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Using a template to apply for a grant is seldom smart. It rarely yields a grant. And when a funder does award a grant, as often as not its recipient sooner or later comes to regret its good fortune.

 

This post is the first in a series on the use of templates, clones, and boilerplate in grant writing.

 

‘Template’ Defined:

The Business Dictionary defines ‘template’ as: a ‘design, mold, or pattern of an item (or a group of items) that serves as a basis or guide for designing or constructing similar items.’ Similarly, in the context of grant seeking, templates may be defined as: ‘ready-made frameworks for generating grant applications to be submitted to a specific grant maker and/or a specific grant opportunity.’ Some grant seekers use them as a way to speed up the process and reduce the costs of preparing proposals from scratch. More often than not, they are a waste of time and money.

 

When used in competing for grants, proposal templates offer far more disadvantages than they offer advantages. Among such disadvantages are that they are generic, inauthentic, and unresponsive. At times, they are also explicitly prohibited in a grant maker’s instructions to applicants.

 

Generic Proposals:

Since their creators commonly furnish them for use by multiple applicants, proposal templates are generic by design. They are created to be shortcuts to funding. By their nature, they are one size fits all. The language used in templates rarely if ever reflects the particulars that set one applicant apart from others.

 

Reviewers often disdain the use of template proposals. They may tire of reading the many repetitions in phrasing and seeing the same errors or defects so frequent among them. And they may register their boredom and frustration by awarding lower scores or by recommending rejection, if not also by raising an alarm with the specific funder — or even with a constellation of potential funders.

 

Inauthentic Proposals:

If funded, a template-using applicant can reasonably expect a funder to hold it to whatever it has stated in its proposal — just as it would any other applicant selected for funding. If such a funded applicant is unaware of the narrative and budgetary details of what it has proposed, it may come to regret its proposal having been funded; however, often template proposals don’t get that far.

 

In some grant competitions, reviewers may discover the repeated use of the same template among multiple applicants. They may object to all such proposals because they are all similarly inauthentic. Since authenticity itself is seldom a selection criterion, reviewers may not be able to withhold points for its absence; instead, they may become disinclined to overlook or to minimize other flaws in such proposals. They may more actively look for reasons to deduct points. And they may red flag template proposals for panel monitors or grant program administrators.

 

Unresponsive Proposals:

Template proposals often fail to reflect a grant program’s purposes, priorities, and selection criteria. Frequently, they furnish mere generalities, rather than specifics. Their ultimate focus is often more on whatever is expedient and beneficial for the vendor or the consultant that furnishes them to multiple applicants than on anything else.

 

Inevitably, unresponsive proposals earn low review scores, rarely high enough to result in funding. On occasion, the first template proposal to be reviewed may win a grant, while those reviewed later in the same process only will incur their reviewers’ wrath. All such proposals will become part of an applicant’s record with the grant maker that received and reviewed them.

 

Transparency in Grant Making:

With the trend during the 2010s towards ever more transparency in grant making — in both public and private spheres — an applicant’s use of a template proposal may become far more a matter of public record than it ever imagined when it elected to submit one. The short-term expediency of using templates hardly seems worth the long-term risks.

 

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There may be some cause for optimism for nonprofits and other grant seekers in 2013. The reason why is that sustained trends in the numbers of grant-making private foundations should translate readily into increases in the numbers of grant opportunities available to grant seekers.

 

Growth in Numbers of Private Foundations:

Data from National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) indicate that, state-by-state, the numbers of private foundations increased substantially, but unevenly, during the period. The NCCS data discussed here are for 501(c)(3) non-operating private foundations only.

 

Analysis of the NCCS data reveals that:

  • In 27 states, growth rates were more than 50%
  • In 3 states, growth rates were more than 100%: Delaware, North Carolina, and Rhode Island
  • In 3 states, growth rates were less than 20%: Indiana, Iowa, and North Dakota; Washington, DC also had a growth rate of less than 20%
  • Growth rates ranged from 13.8% in Iowa to 247.4% in Delaware
  • The median growth rate was 51.8% (in both Nebraska and Maine)

 

Overall, the strongest rates of growth in the numbers of grant-making 501(c)(3) private foundations during the period, 1999-2009, were in the South and the Southwest.

