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Looking for Grants? Learn About Funders with Foundation Directory Online!

Whether you’re a seasoned grant writer or just starting out, it can be a challenge to find possible grant opportunities. In today’s information age, the internet is an incredible resource to find information on potential funders. However, not all funders who award grants have an online presence. In fact, only 10% of foundations have a website. Another useful strategy for finding possible grants is through word of mouth in your local community and region.

FDO-foundation-directory-onlineIf you rely only on the internet and relationships for possible fuding, then your organization may be missing out on potential grant opportunities to support your fund development goals. One of our “go-to” sources is the Foundation Directory Online (FDO) database. FDO is one of the services provided by Foundation Center. There is a fee to access the information in their database, but we find that it is worth it due to the amount of information that you will be able to gather, as well as the ease of searching in their database. 

3 Ways That Foundation Directory Online Can Help You

  1. Find Possible New Funders – You may have an idea for a new project, or you might want to expand an existing part of your programming. In order to accomplish this, you need to find funders with available grant opportunities that could support your goals. The FDO search fields let you specify the subject of your project or program, your geographic area, and the population you serve (e.g. youth or veterans). For example, if you want to find funders that would support your homeless programs in Michigan, you could type in those categories to find possible funders. You can add more layers to the search to narrow the focus or remove restrictions to broaden it. You can save your search criteria each time, allowing you to come back to your results as needed.
     FDO-Michigan-homeless
    Some private and corporate foundations, particularly larger ones, have websites with detailed information about the types of projects and programs they fund, as well as their grant application process. In these cases, it is typically best to rely on the information on funders’ websites, rather than the FDO database, since it may take some time for FDO to be updated. The Joyce Foundation is an example of a funder with a lots of detail about projects they have funded on their website. However, when foundation websites do not exist or do not contain enough information, FDO can fill in those gaps.
  2. Complete Prospect Research on Funders – Let’s say that you FDO-grant-size-chartrecently learned about a local or national funder, and you want to find out if they would be a good partner for your organization. You can search FDO for information about that particular funder, including the types of projects they have previously funded. You may also want to find out how much you should ask for in a grant, so you could use FDO to find information on their past grantee award amounts. FDO lists each grant made by each funder, the dollar amount of each grant, and the reipient of each grant. They also compile data in chartsand graphs, giving you quick access to summaries, along with the option to click for more detail.                 Pro Tip: Sometimes funders have a different legal name than the name you know. If you’re having trouble finding them by their organization name, you can do a keyword search.
  3. Benchmark Other Nonprofit Organizations – Nonprofits can also learn from other similar organizations in the same region or industry. FDO can help you benchmark the funding strategies of those organizations. Search for similar nonprofits by name or keyword to find out what kind of funding they have received in the past.

The process of seeking grants from private and corporate foundations often requires some level of relationship-building with staff at the foundation. Once you have identified potential funders that fit your subject area, geographic region, and population served, then you need to determine how to approach the foundation about funding your project. Many foundations note that they do not accept unsolicited grant applications. This usually means they want to have a conversation with you or receive a Letter of Inquiry from you to get an overview of your organization before you submit a proposal. This will help them determine if it is worth your time to prepare a detailed grant application or if your proposal does not match their funding goals.

FDO compiles information from many sources, including foundation websites and 990 tax forms. If you access FDO, then you do not have to conduct this research yourself. Some of the most helpful information in FDO is found on each funder’s Grantmaker Record page, and we have found some good ways to search for results.

