Drowning in Paperwork, Distracted from Purpose: Challenges and Opportunities in Grant Application and Reporting

It is no exaggeration to say that the current system of application and reporting has grantseekers and grantmakers alike drowning in paperwork and distracted from purpose. Indeed, that is the clear finding in the detailed scan of grant application and reporting practices in U.S. foundations today. Such practices may be only a small part of the bigger picture of grantmaking effectiveness, but they threaten to undermine other grantmaking effectiveness efforts by creating barriers to nonprofit success.

This study explores ten ways that the current system of grant application and reporting creates significant burdens on the time, energy, and ultimate effectiveness of nonprofit practitioners.

The report also profiles the strategies of funders who have succeeded in fundamentally changing their application and reporting practices so that they work well for grantees and grantmakers alike. Three main categories of creative practice were identified in the research. In each case, grantmakers, whether collectively or individually, have looked for new ways to divide up the responsibilities associated with information gathering, and have, in many cases, assumed more of the administrative burden themselves.