As you probably know, whatCharity is a platform for charities of all size and type to be found by companies and the public. It definitely should also be a place where grant maker and receiver charities can find each other.

Throughout the past 8 months of our existence we have learned that it is not only companies and the public but also grant makers that have difficulties finding local, smaller and emerging charities to fund. Furthermore, beneficiary charities are constantly struggling with their grant applications and finding relevant grants to fund their work. It seems that too much time and resources are used on applying for something that is unachievable and as a result, many charities focus too little on engaging with the public, another potential source of funds.


whatCharity grant survey

We at whatCharity feel that there needs to be a digital solution to make things between grant makers and receivers much more efficient and focused. In order to add this functionality onto our platform, we felt the need to find in more detail as to what exactly it is that charities need. 523 charities participated in our survey which is a fantastic result! Responses were received from all parts of the country and from charities of all sizes. All respondents also participated in a prize draw for a £300 M&S gift voucher for staff Christmas present and we are glad to announce that the winner is a micro charity called Wheely Tots. Congratulations! You can read more about the fantastic work they do HERE.

37% of all respondents have an active profile on, which gave us a further insight into charities not currently familiar with our service or which have not yet seen the need to have a profile on the platform. 89% of the respondents were beneficiary charities and 11% were grant makers, or charities which both provide grants and receive them.

Survey Results

483 of the charities participating in the survey were grant receivers. Almost 70% of these said that hints and tips from other charities and colleagues were the most important source of grant information. The percentage is very similar to people who say peer-to-peer recommendations are the most important source of information when they are looking for charities to donate to or to volunteer with.

Almost 60% of charities receive information from umbrella bodies such as The FSI or voluntary action centres. However, 50% of charities said that they apply for same grants and grant makers every year. This results in the challenge many grant makers are facing: 30% would like to see more or new charities applying to their programmes in order to widen their reach. Furthermore, almost 20% would like to work with new types of charities.

“We have no idea what grants are available to our charity” – survey quote

“We have created a database by cluster skills heritage arts etc that we keep updated and use as part of our strategic plan” – survey quote

Approximately 5% of charities use the 360Giving grant directory to learn from past grant maker decisions, although the service does not promote any current grant opportunities. There are a few digital directories for charities to use when it comes to grant and trust funding and which less than 3% of the respondents claim to use.

“There seem to be very few grants for overseas projects, we have had very little success” – survey quote

“We review local council grant finder” – survey quote

“The challenges are lack of time and resources and too many other charities competing for same funds” – survey quote

Charities list a number of difficulties related to applying for grants. We at whatCharity constantly receive feedback from charities on how time consuming and sometimes overwhelming it is to fill in various applications and to interpret the criteria and language used in grant descriptions. The survey results seem to support this as 45-50% of charities stated that grant suitability is difficult to evaluate and applications take too long to complete.

“It is challenging to put everything in writing for a short period of time, also – lack of timing capacities of bid writer” – survey quote

“The challenges are lack of time and resources and too many other charities competing for same funds” – survey quote

It is understandable that grant makers do not wish to specify too narrow guidelines, but often the cryptic criteria established leads to applications which should not have been submitted in the first place. This leads to the problems the grant makers refer to in our survey: 26% state the applications could be more carefully prepared and higher in quality. To quantify the applicant charity´s impact, 15% of grant makers are looking to receive more impact data related to past projects as well as beneficiary and supporter testimonials for due diligence purposes.

“Fitting in to grant makers criterias is not always too easy to do. Answering there many questions can be very time consuming also. ” – survey quote

50% of charities feel that some activities or causes are not favoured by grant makers in general. However, the most common problem (for over 50%) is the difficulty in finding grant information in the first place. Although peer to peer recommendations and using Google (50% of charities) seem to work for some, they are not necessarily the most effective ways of finding up-to-date or new grant information.

“It is hard to get funds for ongoing good work and infrastructure costs” – survey quote

“We provide transport and this isn’t seen always in an attractive light to funders as we do not always see the impact and final outcome – we aid other charities” – survey quote

Although there are some grant search sites available, the low usage numbers and time consuming methods to find grants suggest there is a gap in the market. It seems that there is a lack of a digital, regularly updated service, affordable to all charities. Almost 90% of charities would benefit from a notification service of current grant programmes.

It would be beneficial to get alerts that fit the work we do so that trawling through does not hamper missing grant opportunities- we miss many grant oops as we are too busy delivering and it’s totally unsustainable.

The great demand for grants keeps the communication and marketing costs of grant makers to a minimum. Only few percentage of grant makers use any paid marketing. Further, only 50% promote their grants on their own website Demand for grants is high and there seems to be too many applicants.

“We work in direct contact with previous or selected partners” – survey quote

“We do not advertise our grant making – other than saying that we make grants on the charity commission website” – survey quote

This lack of a transparent communication, however, is not beneficial even for the grant makers themselves. There are so many great charities out there, both new and established, big and small, niche and mainstream, which all should be able to apply for grants that suit them. Suitability of a grant is again a matter of communication – the more precise goals and impact aims the grant maker has, the more clearly the application criteria can be defined. This results in better targeted applications and lowers the incoming application numbers favouring quality.

“More often than not, we find that grant givers want “new” projects. It would be helpful to know which grant providers are willing to support existing charities projects. Many grant givers also do not support core costs, again, knowing which grant givers are willing to support this would be helpful.” – survey quote

Charities (over 50%) applying for grants were calling for a more automated application process in which for example Charity Commission data would automatically form the framework for the application. Moreover, 40% charities said that they would benefit from a standardised social impact reporting tool to demonstrate their past success and to validate their work. Also, charities would really like to see what kind of grants their peer charities are getting to evaluate and plan their grant applications better.

We at whatCharity are very intrigued by the data collected from the survey answers and are planning to include grant giving in our next development stage. We would like to thank all survey participants and promise to do all we can so that “doing good should not be complicated”.


whatCharity team