 

Mid-Atlantic:

In the Mid-Atlantic States, growth in the numbers of grant-making 501(c)(3) private foundations ranged from 19.4% in Washington, DC to 247.4% in Delaware.

 

State

Rate

State

Rate

State

Rate

Delaware (DE)

247.4%

New Jersey (NJ)

67.7%

Pennsylvania (PA)

41.3%

District of Columbia (DC)

19.4%

New York (NY)

34.8%

West Virginia (WV)

57.7%

Maryland (MD)

54.8%

 

 

 

North Central:

In the North Central States, growth in the numbers of grant-making 501(c)(3) private foundations during 1999-2009 ranged from 17.9% in Indiana to 70.9% in Wisconsin.

 

State

Rate

State

Rate

State

Rate

Illinois (IL)

36.2%

Kentucky (KY)

44.8%

Ohio (OH)

39.7%

Indiana (IN)

17.9%

Michigan (MI)

45.6%

Wisconsin (WI)

70.9%

 

Great Plains:

In the Great Plains States, growth in the numbers of grant-making 501(c)(3) private foundations ranged from 13.8% in Iowa to 51.8% in Nebraska.

 

State

Rate

State

Rate

State

Rate

Iowa (IA)

13.8%

Missouri (MO)

30.2%

Oklahoma (OK)

45.4%

Kansas (KS)

34.3%

Nebraska (NE)

51.8%

South Dakota (SD)

30.2%

Minnesota (MN)

40.2%

North Dakota (ND)

14.3%

 

 

New England:

In the New England States, growth in the numbers of grant-making 501(c)(3) private foundations ranged from 29.4% in New Hampshire to 113.3% in Rhode Island.

 

State

Rate

State

Rate

State

Rate

Connecticut (CT)

49.6%

Massachusetts (MA)

31.4%

Rhode Island (RI)

113.3%

Maine (ME)

51.8%

New Hampshire (NH)

29.4%

Vermont (VT)

54.6%

 

South:

In the Southern States, growth in the numbers of grant-making 501(c)(3) private foundations ranged from 42.0% in Tennessee to 119.1% in North Carolina.

 

State

Rate

State

Rate

State

Rate

Alabama (AL)

 56.4%

Louisiana (LA)

60.0%

South Carolina (SC)

69.4%

Arkansas (AR)

52.9%

Mississippi (MS)

59.2%

Tennessee (TN)

42.0%

Florida (FL)

95.7%

North Carolina (NC)

119.1%

Virginia (VA)

58.2%

Georgia (GA)

69.9%

 

 

 

Northwest:

In the Northwestern States, growth in the numbers of grant-making 501(c)(3) private foundations ranged from 34.2% in Alaska to 57.0% in Washington.

 

State

Rate

State

Rate

State

Rate

Alaska (AK)

34.2%

Montana (MN)

47.7%

Washington (WA)

57.0%

Idaho (ID)

42.9%

Oregon (OR)

40.5%

Wyoming (WY)

46.1%

 

Southwest:

In the Southwestern States, growth in the numbers of grant-making 501(c)(3) private foundations ranged from 52.3% in Colorado to 93.1% in Arizona.

 

State

Rate

State

Rate

State

Rate

Arizona (AZ)

93.1%

Hawaii (HI)

53.4%

Texas (TX)

67.1%

California (CA)

67.2%

Nevada (NV)

75.1%

Utah (UT)

61.2%

Colorado (CO)

52.3%

New Mexico (NM)

60.9%

 

 

Patterns in foundation grant making form the background context of many nonprofit organizations’ grant-seeking efforts and are potentially of considerable interest to them as competitive grant seekers.

