Grants are integral to the funding strategies of many nonprofits. Finding grants that fit with your specific circumstances is a critical step in successfully obtaining funding. Yet, we know that grants do not comprise most nonprofit funding. Therein lies the rub. Nonprofits need to balance where to expend their assets in searching for funding. It’s incumbent upon nonprofits to consider the benefits and costs of available grant research resources and services. What follows is a look at some of the grant research tools and services available, both free and subscription. Subsequently, I summarize some of the benefits and costs connected to each route and offer tips for making whatever path you choose a fruitful one.
Free Grant Research Tools
These are some of the main free research tools available to look for grant funding:
- Grants.gov – This is the federal government’s site for grant announcements that cover all federal agency funding opportunities. You can also register to receive their newsletter and alerts.
- Sam.gov – This also is a federal government site. It is where federal contracting opportunities are posted.
- Internet search – Using the search engine of your choice, you can input different search terms related to grants, for example, “housing grants,” “grants for mental health in Florida.”
- Grantmakers.io – This is a very useful site. The developer has taken information from the 990 tax filings of both funders and recipients and made it into a searchable database. You can search by topic, funder name, recipient name, amount, and location.
- Regional Grantmaking Organizations (https://www.unitedphilforum.org/find-your-regional-philanthropy-serving-organization) – This provides a listing of state associations of foundation funders.
- Ecivis – This grant research resource is available free to Collier County organizations through the County’s subscription. The County’s website outlines the steps needed to register (https://www.colliercountyfl.gov/visitors/browse-by-topic/grants)
Benefits (of free services)
Well, they’re free. Such tools can be accessed using what nonprofits already have available, whether it be an internet connection, the local library, or networking events.
There is a world of hidden costs in using free grant tools. One of those costs is time, something most nonprofits can ill-afford to waste. There is the time associated with searching for funders, sorting through the information to see if it applies to your organization, then preparing a report of that information to be used to decide whether to apply. You must also decide who in your organization will be doing the searching. If it is someone in a paid position, that is either a direct cost or it is someone that is being diverted from their usual job to perform the task of grant research. If you rely upon volunteers for this task, you are dependent upon their skill and availability.
If you decide to go the free route, here are some things to be sure to do before you begin your search.
- FOCUS! Look at your budget and figure out where grant funding would be most useful and practical.
- What type of support do you need? Grant funders support different types of organizational functions, e.g., capital costs, programmatic support (personnel, supplies, equipment), general operating support. Be sure that this is part of your research.
- Include your geographic area in your research using your city/town, county, state, region, and even country as funders may distinguish their giving in this way.
Subscription Grant Research Services
There are many, many grant subscription services. This list only touches the tip of the iceberg. Each subscription grant database typically has at least one thing they offer for free (the first one’s free, kid), hopefully enticing you to consider more.
- Candid (www.candid.org) – Candid was formed with the merger of the two nonprofit service giants, The Foundation Center and GuideStar. Candid’s 990 search engine provides free access to the 990 forms that funders file with the IRS. You can search using the name of the funder and/or their location. Candid’s subscription grant search services are available at the Essential, Pro, and Enterprise levels. The Essential service gives tailored funder profiles for $49.99 per month.
- GrantStation (grantstation.com) – The GrantStation newsletter (GrantStation Insider) is free and you can subscribe to it for free, as well. GrantStation offers a paid grant search service that includes instructions on how to prepare for a successful search. The search engine can customize the search to geographic area, target population, areas of interest, type of support, and type of grantmaker. It includes government as well as foundation funding. A one-year membership is $169.
- GrantWatch (grantwatch.com) — You can sign up for the free, weekly newsletter via email. It contains information on grants available in your state. The paid grant research services are available from $18 per week to $199 per year. They include funder profiles, available opportunities, links to workshops, and other material relevant to funding applications.
Benefits (of paid services)
The hard work of researching is done for you. Looking through seemingly endless troves of information and distilling it into viable funders can be daunting. Further, the time and personnel you would need to do this work are instead invested in the cost of the subscription.
Obviously, the cost of the subscription service itself is an expense your organization will take on. One of the main costs of using subscription services is determining which paid service is the best fit for your organization. Another thing to keep in mind is that, although you may receive customized research, it doesn’t guarantee that the funder is a match for your organization.
Do your due diligence! Evaluate the services available from different providers, compare them, and make an informed choice that reflects the relative importance of grant funding to your nonprofit
Written by Susan Blankenship, Proposal Writer at Soukup Strategic Solutions