What do charities think about grant makers and grant applications?

What do charities think about grant makers and grant applications?

In 2012 we've produced an in-depth research into the relationship between a charity and a grant maker. We looked at the issue from both sides, surveying charities and interviewing grant makers. The time has come to update our knowledge on the matter and see what has changed.

This survey of charities took place in October and November 2017. We are pleased to release the results and hope you find it useful. Below are just a few highlights from the survey. The full summary and charts, including trend data charts, are attached below and are free to download.

  • Charities valued unrestricted funds twice as much as restricted funds for a £100k grant. 
  • The larger the grant and the smaller the organisation, the more that charities would trade the grant size down for unrestricted funding. 
  • Charities are trading down much more than they were in 2012. 
  • Charities want some restrictions in grant criteria and some flexibility from grant-makers. 
  • Better feedback and unrestricted funding are the two biggest gripes about grant-makers.
  • Charities don’t like being asked for information that is already on their charity regulator’s website.
  • Charities with fewer applications seem to get a higher success rate over those who ‘spray and pray’.
  • Success rates for applications are pretty equal by size of charity.
  • Garfield Weston and Big Lottery Fund come out very strongly as model grant-makers.
  • Charities would like shorter periods between applications, easier reporting, and to be able to submit multiple applications.


For more information about this research please contact joe.saxton@nfpsynergy.net or fiona.wallace@nfpsynergy.net

Submitted by Sharon Shortland (not verified) on 1 Mar 2018


I am a secretary of a 'typical' (if you can say that) grant making trust of which there are many.
I wonder just how many charities understand grant makers like us. The Garfield Weston's and Big Lotteries are a minority. They have huge funds and can afford staff.
We have just one meeting per year because we don't have enough income available to have more and give more grants.
We are all volunteers, giving our time and expertise freely.
In order to abide by good governance we need to monitor how the money is spent.
We would like to give unrestricted grants, but being small, with no staff, the only way we can ensure that our money is being spent correctly is for it to be ring fenced for projects. This enables us to monitor.
We are not perfect and try to engage with potential charities as much as possible. But they have a part to play. We ask for a short report at the end of the year in which they receive the funds. Some years we will only get two out of five reports.
It would be interesting to know how much people know about trusts such as ours and the thousands like us.

Hi Sharon
I am a trust fundraiser and have worked for very small charities. We could not survive without smaller trusts. I am amazed that you don't get 100% of reports from your recipients. I am always so grateful to get funding in the current climate that I would not dream of not returning a report. It would be good if all trusts would consider allowing 10% to 15% of each project grant for core costs. If everybody did that it would make smaller charities more sustainable. Kind Regards Fiona Kirton

Submitted by Ravi Vedi (not verified) on 2 Mar 2018


We are a small grassroots charity running a community centre in Merthyr Tydfil . Garfield Weston have been outstanding in their support for us, and has helped, along with the small income we generate ( quite a balancing act to charge but still enable low income community members to keep using our services) but it is still a huge struggle. It would be helpful if more of the larger trusts would core fund - this would help us to leverage funding for specific projects - core funders would see a significant return for their contribution / investment. The flexible Garfield Weston funding has enabled us to apply for a community development project & Lloyd’s Foundation funding that we would have been unable to access previously & enabled us to plan for the longer term too .

Submitted by Matt (not verified) on 23 Mar 2018


As a grant fundraiser (and one who contributed to this survey), this survey and it's conclusion do not come close to representing my opinions of grant funders.

It is the job of a good fundraiser to plan, research and adapt to match the processes and restrictions of funders - not to complain about it.

I would be very interested to see the raw data for the analysis and the methodology for how the conclusions have been drawn.

Sharon, I can assure you that fundraisers DO understand the pressures you are under, and they do understand the reason for restrictions on funding. And they are genuinely grateful for the support small trusts and foundations offer - regardless of the conclusions drawn by this report.

I must admit Matt I am perplexed by your comment. No where do we say fundraisers don't understand the pressures of grant-makers, and nowhere do we say they are ungrateful. Would fundraisers like the systems that some grant-makers run to be better. Absolutely. But its worth remembering that charities are the beneficiaries of grant-makers, they are the people that grant-makers exist to help. So the idea that charities shouldn't say a word when they think they can save time and costs, and run things more effectively makes no sense to me. Our presentation concludes by saying charities want:
• Quick decisions
• Simple application forms
• Clear criteria with some flexibility
• Unrestricted income
• Real people to talk to
• Feedback when they get refused
• And reporting mechanisms proportionate to the grant size and complexity

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