 

This post will explore recipients’ shares (stated as percentages) of the total number of foundation-awarded grants in terms of various types of applicants identified in the Foundation Center’s Foundation Giving Trends series. Later posts will explore other related trends in foundation grant making.

 

Shares of Total Numbers of Grants: The Losers

In exploring trends in foundation grant making during 2005-2009, among the Losers in terms of their shares of total numbers of foundation grants were:

  • Education – down from 19.9% to 19.5%
  • Arts and Culture – down from 14.3% to 13.4%
  • Public Affairs – down from 12.1% to 11.4%
  • International Affairs – down from 2.6% to 2.5%
  • Social Sciences – down from 1.0% to 0.8%

 

Within these trends, the biggest losers were Arts and Culture (down 0.9% of total awards), Public Affairs (down 0.7% of total awards), and Education (down 0.4% of total awards).

 

Naturally, the shares awarded to each type of applicant fluctuated considerably year-to-year, and selecting different start- and end-points will yield different results. For the two points selected here, only the trend-lines for Arts and Culture and for Social Sciences had a consistently flat or downward slope.

 

 

Share (as %) of

Total Number of Grants Awarded

Categories

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Arts and Culture

14.3%

14.3%

14.3%

13.9%

13.4%

Education

19.9%

20.3%

20.0%

19.5%

19.5%

Int’l Affairs, Development, Peace

2.6%

2.7%

2.4%

2.7%

2.5%

Public Affairs, Society Benefit

12.1%

12.0%

11.4%

11.2%

11.4%

Social Sciences

1.0%

0.9%

0.9%

0.9%

0.8%

 

Shares of Total Numbers of Grants: The Winners

In exploring trends in foundation grant making during 2005-2009, among the Winners in terms of their shares of total numbers of foundation grants were:

  • Health – up from 13.1% to 13.4%
  • Human Services – up from 26.0% to 27.3%
  • Environment and Animals – up from 6.3% to 6.8%
  • Religion – up from 3.1% to 3.3%
  • Science and Technology – flat at 1.6% to 1.6%
  • Other – flat at 0.1% to 0.1%

 

Within these trends, the biggest winners were Human Services (up 1.3% of total awards), Environment and Animals (up 0.5% of total awards), and Health (up 0.3% of total awards).

 

Once again, the shares awarded to each type of applicant fluctuated considerably year-to-year, and selecting different start- and end-points will yield different results. For the two points selected here, only the trend-line for Other had a consistently flat slope.

 

 

Share (as %) of Total Number of Grants Awarded

Categories

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Environment and Animals

6.3%

6.1%

6.6%

6.6%

6.8%

Health

13.1%

13.0%

13.1%

13.5%

13.4%

Human Services

26.0%

25.7%

26.0%

26.4%

27.3%

Religion

3.1%

3.2%

3.5%

3.5%

3.3%

Science and Technology

1.6%

1.7%

1.8%

1.7%

1.6%

Other

0.1%

0.1%

0.1%

0.1%

0.1%

 

Later posts will look at the most recently reported status of distributions of foundation grant awards across the recipient categories and compare them to the historical trends.

 

Patterns in foundation grant making form the background context of many nonprofit organizations’ grant-seeking efforts and are potentially of considerable interest to them as competitive grant seekers.

 

This post will explore shares of total annual foundation funding in terms of various types of applicants identified in the Foundation Center’s Foundation Giving Trends series. Later post will explore other related trends in foundation grant making.

 

Shares of Total Funding: The Losers

In exploring trends in foundation grant making during 2005-2009, among the Losers in terms of their total dollar shares of annual foundation funding were:

  • Education – down from 24.0% to 23.3%
  • Human Services – down from 14.8% to 13.1%
  • Arts and Culture – down from 12.5% to 10.5%
  • Science and Technology – down from 3.1% to 2.6%
  • Religion – down from 2.5% to 2.0%
  • Social Sciences – down from 1.2% to 0.9%

 

Within these trends, the biggest losers were Arts and Culture (down 2.0% of the total), Human Services (down 1.7% of the total), and Education (down 0.7% of the total).

