The Maryland Governor's Grants Office recently conducted a constituent survey about grants-seeking and grants-management activity. 289 people responded to the survey. 36.6% were from non-profit organizations, 22.8% local governments, 17.6% state agencies, 13.4% higher education, and 8.9% individuals responding for themselves.
The first question asked where everyone looks for new grant opportunities. 79.3% said they
look for federal grants at grants.gov, and 62.9% said they look for state grants via grants.maryland.gov. Both of these sites offer free email notification services of newly available grants. 31.1% said they look for private grants at their local Cooperating Collection, affiliated with the Foundation Center. 15.7% said they pay for an online subscription or service to help them locate grants. The paid subscriptions mentioned are: GrantsWire (Thompson Publishing), Foundation (Center) Directory online, GrantStation.gov, PIVOT, eCivis, Grant Forward (by Cazoodle), GrantWatch.com, Guidestar's Foundation Search, InfoEd SPIN database, The Grant Advisor (Higher Ed), Corporate Giving database at the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Corporate Philanthropy Report, and Grant Spy.
These are some additional free services (beyond grants.gov, grants.maryland.gov and Cooperating Collection databases) that respondents mentioned where they look for grant opportunities: individual grantor sites, Maryland Association of Nonprofits, county websites (and individual county grants contacts), community foundation websites, basic Foundation Center products like Foundation Finder, RFP Bulletin and Grantsmanship Center; Foundation/Grants Reference Desk, Philanthropic Capacity Building Resource (PCBR) database, Urban Institute, Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers, Daily Federal Register, GrantWrangler.com, Federal Funds Information for States (FFIS), Catalog of MD State Financial Assistance (Redbook online) and DC Funding Alert. Many folks also "network" to find grant opportunities, including using LinkedIn, and are on several funders' newsletter listservs at no charge.
In general, there was an unenthusiastic level of satisfaction expressed in locating grant opportunities, 2.3 on a scale of 1-4, with 1 being the highest level of satisfaction. Some said the most comprehensive grant databases often keep information that is out of date. Some expressed frustration with the grant seeking process in general - that although grants.gov and maryland.grants.gov have email notification services that work well, there just aren't enough grant opportunities that fit their needs, or that some required a match, were not multi-year, and/or did not allow operational and other non-programmatic costs (like hiring needed staff or Information Technology). Some expressed frustration in looking for grants for programs in rural areas, and several commented that they feel funders tend to "pre-select" organizations who will receive their grants. Still others said they feel their small organizations cannot compete with larger ones to win grants.
There were a few seemingly conflicting responses, with one respondent saying "I feel like I'm missing some opportunities because I haven't figured out all the places to look" while another seasoned grant-seeker commented on the ease of searching for grants online compared to the old days before the Internet. We agree with one respondent who commented that "nothing takes the place of interpersonal communications with our federal, state, and foundation funding sources."
Our last question asked how grantees typically manage grants that they've won. "Do you use staff, volunteers, or hire a consultant? Do you purchase any software or online management tools?"
Interestingly, most of our respondents said they manage their grants with existing staff. And some had very few staff who they said take on several roles relating to the management of a grant. Logically, with a larger staff, organizations tend to use a team approach to carve up grant oversight with project and program managers, often using financial staff to do the reporting. Several said they use volunteers, including Board Members, and a few said they hire consultants to help manage grants, even if part time.
There was a great mix of what is used, technologically-speaking, to manage grants. Many responded that they use software programs they either have on-hand, like Excel and Access or other Microsoft products, Sharepoint or "off the shelf" project management programs; some said they specifically pay for grants management tools, some of which can be found online. Some grants managements tools named include: QuickBooks, The Raiser's Edge, IntelliGrants, Basecamp, FileMaker Pro, Advantage Industries, AmpliFund, SunGard Banner, FMIS, Grant Solutions.gov, Efforts To Outcomes, Advance, PeopleSoft project management, Pearl, Microsoft Project, and DonorPerfect. Still others hired companies to tailor a proprietary grants management system (K2Share and Advantage Industries were mentioned) like what is used by some agencies in Maryland State government (Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention and Maryland Emergency Management Agency).
Some respondents said they are in the process of looking for a grants management tool or switching to one that will better fits their needs.
We liked one respondent's comment summing up the lifecycle of a grant: "It takes a village....to manage a grant."
Thank you, again, to all who responded to this survey. We hope your answers will help our other constituents who are either in need of making some changes in their grant-seeking and/or grants- management efforts, or just looking for reassurance that what they are doing is within the mainstream of their peers.