This is a commonly asked question with no single or simple answer. Many factors, like the foundation's priorities, the nonprofit's capacity, the project's quality, and the proposal itself, among other things, influence a grantmaker's decision to accept a proposal. What is true is that most foundations receive more proposals than they can fund. This is especially true for well-known foundations.
One source that gets close to answering this question is the Foundation Center's Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates, 2004 Preview (pp. 14-15). Based on responses from 878 grantmakers, in 2004:
- One-third received fewer than 50 proposals; 38 percent of them funded at least half of the proposals.
- 6 percent received more than 1,000 proposals each; 11 percent of them funded at least half of the proposals.
- Overall, 35 percent funded 50 percent or more of the grant requests they received.
- Corporate foundations receive a higher volume of proposals, compared to independent and community foundations.
- Foundations that reported giving of less than $1 million funded a larger share of their grant requests than foundations with giving of $10 million or more.
By far, the most frequent reasons that foundations reject proposals are:
- They don't have enough funds to accept every request.
- The request falls outside of the funder's giving interests.
- The applicant didn't follow application guidelines.
One simple piece of advice we often give is, "If you don't qualify, don't apply."
See also our related Knowledge Base articles:
- How do I find foundation grants for my nonprofit?
- Why do some foundations give only to pre-selected organizations? How can I approach them?
- How do I approach a foundation and build a successful grantee-funder relationship?
- Articles on proposal writing
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