Large organisations are winning small grants as well as big ones, pressure is building on local government grants budgets, and a huge amount of effort is being wasted on grant applications that are started and never finished.
They're just three of the findings from the latest Grants in Australia report (see bottom), part of a decade-long research project produced by Our Community's Innovation Lab that charts the field of grantmaking from the not-for-profit sector's perspective.
Picture: Yelloader, Peter Rosjberg via Flickr
More than 1200 individuals, all of whom were involved in applying for or receiving a grant in the previous 12 months, took part in the 2017 survey. Findings included:
Analysis of this year's results, as well as comparison with previous years' results, has produced a wealth of lessons for grantmakers and grantseekers. Both groups can download a tailored action list designed to translate survey insights into real-world actions.
Not-for-profits can also compare their grantseeking habits against their peers via a benchmarking tool that's also being released today.
"We try to make sure the research we do is not just interesting, but useful," said Our Community executive director and "chaos controller" Kathy Richardson.
"Billions are distributed across Australia in grants each year by local councils, state and federal government agencies, philanthropic trusts, family foundations, community foundations and corporate foundations - a mass movement of money mainly to social causes.
"But good outcomes are not guaranteed. We want to play a part in ensuring that every precious grant dollar is used to produce the maximum benefit for Australian society. This study forms an important part of that aim."
The Grants in Australia study builds on a string of surveys conducted by Our Community since 2006. This year's data analysis was overseen by Our Community's data scientist Joost van der Linden, with subject matter expertise contributed by Our Community's Funding Centre, Australian Institute of Grants Management and SmartyGrants staff.
Leading grantmaker Jon King from the Community Broadcasting Foundation previewed the study, and was shocked to learn that 38% of grantseekers failed to meet grant deadlines. "What a waste of time. This is time you could have used for your cause, or to cold-call potential sponsors," he said.
The full report, as well as the benchmarking tool and actions lists for grantmakers and grantseekers, are available at www.ourcommunity.com.au/grants2017.
Four local councils around Australia have been working with SmartyGrants to open up their data. Learn more about the open data pilot project.
Thinker in Residence Chris Borthwick considers the possibilities for artificial intelligence in grantmaking, and suggests that big data has changed the game.
One of the best things funders can do to help grant recipients, and themselves, is to buy better software to help them better monitor outcomes.
Prove it. That's the challenge that runs through every grant program. It's a tough business, but community foundations - 36 locally based philanthropic groups distributing $21 million in grants each year in Australia - have shown us all a way forward.