Grant Applications Share 39% Similarity According to New Research by TAG

Aug 20, 2021

(Chicago, IL) – New research by the Technology Association of Grantmakers (TAG) reveals that, on average, grant application forms share 39% of the questions asked of nonprofit applicants. Based on a sample of 133 grant forms shared by funders in the US, Canada, EU, and the UK, the findings provide evidence to support sector initiatives aimed at simplifying the grantmaking process and improving equitable access for nonprofits. Forms were collected as part of the “100 Forms in 100 Days” campaign conducted by TAG and

a random grant form is 39% similar to any other grant form

“This research provides an initial answer to a long-standing question in philanthropy regarding the level of overlap between the grant applications requested by individual funders,” says TAG Executive Director Chantal Forster. “What this research shows is that grantmakers share a baseline set of questions that could, and perhaps should, be pre-populated in some fashion without requiring effort from nonprofits.” 

Data analysis on the forms was conducted by data scientist Kwame Porter Robinson, a PhD student specializing in human interaction with artificial intelligence (HAII) and natural language understanding (NLU) at the University of Michigan’s prestigious School of Information. In his four-part analysis, Robinson leveraged a combination of human-guided machine learning, clustering techniques, and corpus-based similarity analysis drawn from long standing semantic similarity and information retrieval research. The resulting analysis illustrates that “typically, a random grant form is 39% similar to any other grant form,” says Robinson, “although wide variation is possible, from 0% to up to 93% similarity depending upon the forms under comparison.” You can find Robinson’s scripts used in this analysis on Github.

“Asking nonprofits to duplicate nearly 40% of their response on every grant application is not only wasteful but also raises important questions about equitable access to funding, says John Mohr, CIO of the MacArthur Foundation. “Now is the time for us to challenge the barriers we have created as a sector and develop creative solutions such as common data trusts and tools that ease the burden on nonprofits, increase access to capital and eliminate barriers to opportunity.”  

About the “100 Forms in 100 Days” Campaign 

Millions of mission-related hours are lost every year to the time-consuming and duplicative grant application process according to over 2,500 anonymous reviews of grantmaking foundations on Addressing such time-wasters is a key opportunity for funders seeking to improve accessibility and provide equitable access to funding.

Leveraging the momentum in philanthropy to address inequity, Technology Association of Grantmakers (TAG) partnered with in summer 2021 to develop a unique campaign: “100 Forms in 100 Days.” The campaign’s goal was simple: Gather 100 example grant forms in 100 days. In doing so, GrantAdvisor and TAG aimed to build awareness of a top pain point for nonprofits in the application process: The inability to see the full application when preparing a response.  

Not only did over 120 grantmakers throughout the world participate in the “100 Forms” campaign but five leading grants management providers enabled or amplified functionality in their systems to specifically address this pain point for nonprofits. Blackbaud, Fluxx, Foundant, GivingData, and SmartSimple now provide the ability for over 3,000 foundations to enable grant form download for their applicants. This seemingly simple technical change has a multiplier effect that impacts over 1 million nonprofits according to customer data provided by the five vendors.

“It’s inspiring to see nonprofits, foundations, and the tech industry coming together to make practical changes and address an issue that costs our sector millions of dollars a year,” says Kari Aanestad, co-founder of and director of advancement at Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. “This campaign demonstrates the immense collective power we hold when nonprofits offer honest feedback, and philanthropy responds.”