 

Naturally, the shares each type of applicant fluctuated considerably year-to-year, and selecting different start- and end-points will yield different results. For the two points selected here, only the trend-line for Science and Technology followed a consistently downward slope.

 

  Shares of Total Foundation Funding

(% of Total Dollars)

Categories

2005

2006 2007 2008

2009

Arts and Culture

12.5%

12.2% 10.6% 12.5%

10.5%

Education

24.0%

22.5% 22.8% 21.8%

23.3%

Human Services

14.8%

13.8% 14.9% 12.5%

13.1%

Religion

2.5%

2.2% 2.1% 2.2%

2.0%

Science and Technology

3.1%

2.9% 2.9% 2.6%

2.6%

Social Sciences

1.2%

1.4% 1.4% 1.2%

0.9%

Shares of Total Funding: The Winners

In exploring trends in foundation grant making during 2005-2009, among the Winners in terms of their total dollar shares of annual foundation funding were:

  • Health – up from 20.8% to 22.6%
  • Public Affairs – up from 11.2% to 11.8%
  • Environment and Animals – up from 6.3% to 7.4%
  • International Affairs – up from 3.6% to 5.5%
  • Other – flat at 0.1% to 0.1%

 

Within these trends, the biggest Winners were International Affairs (up 1.9% of the total) and Health (up 1.8% of the total). Once again, the trend lines would change if different start- and end-points were selected. For the points selected, none of the trend lines had a consistently upward slope.

 

Shares of Total Foundation Funding

(% of Total Dollars)

Categories

2005

2006 2007 2008

2009

Environment and Animals

6.3%

6.0% 6.8% 8.6%

7.4%

Health

20.8%

23.0% 22.7% 22.9%

22.6%

Int’l Affairs, Development, Peace

3.6%

5.3% 4.5% 5.7%

5.5%

Public Affairs, Society Benefit

11.2%

10.7% 10.9% 10.0%

11.8%

Other

0.1%

0.1% 0.4% 0.1%

0.1%

 

Later posts will look at shares of total numbers of grants awarded in terms of the same varied types of applicants during 2005-2009, and then at the most recently reported status of such distributions of foundation grant awards compared against the background historical trends.

It’s commonly held wisdom— particularly among fundraising generalists — that nonprofit organizations shouldn’t rely exclusively on grants for their operational and programmatic support. Grants should be only one element in a multiple-source mix.

 

This post explores nonprofits’ revenue development strategies and their varied mixes of funding sources. Later posts will explore their options for seeking grants from private sources.

 

Revenue Strategies:

Available statistics suggest that nonprofits — as a large population of organizations — apply this wisdom in practice. Generally, grants are in fact only one element in their funding mix — and often they form only a small part of that mix.

 

As the Congressional Research Service (CRS) noted in its Overview of the Nonprofit and Charitable Sector (2009) — “…It is important to note that nonprofit organizations that receive charitable contributions generally have other important sources of revenue, such as user fees, earnings from assets, or government support….” In its Overview, the CRS found that, as of 2005:

 

  • Government grants and payments were much more important for health organizations (37%) and for human services organizations (36%) than for other types of organizations.
  • Private donations formed the largest source of funding for arts, culture, and humanities organizations (43%) as well as for environment and animals (48%) organizations. They were also significant in human services organizations (16%).
  • Private payments (fees for service) were most important for education (56%) and healthcare (56%) organizations, but also significant for human services organizations (41%), arts, culture, and humanities organizations (29%), and for environment and animals organizations (24%).
  • Investment income was far more important for education organizations (17%) and arts, culture, and humanities organizations (9%) than for others (range: 3% to 7%).
  • Other sources of revenue (e.g., special events) were most important for environment and animals organizations (9%) and for arts, culture, and humanities (7%) organizations.

