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One key to winning a grant is to be aware of patterns among potential grant makers. This post highlights several recent and current patterns in grant making in the United States as a whole.


What Fund Now 2012 Graphics


The Foundation Center conducts periodic surveys of samples of the nation’s foundations and publishes summaries of its findings online. Among other topics of potential interest to grant seekers, the surveys of various categories of grant-making foundations look at types of support, types of beneficiaries, and types of program focus areas.


Types of Support


As a percentage of their total funding, foundations continue to favor requests for program support far more than other requests. Based on a sample of 1,490 larger foundations, surveyed in 2010, 50% of grants were for program support, another 20% were for general or operating support, and 18% were for capital support. Grant seekers should note that subgroups of foundations – such as family foundations or community foundations – do not necessarily share the same patterns of grant making as may prevail among all foundations.




Based on the same sample, again as percentages of total funding, the top beneficiary groups for all foundations are: economically disadvantaged (29%), children and youth (20%), women and girls (8%), and ethnic and racial minorities (7%). Again, grant-making tendencies within the subcategories of foundations differs from the overall patterns.


Program Focus Areas


Among the many possible program focus areas in grant making, health vies with education for pre-eminence. As percentages of total funding, based on all grants of $10,000 or more awarded by a sample of 982 larger independent foundations, surveyed in 2012, the top program focus areas are: health (25%), education (24%), human services (15%), and arts and culture (14%).


Consequently, when viewed on a nationwide basis, the most opportunities for securing a grant from a foundation in 2012 appear to lie with applicants that seek program support for delivering health or educational services for persons who are economically disadvantaged. As one might expect, the actual number of such opportunities varies significantly with an applicant’s specific geographic location and with the specific type of foundation it approaches for funding. Potential grant makers are far more numerous in the country’s most populous states, and family foundations are far more numerous than other types of foundations.

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