Grant research can be a daunting task.

Because of this, many of us put it off as long as possible.  But with a few simple steps, grant research can produce amazing results pretty quickly. Let’s look at a bit of low-hanging fruit to get you started on your research journey today!

First off, there is a wealth of information to be found for free on Foundation Directory Online. Don’t worry if you don’t have a subscription to use this site; you can access all their tools for free at libraries across the country!

Where can you go to find a library with access? Check out their location finder and enter your zip code right on the map to find the nearest locations with free access. Be sure to call the library you wish to visit to learn about any rules and limitations to computer access or hours of service. Many libraries have a dedicated staff that will help walk you through the database to enhance your research time.

Now that you know how to access Foundation Center’s resources in your area, let’s jump right in and learn a few ways to find great new prospects for your current needs.

The first step to successful grant research is knowing what you are looking for.

Start with a list of the things you need, how much they will cost, and when you need them in hand. Here at Funding For Good, we use our needs list in conjunction with a Pre-Research Questionnaire to help us determine all the answers needed to be effective in our research. If you’d like to use this form, you can snag a free copy here.

Once you have all the prep work done, you are ready to jump online.

Let’s take a look at three easy ways to identify new funding prospects you may not have thought of or didn’t know how to search for previously.

  1. Search for foundations that have funded similar organizations in the past. In order to conduct this search, you first need to know the nonprofit organizations who do similar work, their official names, and where they are located.Once you have the basic information, hop on to Foundation Directory Online and click the upper left box of the search box that says “Advanced Search.” Once this box opens, you will see a box in the lower left corner that says “Organization Name.” and inside that box, you will see ‘Name of specific grant maker or recipient.’  In this box, you can type the organization name and choose the one you want to investigate. The search results will show you all the foundations who have funded them in the past, the year of funding, the amount funded, the description of what the project funded, etc.
  2. Search for foundations that have funded YOUR organization in the past. Here’s a crazy idea that many people new to an organization or new to the world of nonprofits never think about: Who has funded us in the past? Many organizations don’t have stellar records about foundations that have given them grants previously, what the money for used for, or how much was granted. Crazy, but true! Refer to #1 and run that search on your own organization. See who has given to you in the past. Has a foundation that has an interest in your work been neglected? Perhaps you need to revisit some past supporters and get them back in the fold.
  3. Search for foundations by location. Do you know all of the foundations in your county, in surrounding counties, or in your region? Would you like to? I know I love using that information when I’m researching prospects for a specific area. It’s easy peasy with Foundation Directory Online. Simply go to the Advanced Search bar and type in the county and state in the Location box (bottom row, center box). You’ll see the list of all foundations in that county appear. Now you can research all the foundations in an area and see who might support your work. Do this for each region in your service area or where you have an impact. You might be surprised at some of the prospects you uncover.

Two additional tidbits to keep in mind:

Tidbit #1: Don’t limit yourself to super specific Subject Areas in your search. Many foundations will give to a variety of organizations, so using more general terms will lead to better results.

Tidbit #2: Don’t freak out when you see “We only fund pre-selected charitable organizations” or “We don’t accept unsolicited proposals.” To learn more about these two phrases and what they really mean, check out this blog: The Dreaded Phrases of Grant Research.

Happy hunting!


To learn more about the grant research process, join Foundation Center and Funding For Good on May 17 for our upcoming webinar Proactive Grant Research: How to Capitalize On Your Time & Energy

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