 

In its Overview, the CRS reported that government grants were least important for health organizations and most important for human services and international organizations. The grants reflected the nature of the specific organizations, and were less important as a revenue source for those organizations — such as hospitals — that relied heavily upon government fees (e.g., Medicare and Medicaid). Grant support was more important in areas where the government had a special interest — such as the human services and international sectors — than in others.

 

Government Grants as Revenue:

Government funding to charitable organizations has three origins. It may come: (1) directly from the Federal government, (2) from state and local governments that have received the funding from the Federal government (rather than raised the revenue themselves), or (3) directly from state and local governments.

 

Among the findings of one CRS-cited study were that only 9% of grants originated with state and local governments; 61% were financed by the Federal government but flowed through to nonprofit organizations via state and local programs; and the remaining 30% were provided directly via the Federal government. While the Federal government appeared to be the primary source of funds through grant making, state and local governments were the primary sources of oversight.

 

This distribution of grant origins implies that what happens to future Federal discretionary spending will impact greatly — even disproportionately — those organizations that rely more heavily on grants in their funding strategy mix – particularly those human services organizations that depend upon Federal-origin grants and Federal-origin fees.

Future reductions in levels of Federal funding in 2013 and in later years are likely to impact many grant seekers’ funding priorities, plans, and strategies for winning government grants.

 

The Congressional Research Service, which provides technical analysis and support to members of the United States Congress, describes the impacts of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA or the Act) in its eponymously titled report (2011).

 

This post explores the Act’s impacts on the future of Federal domestic discretionary spending, which is that part of the Federal budget that funds many competitively awarded Federal grant programs. Later posts will explore other related trends and legislation and their consequences for grant seekers.

 

Discretionary Spending Trends:

The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) sets in statute specific discretionary spending caps on new budget authority between fiscal year (FY) 2012 and FY2021. Under the Act’s caps, discretionary spending is projected to decline from 9.0% of gross domestic product (GDP) in FY2011 to 6.2% of GDP in FY2021. Since the first year for which such data are available, FY1962, discretionary spending has only been that low in one other year, which was FY1999.

 

In contrast to past trends and future projections, between FY2000 and FY2009, discretionary spending rose by 8.0% per year, on average, and rose by 8.9% in FY2010. The increases since FY2000 were attributable primarily to a rise in defense spending throughout the 2000s, and an increase in spending as a result of domestic economic stimulus programs since 2009.

 

Impacts of Caps on Discretionary Spending:

Growth in nominal spending levels may understate the effects of BCA discretionary spending caps. One reason is that the population of the United States is projected to rise to 322,742,000 by the year 2020. Consequently, the BCA caps will lead to lower discretionary spending per capita than nominal growth rates would indicate for such functional categories as education, training, housing assistance, and health.

 

Decisions on discretionary spending levels are made annually through the Federal appropriations process and it is impossible to know what spending levels the Congress will enact from one future year to the next. Consequently, it remains unknown how the discretionary spending caps will impact any specific program.

 

Discretionary spending under the Act’s caps is projected to decline from 9% of GDP in FY2011 to 6.2% of GDP in FY2021. This decline would reverse the growth in discretionary spending during the 2000s, returning it to the historically low levels of the late 1990s. The BCA makes relatively small cuts to Federal outlays in FY2012; however, discretionary spending cuts will rise every fiscal year thereafter so that the reduction in outlays would be nearly five times larger in nominal terms in FY2021, relative to FY2012.

 

Under the Act, in FY2013, an automatic spending reduction will occur through an across-the-board sequestering of previously authorized budgetary resources. After FY2013, the automatic Federal spending reduction will occur through a sequestering for mandatory spending and through reductions in the overall discretionary caps — rather than by automatic spending cuts — for discretionary spending. The table below summarizes the future reductions in spending.

 

Automatic Spending Reductions in Federal Non-Defense Discretionary Spending:FY2013-FY2021
Fiscal Year 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Amount $39B $38B $37B $36B $36B $36B $34B $33B $33B
Percentage 7.8% 7.4% 7.1% 6.8% 6.6% 6.4% 6.1% 5.8% 5.5%

 

Perhaps of particular interest to seekers of Federal grants — any cuts to Federal discretionary programs as a result of the Act’s automatic spending reduction process will occur in addition to the cuts resulting from its discretionary caps.