Tips for Making the Most of Foundation Directory Online

  • As you navigate FDO, it is important to remember that what you type into each search field continues to impact the records you pull up. For example, if you type “Indianapolis Colts” into the keyword field and then click on the Grantmaker Record for Indianapolis Colts, Inc. Corporate Giving Program, you will not see the full information about this grantmaker. Instead, now that your “Indianapolis Colts” search pulled up the full name of this grantmaker, copy the full name and then clear that search. Next, go to the “Organization Name” field and paste or begin typing “Indianapolis Colts, Inc. Corporate Giving Program.” Once that name pops up as a choice, select it, and click search. Now, when you click on that Grantmaker Record, you will see all the details about this funder.
  • Some organizations, like Central Indiana Community Foundation, both receive grants and give grants. Therefore, FDO has both a “Recipient Record” and a “Grantmaker Record” for them. Be sure you are looking at the right record in order to get the information you are seeking.
  • Within the Grantmaker Record, you can filter your results to focus in on only previous grants given to organizations similar to yours, projects like yours, or programs in your geographic area. As you move from screen to screen, be sure that the tabs and filters selected are the ones you want to see.

If your nonprofit organization is on the smaller side, you may find that the costs of a subscription outweigh the benefits. You can always do your own research into prospective funders’ 990 tax forms. Check out our blog on 990s and this free resource for finding 990 forms.

Whether your nonprofit is large or small, Transform Consulting Group can help you navigate grant research and writing! Contact us today to get started.

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How to use 990 tax forms for grant writing?

Writing grants can be a long, arduous process.  In this past blog, we talked about five steps for grant writing.  Once you have identified possible funders who share alignment with your organization’s mission and goals, you want to gather more information to make a compelling grant request.

Some helpful things to know about a possible funder before submitting a grant application are the following:

  1. Who have they funded in the past?Tax form image
  2. How much have been their grants?
  3. What have been the projects / services funded?
  4. Who is on their Board of Directors?

This research is not an absolute that would change your grant proposal but would help inform the overall approach and priorities to pitch. In general you want to know the types of organizations that they have funded in the past to see if you fit into the category.  For example, if the funder has only supported direct service organizations then they may not fund an intermediary organization. You would still want to ask the funder to make sure you fit their description of possible grantees but this might provide some good insight.

Secondly, it is really important to find out their typical grant funding range. You don’t want your ask to be too small when you could have asked for a higher amount based on their past funding. At the same time, you don’t want your ask too large if that is well beyond what they have funded.  Again, you still want to talk with the funder about what you are proposing, the need and an appropriate amount.

Third, it is helpful to see the types of projects that they have funded. Typically, the funder will list acceptable areas of focus and uses of the grant funds.  However, sometimes that information is not readily available.  For example, would the funder support capital projects, capacity building projects for the organization, or the types of direct services?

Fourth, grant writing is so much more than the technical writing and submission of grant applications.  It is really about building a relationship with the funder and grantee.  The funder is a partner and extension of the work of your organization.  As such, you will want to build a relationship with the funder including the staff and members of their board of directors.

Some funders do a good job of including this information on their website.  However, we find that not all of this information is readily available. A great tool that we turn to is finding the funder’s “Form 990-PF” tax return.

What is Tax Form 990-PF?

Tax exempt organizations must file some version of the Tax Form 990 with the IRS each year to maintain their standing. Non-profit organizations file Form 990, and private foundations file Form 990-PF. The “PF” stands for Private Foundation.

The 990-PF provides fiscal data for the foundation, names of trustees and officers, application information, and a complete grants list.  The last item is most helpful for your research.

The funder lists all of the organizations who received a grant in the past calendar year.  It essentially answers the three items listed above: who they founded, how much and for what!

The 990-PF can also be useful for relationship building with the funder. For example, an organization’s Form 990 includes the contact information for the private foundation if they do not have a website. In addition, the 990 provides the names of the people on the board and the officers whom you might know and start to build relationships.

Where can you find the Form 990-PF for Funders?

In today’s information age, there are some great online tools to find organization’s 990s.  

  1. Search Engines: You can search an organization’s 990 through different online search engines, such as Google by using keywords.
  2. Funder’s Website: Some funders will post their past 990s directly on their website, so start there.
  3. Foundation Center’s 990 Finder: they have developed an online search tool specifically for 990s. There are other organizations, such as Charity Navigator, that post 990s but they link back to the Foundation Center. 

If you are looking to increase and diversify your funding through grant writing, contact us.  We would love to learn more about your goals and see how we can accelerate your impact!

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