Charities submitted more than a third of a million applications in the past year for grants for which they were not eligible, research by the Directory of Social Change has found.
More than 361,000 grant applications, out of a pool of almost a million, did not meet the criteria of the UK grantmakers concerned, the DSC reported.
The report was based on research into 2,500 charitable funders, which were asked how many applications they received, how many were ineligible and how many grants they made during the 2009/10 financial year. Of the eligible applications, 317,000 were successful and 306,000 were unsuccessful.
Ben Wittenberg, director of policy and research at the DSC, said the ineligible applications were a colossal waste of time. "The amount of work to send, process and respond to these applications is considerable, and charities should be working hard to cut down this waste," he said.
The data raised questions for both foundations and fundraisers, said Wittenberg.
"Many of these applications result from fundraisers mail-merging an application and sending it off to many funders," he said. "But more worrying is when they result from foundations not offering clear guidance on their websites.
"A lot of foundations put out very poor guidance. They aren't clear about what they want to fund and how their application process works, leaving it up to the prospective applicant to guess.
"If funders are getting a lot of ineligible applications, they should look hard at their own processes."
But he said the data was less discouraging than he had feared. "When we carried out a survey of applications for Government funding two years ago, 52 per cent were ineligible," he said.