“It’s a jungle out there.” – Randy Newman, songwriter
The past twelve months have been very challenging on the foundation grant front. If you work in a nonprofit, I hope that you budgeted your expected grant dollars conservatively! It has been harder to obtain grant funds recently in Massachusetts. Why? Note the following trends.
- There are many more nonprofits competing for limited dollars.
Competition is increasing. More nonprofits are writing better proposals. Eastern Bank Foundation reports that they are seeing a 30% increase in proposals every year, while their charitable giving budget has remained the same. TJX Foundation is funding less than 30% of all Massachusetts proposals submitted, as they are shifting charitable dollars out of state to follow their geographic footprint.
- The lingering effects of the economic downturn of 2009.
Some of the largest funders in Massachusetts are still closed to new applicants, since the economic downturn (e.g. Yawkey Foundations). Foundation giving lags behind the current economy, since giving totals depend on stock market returns on their assets, over a three-year rolling average. The bad economic years of 2010-2011 were still impacting giving in 2012 and 2013.
- The Chronicle of Philanthropy (3/27/14) reports that grant makers still aren’t as rich as they were before the downturn, putting a damper on giving.
Among 66 of the nation’s largest foundations, assets last year were still 16.6% below the total amount reported in 2007. Other funders, like the Boston Foundation, changed their giving strategy to allow for multi-year gifts and general operating support, which has crowded out dollars for new grant initiatives and grantees.
There is a silver lining, however. The percentage of foundation giving out of overall charitable dollars has been rising the last several years. The stock market has improved, and foundation assets have grown, so this year should yield more grants.
Nonetheless, most charitable dollars come from individuals. If you are spending all your time in the office, writing grant proposals and running special events, it is time for a change. Get out of the office and get to know your donors better, to deepen your relationship between them and your organization. If you need help crafting a development plan for your new fiscal year to strike the most profitable balance of development activities, don’t hesitate to contact me.