Note: The following article is for U.S.-based organizations. International organizations seeking grants should click here.
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?
Please note that 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.
The best way to research grant prospects is with Foundation Directory Online (FDO). Foundation Center's searchable database gives you the most comprehensive and accurate information you can find on grantmakers and their grants. You can search based on subject area, geography, grantmaker type, trustee names, and many other search fields. See a sample record.
Use FDO on your own computer by choosing from two subscription plans, depending on the depth of information you need. You can also use FDO for free at one of our 400+ Funding Information Network locations worldwide.
We also offer these free online resources for finding grants:
- FDO Quick Start: Search by name, city, state, ZIP, or EIN to get contact details, basic grantmaker information and links to recent 990s.
- Requests for Proposals (RFPs): This link gives you instant access to grant announcements; the information is also available as an RSS feed or free weekly e-newsletter. But keep in mind that you will miss many grant opportunities if you only look at RFPs. Foundations are not required to issue them, and they rarely do.
- Foundation Landscapes: Working in partnership with funders and philanthropy networks, Foundation Center develops free custom web portals on selected subjects. These sites, which are constantly updated, provide a targeted look at the community of funders and recipients working on a common issue. Click on the interactive funding maps at these Foundation Landscapes sites:
- Black male achievement/Men and boys of color
- Disaster philanthropy
- Early childhood development in East Africa
- Early childhood care and education in the U.S.
- Funding in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda
- Human rights
- Media impact
- Ocean preservation
- U.S. democracy
- Water access, sanitation and hygiene
- Youth-led grantmaking programs
Click here for information about finding government grants.
Keep track of your prospects
The amount of information you collect will grow quickly! If you subscribe to FDO, its Workspace features 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.
New to finding funders?
Start learning now with Introduction to Finding Grants, available for free as a live/recorded webinar or an in-person class.
You can also watch a recorded version now in the YouTube window below.