Where Do Your Grants Come From?
When working with executive directors of small nonprofits one question they frequently ask me is “How much time should my development officer spend on grant seeking?” There are many ways to answer this question and I often begin with this simple approach, using national research provided by Giving USA. The research for 2008 (the most recent figures available) revealed the following for private sector giving: 13% comes from foundations, 5% comes from corporations, 7% from bequests and 75% from individuals. If the nonprofit relies primarily on private sector giving to support its operations, using these percentages for estimating staff time can be useful.
If private sector giving is the major source of funding for the nonprofit, I suggest it would be reasonable to allocate 20% of the development officer’s time to researching, writing and submitting grant proposals (since much corporate money comes from grants, too). This would allow 80% of staff time to developing the relationships needed to prospect, solicit and appreciate individual gifts, generally the most lucrative area for nonprofit contributions.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the development officer can spend every Monday on grant seeking and then work in the area of individual giving from Tuesday through Friday, although having since a defined schedule might be nice. Given the demands of grantors’ deadlines, staff could devote one entire week or more to grant seeking this month and no time next month. The key is to keep the balance over the course of the year so that the amount of time spent in an area reflects the reality of how your nonprofit receives money from the private sector.