This research was based on interviews with 23 grantmakers. Some of the key findings were:

  • Applications are not increasing, despite expectations but those with “small and easily accessible funding streams” are getting more applications
  • Grant-making trusts are reluctant to replace public funding
  • Some grant-making trusts try to minimise risk by having higher demands on charities’ finance
  • Grant-makers think a great application is one which is tailored, based on a well communicated, strong idea, and with convincing finances and people.
  • Vast amounts of time spent on applications that stand little or no chance of success. Typically, the ratio would be 3 or 4 applications for every grant awarded. For some, its 1 in 10.
  • Grant-makers recognise that keeping application numbers manageable is desirable for them. Yet every application costs everybody time and money.
  • Some grant-makers have improved their success rate for applications. “Spending more time on fewer applications makes sense.”
  • While 99% of charities want to wait no more than three months, not many grant-making trusts are able to achieve this, sometimes linked to how often trustees meet. Some grant-makers have worked hard to reduce waiting times.
  • Good working relationships and openness to contact can help the grant-making process i.e. reducing ineligible applications. Yet quite a few grantmakers do not have the time and resources for it because they receive high numbers of applications.
  • Grant-makers want honesty (i.e. early notice of problems) which can irk charities who adapt their reports to the grant-maker. It is important is for grant-makers to ask themselves what they can do to encourage an honest working relationship
  • Most fundamental point for grant-makers is their power over charities – the ability to make or break a charity.
  • Grant-makers can do more than just grant but don’t often do this.
  • While charities value feedback, many grant-makers don’t, believing it to be a burden even though those who do say it is time well spent. Those who do report that not giving feedback at all is more likely to provoke an applicant than giving it.
  • Most grant-makers are reactive / responsive while some are more proactive.
  • Many grant-making trusts reluctant to provide funding for core costs, seeing such restrictions as “the very stuff of grant-making. “Grant-makers who cannot lay down restrictions lose their ability to set up goals, measure them and effect change”
  • Multi-year grants can reduce the time grant-makers spend evaluating applications
  • The vast majority of grant-makers fund revenue, not capital.
  • Charities think grant-makers want to fund innovative new projects while at the same time not wanting the risk of failure that comes with them. So they dress up existing work as new and exciting.
  • In most grant-making trusts, trustees are intimately involved in making decisions on individual applications.
  • Evaluation reports may be ignored, come too late or be less important than the ongoing relationship.

Source: Inside the mind of a grant-maker: Useful stuff on how grant-making works | nfpSynergy