One-Seventh of the Pie

Grants from private foundations comprise a bit less than 14% of all charitable gifts.  Yet they loom large for many nonprofits.  Indeed, when I left the cloistered world of university fund raising, I was surprised to discover that many of the people I met who said they were “fundraisers” were, in actuality, grant writers.  What surprised me even more was the difference in how they went about getting grants and how I had when I was Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations.

In my (clearly cloistered) world, most of my time was spent with program officers working out with them the parameters of the grant.  I wrote grants, but that really want the least of my job.

Most of the grantwriters I know (and, indeed, myself when I am writing grants for clients) spend their time at their desk, writing grant proposals.

Often, when I doing a fundraising workshop, I talk about where charitable monies come from.  I draw a circle carve out a little more than two-thirds of it.

“About 75% of all charitable dollars,” I will ask, pointing to the large piece, “come from where?”  Mainly the answer I get is…grants.  People seem surprised that the right answer is “Individuals.”  Living individuals, to be precise, because another 7-8% come from those no longer living.  And they are really surprised to discover that is almost twice as much as corporate largesse (or would that be smallesse?).

Still, the idea that grants are the answer for nonprofits keeps growing.  For me, that’s a good thing—I teach an online grants class; I’ve written a grantwriting workbook (both can be accessed at my website

But I’m not always sure it is the best thing for many of the nonprofits out there.

Most grants are restricted, and too often, nonprofit organizations tie themselves into knots to fit guidelines that don’t actually fit them.

Grants, I firmly believe, should be a part of your resource development program—but only a part. To be successful, you need to ensure a diversified funding stream and not just focus on one-seventh of the charitable giving pie.


Janet Levine works with nonprofit organizations, helping them to build their resource development capacity (and yes, that does include grants!).  To learn more about her, her grantwriting class and Get Ready, Get Set, Get Grants the only grantwriting book you really need, check out  You can buy the book directly at









About janetlevineconsulting

For over 20 years, Janet Levine has worked for and with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping to grow their advancement programs. Her consulting company, Janet Levine Consulting, serves a wide range of organizations from small, all-volunteer agencies to major national organizations. She regularly teaches courses in non-profit management, fundraising and grant development, both face-to-face and online at In addition to her nonprofit work, Janet brings years of experience as a business and sales manager in the for-profit sector. She has an MBA from the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University.
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1 Response to One-Seventh of the Pie

  1. sorenmadsen2 says:

    Nice post. I agree with you. I am also suprised that only 14% of all charitable gifts comes from foundations. Danish foundations is estimated to posses more than $60 billion in assets and I am writing about the potential for an increased involvement in development assistance by European non-public foundations here:

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