State of Grantseeking data has consistently shown that grantmakers are more likely to fund organizations over ten years of age.
Funders want to support organizations with proven sustainability, and organizational age is a generally accepted measurement of sustainability.
The data from the 2020 State of Grantseeking Survey reinforces this trend.
We’ve defined these age ranges:
In past blog posts, I advised grantseekers from younger organizations to think of their grantseeking like a stepladder—with the lower rungs representing building relationships with grantmakers, accepting gifts-in-kind that can be leveraged as matching funds, and applying for grant awards from local funders, including private foundations, fraternal organizations and clubs, religious organizations, community foundations, and local businesses. After achieving local success, younger organizations have both a few more years under their belts, and a proven track record to show regional or national funders.
Some basic State of Grantseeking statistics can help guide your organization to achieve grantseeking success.
You need a dedicated grants manager. If you work for a large organization, you probably have a grants department with staff hierarchy. If you are brand-new organization with limited staff, you may assign grants management responsibility to a volunteer or board member. Regardless of size, all organizations should assign a key person, whether staff member or volunteer, to coordinate grant research, strategic planning, writing, submission, and reporting. Even if you are not actively grantseeking, remember that 66% of respondents who submitted one application were awarded at least one grant, but 94% of respondents who submitted three applications were awarded at least one grant. Once you are submitting three or more applications, just keeping track of multiple timelines can be a challenge, and a grant manager will streamline your efforts. Here is how staff size looked among State of Grantseeking respondent organizations of varying ages:
You should be aware of funder giving trends. If you have time for only a few grant applications, you want to ensure that you are appealing to funders who have a higher propensity for funding your type of organization. In the 2020 State of Grantseeking Report, we discuss the most important demographic factors in grantseeking—organizational budget and mission focus. However, organizational age also has some impact on funding, as the older an organization is, the greater the proof of sustainability and implied increases in budget and staff size.
Funder award frequency varies by organizational age, and award size varies among funder types. It is important to keep both in mind as you plan your grant strategy and time allocation. A small award may not be worth your time unless you plan to use it to grow a grantmaker relationship, kick-off a grantseeking program, or use it as matching funds for a larger grant. And other awards may not be worth your time if you have a low probability of winning them and they require in-depth application processes. Here is the median largest award size by funder type:
While private foundations are major sources of funding to organizations of any age, their importance wanes as government funders increase. Government funders (who are less likely to support younger organizations) tend to provide grants of greater dollar value than those of non-government funders.
The size of grant awards tends to increase with organizational age, in conjunction with the frequency of federal and state grant awards.
You need to keep at it. If you apply for grant awards you have a high likelihood of winning grant awards. This means that dedicating time and staff to grantseeking has a high probability of being worth your while. Here we see that older organizations more frequently report applying for awards; it follows then that older organizations report higher award rates. Even so, over three-quarters of very young organizations applied for grants and 70% of those organizations won awards. Grantseeking is worth the effort.
When it comes to grantseeking, age (representing organizational sustainability) is one pathway to success. Young organizations should start their grants program by crafting deft proposals and introducing themselves to local grantmakers. As they grow, they can submit proposals to grantmakers who require matching funds, or a track record of program funding success. With this success—and age—an organization can then turn to larger-dollar government funding.
Looking to get started with grantseeking? GrantStation offers tutorials on the process. Looking for new funders? GrantStation has databases of private and government grantmakers in the United States and Canada, as well as international funders. Looking to develop your personal grantseeking skills? GrantStation offers PathFinder, a searchable database of resources to help your skills grow. Looking to learn from the experts? Take part in GrantStation’s Online Education webinars, presented by nationally recognized leaders in the field. Join GrantStation, because regardless of your organization’s age, there are grantmakers who are interested in supporting your mission!