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Highlights from our 2017 survey on raising funds from grant-making trusts

Charities valued unrestricted funds twice as much as restricted funds for a £100k grant. We asked respondents to imagine they had just been offered a restricted grant of £1 million, £100k and £10k. Then as the question puts it ‘They [the grant-maker] offer to give you a grant which you can spend on any of your work but for a lower amount. What is the smallest percentage you would accept?’ Respondents were then offered a choice of 10% increments. For the £1 million grant, the average trade down was to 46% of the original grant (i.e. £460k), for £100k the average trade down was 55% and even for £10k the average was 67%. So respondents would choose around a 50% smaller grant of unrestricted over restricted funds.


The larger the grant and the smaller the organisation, the more that charities would trade the grant size down for unrestricted funding. We’ve already discussed how larger grants increase the amount that people would trade down by (to receive unrestricted funding). Perhaps unsurprisingly the smaller the organisation the more they would trade down too. So, for organisations with an income of under £500k they traded down £1 million to a grant of £300k or smaller half of the time (49% of respondents). Whereas those with an income of more than £50 million traded it down to £300K only 10% of the time (slide 47). However, for the largest of organisations, those over £50 million, the lure of unrestricted income was still very strong: the average trade down grant size was 62% for £1 million. And even for the smallest of grants, £10k, those with an income of under £500k were typically trading down to 59% on average.


Charities are trading down much more than they were in 2012. When we asked the same question for the £1 million and £100k grant back in 2012, the average for £1 million was 63% (compared to 46% in 2017) and for £100k the average was 70% (compared to 55% in 2017) This increase in trading down by 15-17 percentage points would suggest that a tighter funding climate has made unrestricted funding even more precious (2012 data on slide 46). It is worth pointing out that the sample size was smaller in 2017 than 2012 by about 100 and that the sample make up has changed (there is a higher percentage of small organisations, those under £500k turnover, in 2017 going from roughly 30% to 40%).


Charities want some restrictions in grant criteria and some flexibility from grant- makers. It would be easy to imagine that most charities would like complete freedom in the criteria for grant applications. In practice they don’t. So over 55% of respondents wanted ‘some clear restrictions and some clear flexibility’ (slide 19). Similarly, only 4% of respondentswant no restrictions and only 10% want ‘very clear restrictions’. Charities want to know they stand a good chance of meeting the criteria and getting a grant, but to know there is wiggle room if their situation doesn’t match the criteria exactly.


Better feedback and unrestricted funding are the two biggest gripes about grant- makers. We asked respondents to agree or disagree with a series of statements. Those with the highest level of agreement were ‘I would like grant-makers to give better feedback on applications’ which 68% of respondents strongly agreed with, and ‘I would like grant-maker.to provide more funds that were un-restricted or grants for core costs’ which had 69% strongly agreeing.


Charities don’t like being asked for information that is already on their charity regulator’s website. In an open-ended question of the survey, we asked respondents to suggest what they would like grant-makers to do away with. The highest number of comments related to grant-makers asking for the duplication of information that was already available on their charity regulator’s website.


Charities with fewer applications seem to get a higher success rate over those who ‘spray and pray’. We asked respondents to tell us both how many applications they made in a typical year, and what they estimated their success rate was. We were surprised that while the most common success rate was 30% with 21% ticking that box, there were people who claimed to have all the options from 0% (that’s a sad 1%) and 100% (a euphoric 1% - see slide 10). Half of all respondents said their success rate was 20-40%. When we looked at success rate by number of applications there was a suggestion that less is more. Those with less applications were more likely to claim a higher success rate (see slide 11). It would make sense that those who only apply for grants when they know they are likely to be more successful will do better than the 12% of respondents who submit over 200 applications a year.


Success rates for applications are pretty equal by size of charity. We asked respondents to tell us how many grant applications they submitted and then we analysed this information by larger and smaller charities (slide 12). Although larger charities peaked at a 30% success rate, and smaller charities were more spread out, it doesn’t appear that smaller or larger charities had better success overall.


Garfield Weston and Big Lottery Fund come out very strongly as model grant- makers. We asked about model grant-makers in a range of categories (best information, best application process, right level of monitoring, understanding the organisation, best relationships, best at responding to need, and so on) and Big Lottery Fund and Garfield Weston Foundation were joint first or second in four out of those six categories. Impressive stuff, though their size does mean more charities will have had contact.


Charities would like shorter periods between applications, easier reporting, and to be able to submit multiple applications. Around half (49%) of respondents said that their reporting back was not very difficult, though 39% said it was quite difficult. We also asked what the ideal time was between grant applications, with 50% saying 12 months, and 22% wanted six months and 9% no gap at all. Respondents would also like to be able to have multiple applications for different projects at the same time. Indeed, this was the statement with the third highest level of agreement on slide 15.



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