 

Related Articles:

Efficient Gov.Com — Sequestration: Local Governments Brace for Cuts, Broader Implications

The future of Federal funding in 2013 and later years is of considerable interest to many grant seekers and the grant writers who work with them and for them. Perhaps of particular interest are the grant programs whose annual appropriations fall under the category of non-defense domestic discretionary spending.

 

The Congressional Research Service, which provides technical analysis and support to members of the United States Congress, describes the history of Federal outlays for discretionary and mandatory programs in its report titled “Trends in Discretionary Spending” (2010).

 

This post explores historical trends in Federal budget composition and in domestic discretionary spending as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP). Later posts will explore other related trends and recent legislation impacting the future of Federal grant making.

 

Trends in Federal Budget Composition:

The composition of the Federal budget has changed enormously since the early 1960s. Over the past five decades, the share of total discretionary spending in the Federal budget has fallen, the share of mandatory spending has risen, and net interest has held relatively steady.

 

In 1962, out of total Federal outlays, discretionary spending comprised 67.5%, mandatory spending made up 26.1%, and net interest accounted for 6.5%. By contrast, in 2010, out of total Federal outlays, discretionary spending accounted for 37.8%, mandatory spending comprised 56.1%, and net interest made up 6.1%.

 

Fiscal Year Discretionary Mandatory Net Interest Total
FY1962 67.5% 26.1% 6.5% 100%
FY2010 37.8% 56.1% 6.1% 100%

 

Discretionary spending, as a proportion of Federal outlays, peaked in 1963 then fell for three decades from the late 1960s through the late 1990s. By 2000, it had fallen to 34.4% of total outlays, although it ended the decade at 37.8% in 2010. In contrast to the longer term trends, between 2000 and 2010, discretionary spending grew more quickly than mandatory spending.

 

Future discretionary spending as a share of total Federal outlays is projected to decline. By fiscal year 2020, some projections anticipate that it will reach a new historical low of 29.3% of total Federal outlays.

 

Domestic Discretionary Spending and GDP:

Domestic discretionary spending supports the largest number of Federal agencies and programs that are likely to be sources of competitive grants — science and technology research, natural resources, energy, education, and numerous others. None of the individual programs within the domestic discretionary category has approached 1% of gross domestic product (GDP) since 1962. Most such programs spent less than 0.5% of GDP during that period.

 

As a share of GDP, Federal non-defense domestic discretionary spending has had its ups and downs. It was 3.2% of GDP in 1969, hit a peak of 4.8% of GDP in 1978, fell to 3.1% of GDP in 1987 then fluctuated between 3.0% and 3.6% of GDP. In 2009, it rose to 4.1% of GDP – growth attributable largely to new economic stimulus spending and a decade of increases in defense spending from 2000 through 2009.

Community foundations are one of four primary types of foundation, the others being independent, corporate, and operating. Concentrated in ten states, they account for about 1% of all foundations and for about 9% of total annual foundation giving. In recent years, the ratio of community foundations that have expected to increase their giving in a subsequent calendar year has varied from 17% to 64%, while the rest have expected either no change in giving or a decrease.

 

This post uses Foundation Center data, published in its annual “Key Facts on Community Foundations” series, to explore philanthropic trends among community foundations. Its context is the United States of America during the period 2006-10.

 

Numbers of Community Foundations:

From 2006 to 2010, the total number of foundations increased by 4,133 (or 5.7%) from 72,477 to 76,610. Over the same period, the total number of community foundations increased by 17 (or 2.4%) from 717 to 734. Their share of all foundations remained under 1% throughout the period.