Participating Foundations

  • Acton Family Giving
  • Alaska Community Foundation
  • Allegany Franciscan Ministries
  • Altman Foundation
  • Amoru AIDS Support Community Initiative
  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
  • Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Anonymous
  • Archstone Foundation
  • Arcus Foundation
  • ArtsMemphis
  • Ausherman Family Foundation
  • Azrieli Foundation
  • Ben & Jerry’s Foundation
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation
  • Boston Foundation
  • Broward County Cultural Division
  • Bush Foundation
  • California Wellness Foundation
  • Caring for Denver Foundation
  • Carl & Marie Jo Anderson Charitable Foundation
  • Central Indiana Community Foundation
  • Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies
  • Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
  • Chicago Community Trust
  • Cleveland Foundation
  • Clothworkers’ Foundation
  • Colorado Health Foundation
  • Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan
  • Community Foundation of Abilene
  • Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes
  • Community Foundation of Northern Illinois
  • Community Foundation of South Lake County
  • Conservation Collective
  • Dayton Foundation
  • Dayton Foundation
  • Delaplaine Foundation, Inc.
  • Dulverton Trust
  • Dyson Foundation
  • Eugene & Agnes E. Meyer Foundation
  • European Climate Foundation
  • First Fruit
  • Ford Foundation
  • Foundation For The Carolinas
  • Friends Provident Foundation
  • Full Circle Fund
  • Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation
  • Gilroy Foundation
  • Goizueta Foundation
  • Grand Rapids Community Foundation
  • Greater Cincinnati Foundation
  • Greater Milwaukee Foundation
  • Headwaters Foundation
  • Health Forward Foundation
  • Health Foundation of South Florida
  • Heising-Simons Foundation
  • Helen J. Serini Foundation
  • Henry Luce Foundation
  • Hugh J. Andersen Foundation
  • Initiative Foundation
  • Jerome Foundation
  • John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • John Ellerman Foundation
  • John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
  • Joyce Foundation
  • JPB Foundation
  • JustFund
  • Keith Campbell Foundation for Environment
  • Kenneth King Foundation
  • Kitsap Community Foundation
  • Kresge Foundation
  • Kronkosky Charitable Foundation
  • Leathersellers’ Company Charitable Fund
  • Light a Single Candle Foundation, NFP
  • Lincoln Community Foundation
  • Livestrong Foundation
  • Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation
  • Lumina Foundation
  • Marbrook Foundation
  • Marillac Mission Fund
  • Mary’s Pence
  • Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation
  • McKnight Foundation
  • Medica Foundation
  • Medina Foundation
  • Microsoft Corporation
  • Minneapolis Foundation
  • Morgan Family Foundation
  • Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation
  • NextFifty Initiative
  • Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust
  • Oak Foundation
  • Okta for Good
  • Opportunity Fund
  • Ordean Foundation
  • Ottumwa Legacy Foundation
  • Patrick and Aimee Butler Family Foundation
  • Paul M. Angell Family Foundation
  • Peg’s Foundation
  • Peter & Elizabeth Tower Foundation
  • Peter Minet Trust
  • Pierce Family Foundation
  • Pollination Project
  • Red Umbrella Fund
  • Rhode Island Foundation
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • Robins Foundation
  • Rogers Family Foundation
  • Russell Sage Foundation
  • Saint Luke’s Foundation
  • Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation
  • Salesforce Foundation
  • Shumaker Family Foundation
  • Summit Charitable Foundation, Inc.
  • Sunlight Giving
  • T. Rowe Price Foundation
  • Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation
  • Unbound Philanthropy
  • W.K. Kellogg Foundation
  • Walcot Foundation
  • Walter & Elise Haas Fund
  • Wildlife Conservation Network
  • Woods Charitable Fund
  • World Education Services (WES) Mariam Assefa Fund
  • Yapp Charitable Trust

About the Technology Association of Grantmakers

TAG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit membership organization that promotes the strategic, innovative, and equitable use of technology in philanthropy to solve problems and improve lives. With over 2000 members in 300 foundations throughout North America and beyond, TAG is the voice of technology in the philanthropic sector, providing technology professionals, tech funders, and “accidental techies” with knowledge, networks, mentoring, and educational opportunities.

Since 2008, the Technology Association of Grantmakers (TAG) has built a global community, conducted groundbreaking research, and become an advocate for investment in tech infrastructure throughout the charitable sector. For more information, visit