Finding grants typically begins with "prospect research" - finding out who is most likely to give you money. Funders generally care about:
- Subject. Is your mission compatible with theirs? Does your program help solve a problem they are passionate about?
- Population served. Do you help people the funder cares about?
- Geographic region. Even if the funder isn't located near you, have they given grants to other organizations in your area?
The best way to research grant prospects is with Foundation Directory, Candid's searchable application that provides unsurpassed levels of comprehensive and accurate information on grantmakers and their grants.
Use Foundation Directory on your own computer by choosing from two subscription plans, depending on the depth of information you need. You can also use Foundation Directory for free at one of our Candid partner locations. Eligible nonprofits with revenue or expenses under $1M can also gain a free year of access to Foundation Directory Essential through our Go for the Gold! promotion.
You should have 501(c)(3) status
Foundations generally give to nonprofits with 501(c)(3) status from the IRS. If you don't have tax-exempt status, you might consider fundraising from individuals who support your cause, such as crowdfunding. If you want grants, explore fiscal sponsorship.
Registered NGOs or charities based in other countries might be able to apply to funders directly. Read more about alternative approaches in this article: Can our international NGO raise funds in the U.S.?
Claim and update your GuideStar profile
Many grantmakers (and individual donors) use GuideStar to evaluate grant applicants. Thus, we recommend claiming and updating your organization's GuideStar profile. For help, please see these articles:
New to finding funders?
If you’re new to grantseeking, our free classes, offered in a variety of live and on-demand formats, can help you learn the process:
- Introduction to Finding Grants
- Introduction to Proposal Writing
- Introduction to Foundation Directory
Keep track of your prospects
The amount of information you collect will grow quickly! Foundation Directory subscribers have access to features that can help you manage your prospects.
If you'd rather save your research externally, here's a prospect worksheet to help you keep track of your information or to help you create your own system. If you're looking for software options, Idealware offers reports and articles on choosing a donor management system.
Free tools to get started now
Foundation Directory will give you the most prospects and most detailed information, but we offer some free tools that you can use now to find some funders.
- Foundation Directory Quick Start: Search U.S.-based private and community foundations by name, city, state, ZIP, or EIN to get contact details, basic grantmaker information, and links to recent 990s.
- Requests for Proposals (RFPs): Search published grant announcements at Philanthropy News Digest, a service of Candid. You can sign up for a free weekly email that lists newly posted RFPs. Note, foundations do not have to publish RFPs, and less than 1 percent of them do, so you will miss many grant opportunities if you only look at RFPs.
- Foundation Landscapes: Working in partnership with funders and philanthropy networks, Candid develops free custom web portals on selected subjects. These sites, which are constantly updated, show you the community of funders and recipients working on a common issue.
Click here for information about government grants.
See also our related Knowledge Base article:
Dive in to this topic with Candid courses:
- Craft compelling grant proposals: Learn how to craft a complete and competitive proposal.