The Organizational Budget Effect on Grantseeking


With over 3,250 respondents to the 2020 State of Grantseeking™ Survey, our results can help you plan your grantseeking strategy and measure your organization’s success. 

Year after year, we find that an organization’s annual budget has the greatest impact on the grantseeking experience because it speaks to the size of the organization’s staff, programs, and the scope of service area. While this is stating the obvious, respondents tell us that well-meaning stakeholders regularly suggest more grant opportunities than there are staff to process, as well as poorly matched grant opportunities. It is not an easy balance.

Most respondents (90%) applied for grant funding, and among those organizations with active grantseekers, 70% reported that one to two people were directly involved with the grant process.

We have learned that applying for at least three grant awards increased the frequency of winning an award. Thirty-four percent of organizations that submitted one application won no awards. However, only 6% of organizations that submitted three to five applications won no awards. Of the organizations that submitted six to ten applications, 3% or fewer won no awards. And all organizations that submitted 11 or more applications won at least one award. With one or two people submitting all those applications, any information to help streamline grantseeking is welcome.

Here are some tips, defined by organizational annual budget, starting with the budget ranges:




Let us start by looking at reasonable expectations for the size of your grant awards. Larger organizations received larger total awards:

Total Awards Median

And larger organizations consistently reported larger individual award sizes. When broken out by budget size, the median largest individual award ranged from $8,000 for small organizations to over $1.7 million for extra-large organizations.

Largest Individual Awards Median

So, if your annual budget is under $100,000, you should feel proud of winning an award of around $8,000. But if your annual budget is over one million dollars, you probably should not be spending your limited time applying for smaller grants. And please do not allow anyone to compare your grantseeking program to that of an organization within a different annual budget range—that is unfair to you and to your organization. You will want to focus your grantseeking on funders that award grants close in size to the median amount for your organization’s budget.

The type of grantmaker also affects award size and is reflective of annual budget. The median largest award ranged from $20,000 from community foundations to over $600,000 from the federal government. Here is a listing of the median largest award by funder type:

Award by Funder

Government funders tend to award grants to organizations with larger budgets. Looking at the next chart, you can easily see that few organizations with small budgets receive the usually high-dollar federal funding, while community foundations tend to award grants to organizations with smaller budgets. You would be wise to apply to funder types that frequently award grants to organizations within your budget range.

Largest Individual Award Source

I advise grantseekers from smaller organizations to think of their grantseeking like a stepladder—with the lower rungs representing building relationships with grantmakers, accepting in-kind gifts 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, smaller (and often younger) organizations have a proven track record to show regional or national funders.

As for larger organizations, why not move to national and international funders, or test the waters of local or state government funding as a prelude to federal funding?

And remember—regardless of your organization’s budget size, there are grantmakers who are interested in supporting your programs!

GrantStation has databases of private and government grantmakers in the United States and Canada, as well as international funders. Plus, if you are new to grantseeking, GrantStation offers tutorials on the process. And for anyone looking to learn from the experts, GrantStation’s Online Education offers webinars, workshops, and learning modules from nationally recognized leaders in the field.