 

Year Community Foundations All Foundations
Number Percent (%) of Total Number Total Number
2006 717 Less than 1% 72,477
2007 717 Less than 1% 75,187
2008 709 Less than 1% 75,595
2009 737 Less than 1% 76,545
2010 734 Less than 1% 76,610

 

In 2006, eight states had 20 or more community foundations: California (CA), Florida (FL), Indiana (IN), Michigan (MI), Ohio (OH), Pennsylvania (PA), Texas (TX), and Wisconsin (WI). Iowa (IA) in 2007 became the 9th state on this list, and New York (NY) became the 10th state on it in 2008. Washington State (WA) became the 11th state on the list in 2009, but it left the same list in 2010.

 

Share of Total Foundation Giving:

Each year during 2006 to 2010, community foundation giving, as a share of total foundation giving, remained at between 9% and 10%. After rising from 9% in 2006 to 10% in both 2007 and 2008, it fell back to 9.1% in 2009 and moved to 9.2% in 2010.

 

Annual Giving by Foundation Type:

During 2006-10, annual giving by community foundations increased from $3.6 billion to $4.2 billion (and has been estimated at $4.2 billion again for 2011). Total foundation giving increased from $39 billion to $45.9 billion over the same five-year period.

 

Annual Giving by Type of Foundation
Year Independent Community Operating Corporate Total
2006 $27.5 billion $3.6 billion $3.9 billion $4.1 billion $39.0 billion
2007 $32.2 billion $4.3 billion $3.4 billion $4.4 billion $44.4 billion
2008 $33.8 billion $4.5 billion $3.9 billion $4.6 billion $46.8 billion
2009 $32.8 billion $4.2 billion $4.2 billion $4.7 billion $45.8 billion
2010 $32.5 billion $4.2 billion $4.3 billion $4.7 billion $45.9 billion

 

Forecast Changes in Community Foundation Giving:

During survey years 2007 through 2011 — with the big exception of 2008 — two fifths of more of all community foundations expected to increase their giving during the following calendar year (i.e., in 2008 through 2012). The balance of the community foundations in each survey year expected either to see no change in giving or to see a decrease.

 

Year of Forecast % Forecast Increase %  Forecast Decrease % Forecast No Change
2007 64% 25% 11%
2008 17% 74% 9%
2009 41% 42% 17%
2010 50% 34% 16%
2011 45% 35% 15%

 

A later post will explore the significance for grant seekers of the five-year philanthropic trends among corporate, community, and family foundations.

The future of Federal discretionary spending is of considerable interest to many grant seekers, as well as to those who write grant proposals on their behalf. Many organizations rely upon it for their continued existence. In addition, many grant writers depend upon it for all or part of their incomes.

 

This post examines the present Federal budget for discretionary grant programs. Funding levels for such programs are determined annually through appropriations by Acts of Congress. As the Congressional Research Service (CRS) explains, “Congress can change, continue, or reverse trends in discretionary spending directly through annual appropriations decisions, or indirectly by modifying certain federal budget procedures, such as reinstating statutory limits on discretionary spending.”

 

Program Areas:

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) organizes Federal grant making into nine program areas:

  1. Natural Resources and Environment Programs
  2. Agriculture Programs
  3. Commerce and Housing Credit Programs
  4. Transportation Programs
  5. Community and Regional Development Programs
  6. Education, Training, Employment, and Social Service Programs
  7. Health Related Programs
  8. Income Security Programs
  9. Justice Programs

 

Of these program areas, “Education, Training, Employment, and Social Service Programs” alone is slated to absorb 68% of the Federal reduction in discretionary spending.

 

Federal Discretionary Grants:

Total Federal grant outlays are the sum of mandatory programs and discretionary programs. The OMB reports that in 2012, total Federal grants are expected to be $584.278 billion (estimated), of which total mandatory grants are expected to be $424.925 billion (estimated). Total discretionary grants are expected to be $159.35 billion (estimated) or 27.27% of total grant outlays. The OMB reports that outlays for all discretionary grant programs had been $207.7 billion (actual) in 2010; thus a reduction of -23.25% is estimated for 2012 versus 2010. By contrast, outlays for all mandatory grant programs are expected to be $424.9 billion (estimated) in 2012, or to be increased by +6.04% over the $407.7 billion (actual) of 2010.

