is expanding.
- Our challenges include a small staff, a lack of time, and researching and finding grants for our mission.
- With increased focus on equity and voice and "nothing for us without us," funders seem to prefer less organized applicants. Established organizations are dinosaurs who can't possibly navigate the new concerns, which is a problem for those organizations who are trying to embrace these concerns but are not recognized (by funders) for their efforts.
- It is a highly competitive environment with very focused grantmaking.
- Despite our funding needs, we have few staff members, limited time, limited funders/funding sources, and competition for time, resources, personnel, etc.
- The biggest issue right now for our organization is that funders have moved away from the type of funding we have traditionally been awarded, i.e. charitable funds to cover services for the vulnerable in our community. We are (currently) a strictly charitable endeavor and right now that is hard to justify to a grantor or other funder. Figuring out how to approach this both to give us access to higher level government grants and to solidify our processes to meet requirements we've never had to do before is a real challenge.
While this information is certainly not uplifting, it can be comforting to know that you and your organization are not alone as you work to overcome challenges to grantseeking success.
And, here at GrantStation, the voices and thoughts of the respondents to the State of Grantseeking Surveys are heard and respected. Every employee at GrantStation reads the pages of pain, with an eye toward developing new services (both paid and free), creating new content, and working to alleviate the pain so evident in many of the responses.
In fact, inspired by this commentary, our strategy team just held an initial meeting to discuss ways to generate more frequent, specifically-targeted content (whether by mission, budget, service area, or target population), and what format that content should take (newsletters, videos, tip sheets, website pages, blogs, etc.).
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