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For Grantseeking, a Nonprofit's Age Matters — but It Isn't Everything

illustration of different types of trees (representing nonprofits) with leaves that have the $ symbol on themI'll confess — I am much closer to age 60 than I am to age 50, and my knees remind me of this daily. Our human infrastructure wears out as we grow older. For nonprofit organizations, it is usually the opposite — their strength and infrastructure increase in health as they grow older.

Younger Organizations Face More Challenges in Grantseeking

Younger organizations tend to find grantseeking much more challenging than do older organizations. This isn't because younger organizations are less worthy, less committed to their mission, or less able.

It's because they have smaller budgets. Those smaller budgets translate to smaller staff sizes or heavier reliance on volunteers for all facets of program management, which result in less consistency in grantseeking.

Be Consistent and Bold in Your Grantseeking

Ralph Waldo Emerson gave consistency a bad rap when he said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." Successful grantseekers adore consistency, at least when it comes to developing a grant strategy, maintaining a grantseeking calendar, and gathering and polishing the basic documents for grant writing.

Now, we at GrantStation do suggest that you take a bold approach to your grantseeking. In fact, our founder and CEO, Cynthia Adams, has a free recorded webinar on how grantseeking has changed over the past several years [Note: no longer available]. She states that funders are looking for those organizations that demonstrate intentional movement toward substantial and sustainable change. But — and this is important — we also espouse consistency in creating a grantseeking infrastructure.

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Older Organizations Seek and Get More Grants

So, what does this consistent but bold grant management strategy have to do with age? I'm glad you asked! Here are some interesting data points from our most recent State of Grantseeking™ Report:

  Median Annual Budget Over 25 Staff Members Applied for Grants Received an Award
Very Young 0 – 5 years $146,500 6% 68% 60%
Young 6 – 10 years $247,000 12% 80% 73%
Younger Middle Age 11 – 25 years $470,800 14% 82% 80%
Older Middle Age 26 – 50 years $1,600,000 38% 90% 90%
Mature 51 – 100 years $4,092,900 63% 86% 88%
Very Mature Over 100 years $12,000,000 78% 92% 90%


As you can see, grantseeking activity increases after an organization's fifth birthday, and grantseeking success increases for organizations 26 years of age or older. This increase in success coincides with increases in staff members who can dedicate themselves to the process and have an annual budget sufficient to support them.

Here's another metric, which I think may prove useful to the grantseekers for younger organizations. When the source of the largest individual award is viewed through the lens of organizational age, variations in funding rates become apparent. Private foundations were the most frequent funder reported by organizations of any age.

Younger Organizations Get Grants from Community Foundations, Corporations, and "Other" Sources

But younger organizations shouldn't despair. Community foundations, corporations, and other grant sources tended to fund younger organizations. Those other grant sources include religious organizations, the United Way, donor advised funds, civic organizations, and tribal funds. So, for example, your local Moose, Elks, or Lions clubs may be more willing to invest locally in your younger organization.

Largest Award Median Largest Award Very Young Young Younger Middle Age Older Middle Age Mature Very Mature
Private Foundation Grants $30,000 37% 50% 43% 33% 41% 33%
Community Foundation Grants $25,000 18% 12% 9% 10% 7% 8%
Corporate Grants $20,000 18% 11% 11% 10% 12% 9%
Federal Grants $250,000 4% 9% 12% 19% 21% 28%
State Grants $109,625 8% 10% 10% 14% 9% 18%
Local Government Grants $50,000 5% 4% 8% 10% 5% 4%
Other Grant Sources $25,000 11% 3% 7% 4% 5% 1%

Get and Give More Information About Grantseeking

If you are interested in more benchmarks, GrantStation offers free State of Grantseeking Reports here.

Learn More About Finding Grant Funding with These Great Webinars

Learn how to get started with grantseeking and make your grant requests sparkle. This free 90-minute webinar for TechSoup's audience (normally $89!) will help you prepare the basic documents needed to write compelling letters of inquiry and grant proposals. Make your grant proposals sparkle.

Learn how to build a winning grants strategy. In this free webinar (normally $69), GrantStation CEO Cynthia Adams will lead you through creating a grants calendar for the next 12 to 18 months. Build a winning grants strategy.

Get a free tour of the GrantStation website. This tour will provide tips on the most effective way to use all of the valuable resources the website offers, including extensive funder databases that can help you identify the grantmakers most likely to fund your programs or projects. Learn how to leverage GrantStation. 

Learn how to be bold when conducting your funding research. Grantseeking has changed over the past several years. Funders are looking for those organizations that demonstrate intentional movement toward substantial and sustainable change. "It is time for grantseekers to be bold in their requests," says GrantStation's CEO and founder Cynthia Adams. Hone your research approach.