 

Trends by Grant Recipients:

The OMB sorts total Federal grant outlays by types of recipients. Two types – “physical plant grants” and “other grants” – are where most grant writers expend their time and effort. Out of the totals – which include both mandatory and discretionary – the OMB indicates that:

  • Payments for individuals are to go from 63.2% (2010)(actual) to 66.0% (2012)(estimated) – or to rise by +2.8% of the total
  • Physical capital grants are to go from 15.3% (2010)(actual) to 17.3% (2012)(estimated) – or to rise by +2.0% of the total
  • Other grants are to go from 21.5% (2010)(actual) to 16.8% (2012)(estimated) – or to fall by -4.7% of the total

 

Similar discussions organized by the two categories of discretionary and mandatory probably exist, but were not readily located.

 

Future Funding Trajectory:

One more indication of the future direction of Federal grant making is this: The OMB reports that total grants are to be reduced from 17.6% of total Federal outlays in 2010 to 15.7% in 2012. That is, they are to decrease to the lowest level as a percentage of total Federal outlays since 1995 when they were 14.8%.

The future of competitive grant making, in both public and private spheres, is of considerable interest to grant seekers and to those who work with and for them.

This post explores three more administrative and political trends impacting the future of public grant making, particularly at the Federal level. Its purpose is descriptive, not normative. Arguably, although the trends’ context is American, their scope and consequences are potentially global.

 

Performance Results:

The Government Performance Results Act (GPRA) of 1993 and its sequel the GPRA Modernization Act (GPRAMA) of 2010 focus on improving the accountability of Federal agencies for the programs they administer. Both statutes provide for performance review of discretionary grant programs among many other activities. The GPRAMA attempts to streamline the former GPRA review process and to make the reports it generates more useful to Federal administrators and to legislators. One of its purposes is to provide key decision makers with more timely information, more often (quarterly), about the status of various grant programs and their progress in contributing to achieving measurable agency goals. Executive officers and legislators may use these performance reports to justify their subsequent recommendations, decisions, and votes about continuing to enact appropriations for such programs.

 

Fiscal Austerity:

During an era of record annual Federal budget deficits and record cumulative public debt, fiscal prudence and responsible governance seem to compel ever closer and ever more skeptical scrutiny of every budget line item and expenditure. In the same way and at the same as the Federal government redesigns itself for the 21st century, so will the Nation’s various states and territories. But where heretofore one or perhaps several Federal agencies may have administered a given grant program, in the near future each of the Nation’s 50-plus states and territories can expect to do so – as the administration of ever more of the remaining Federal grant programs is shifted to them – in another enduring and accelerating trend impacting the future of public grant making.

 

Program Redundancies:

Among the Federal budget watchwords of the present era are: reduction, consolidation, reorganization, elimination, termination, streamlining, and overhaul. The grand plan is to reduce or minimize duplication, fragmentation, and waste of Federal funds and at the same time to increase or maximize “effectiveness, cost-efficiency, or service delivery.”

 

One underlying premise driving this trend is that it is wasteful of public funds:

  1. if two or more grant programs focus on the same problem or issue area, or
  2. if two or more Federal agencies administer similar programs

 

Thus, in the sphere of Education alone, for fiscal year (FY) 2013, the Executive Office has slated 38 distinct US Department of Education grant programs to become 11 programs; and 33 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education grant programs are slated to be ended entirely in FY 2013, after 11 of them were ended in FY 2012.

 

Other Federal agencies and grant programs are just as susceptible to the same imperatives: thus, in FY 2013, 55 Surface Transportation grant programs are slated to become five programs; and 16 US Department of Homeland Security grant programs are slated to become one program.

 

A later post will map and explore perils to the future of private grant making. Its topography of trends likely will include: asset attrition, social entrepreneurship, social media, grants as investments, and product-driven support.

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