Grant application system is 'broken', report warns

A survey carried out for The Good Exchange finds that many grant-makers and applicants feel existing procedures are too slow and outdated

The report
The report

The grant application system is "broken", according to a report published today.

A total of 100 grant-making organisations and 191 applicants were quizzed in January and February for Technology in the Charitable Sector, a survey commissioned by the not-for-profit cloud platform The Good Exchange.

The survey revealed that many grant-makers and applicants believed current procedures were too slow and outdated.

The average applicant fills in 33 forms in a year, with each one taking eight hours, researchers found. This equates to 264 hours applying for funding.

Fifty-nine per cent of applications are unsuccessful, which equates to 22 working days a year of wasted effort, the survey found.

The survey, which was carried out by the market researchers Vanson Bourne, found that grant-makers underestimated by two hours the time required to fill in their forms.

It also discovered a strong appetite for a single, stage-one initial application process, with 87 per cent of applicants and 56 per cent of grant-makers agreeing this was a good idea.

Only 57 per cent of grant-makers said their existing processes were working well. Ninety-five per cent said technology could improve matters.

Ed Gairdner, chief executive of The Good Exchange, said technology was the key to mending the "broken" application system.

But the fact that so few in the voluntary sector had embraced it despite believing it could be advantageous suggested it was "more risk-averse" than the commercial sector.

"The gap is widening," he said. "There is a resistance to change. Do we have to accept that the sector will always be five, 10 or 15 years behind the commercial world?

"There needs to be a drive towards embracing technology instead of a concern that it involves losing control."

Keiran Goddard, director of external affairs at the Association of Charitable Foundations, said the application process was too varied to be described as broken.

"The grant application process is not monolithic and its nature will significantly depend on the funder in question and the organisation or initiative that is being funded," he said.

"A multi-year, multinational, multimillion-pound grant will rightfully require more due diligence than a small grant of a few hundred pounds made to an individual, for example.

"That is not to say the application process isn’t a significant pain point for many grantees. It is – and foundations recognise that.

"There are valid questions about proportionality, duplication of effort and success ratios, especially in a context of increasing need across civil society."

Goddard said many foundations were reviewing their processes or entering collaborations that look at how technology can help to reduce the burden on grantees.

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