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OSP | FAQ | Public vs. Private Funding

Disadvantages and Advantages of Public vs. Private Funding




  • Purpose set by legislation
  • Focus on functions usually impacting significant groups in society
  • Have the most money and more likely to award large grants/contracts
  • More likely to pay all project costs and/or cover indirect costs
  • Easier to find information about and to stay current on funding priorities
  • Application processes and deadlines are public information and detailed
  • Use prescribed formats for proposals. Many use "common" application forms
  • Possibilities of renewal clearly stated
  • Plentiful staff resources. Most projects have specific contact person
  • More likely to have resources for technical assistance
  • Funds available to wider array of organizations (for profit and nonprofit institutions)


  • More likely to focus on emerging issues, new needs, populations not yet recognized as "special interests"
  • Often willing to pool resources with other funders
  • Wide range in size of available grants - some can make very large awards, others are strictly limited
  • More willing source of start-up or experimental funds
  • Full length, complex proposals not always necessary
  • Can be much more flexible in responding to unique needs and circumstances
  • Able to avoid bureaucratic requirements for administering grants
  • Can often provide alternative forms of assistance, i.e., software/hardware donations, materials, expertise, etc.
  • Fewer applications in many cases
  • Can generally be much more informal and willing to help with the proposal process




  • Are much more bureaucratic
  • Lengthy proposal requirements and complex application, administration and compliance procedures
  • Reviewers may tend to favor established applicants
  • Sometimes difficult to sell new ideas and high-risk approaches
  • Cost to applicants much higher. May entail extensive compliance procedures
  • Changing political trends affect stability of some programs. Availability of funds can change rapidly


  • Average grant size is usually much smaller
  • Priorities can change very rapidly, continuation of support can be difficult to predict
  • Information on policies and procedures must generally be researched, can be time consuming
  • Less likely to cover all project costs and most do not cover indirect costs
  • Limited staff, fewer opportunities for personal contact and/or site visits
  • May not be clear about reasons for rejection. May be difficult to improve for resubmission.


(Adapted from "Getting Funded - A Complete Guide to Proposal Writing" by Mary Hall).