Outdated and overcomplicated application processes could have cost hard-pressed British charities at least £442 million through attempts to secure desperately-needed funds during the Covid-19 pandemic, a new survey reveals.

One in eight charities (13%) have reported spending the equivalent of three working days a week (21 hours or more) on grant applications since March this year. This makes up 60% of the average working week and equates to over £20,350 a year in potential staff time per charity – collectively costing the third sector £442 million annually. Meanwhile some charities have reported spending over 40 hours a week on grant applications (7%).

Even though a large proportion of time is being spent trying to secure funding, over half (51%) of those who answered, have seen a decrease in their success rate compared with last year. More than one in five (23%) think this could be down to an increase in competition for grants and over one in ten (12%) state they have fewer human resources to complete grant application forms.

The online poll of more than 1,000 third sector organisations, was commissioned by Brevio. Of those who responded, over three quarters (77%) believe that the grant making system needs to be modernised. Eighty per cent do not believe that the current grant application system is operated on a level playing field.

Over half (57%) believe that the current grant application system works in favour of well-established charities (i.e. that have strong brand recognition / are well known to the public), and a third (33%) believe the grant making process actively discriminates against organisations that don’t have well connected people on their boards.

Over a quarter of charities (27%) think the system actively discriminates against charities based outside large cities, while one in eight (12%) feel the grant making process discriminates against organisations led by people from ethnic minority backgrounds; and over one in eight (13%) also feel it discriminates against organisations that focus on causes that concern a smaller part of the population, such as LGBTQ+, ethnic minorities etc.

Of those who answered, nearly half of respondents (44%) believe there should be a simplified and centralised application system (similar to UCAS for university applications) to avoid having to repeat and gather similar details for every application.

The findings come amid fears that up to one in ten UK charities could be forced to close as a result of the pandemic.

Commenting on the findings Marcelle Speller OBE, founder of Brevio, said: “The pandemic has brought into sharp relief what funders and charities have known for years: the current grant model soaks up too much valuable time, energy, and ironically, money. With many charities now battling for their very existence, it’s clear we need to grasp the nettle and begin to create a level playing field that will help brilliant organisations across Britain do what they do best in their communities and beyond.”