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How to Search the Foundation Center’s Grant Information for Your Nonprofit

The Foundation Center is a resource that should be utilized by anyone in the nonprofit world. Here are a few pointers to help you cast your net using the Foundation Center tools:

  • Practice searching using the free tutorials on the Foundation Center’s website.

  • Start with the larger foundations first. Although the United States has more than 110,000 foundations, many of them are very small. As you begin your research, focus on the larger ones by working with the Foundation Directory or sorting by size the foundations you find when using the Foundation Directory Online.

  • Take advantage of indexes and search functions. If you’re using the printed directories, you’ll find indexes that allow you to search by geographic focus, type of support, and subject area. The CD and online tools offer search functions that pull out the same information and point you toward foundations that match your project’s context, focus, and needs.

    Say, for example, that you want a grant for “capacity building” to strengthen your organization. Enter it in the keyword search box on either the “Search Grants” or “Search 990s” feature of the Foundation Directory Online. The “Search Grants” feature culls through actual grants of $10,000 or more that foundations have awarded. The “Search 990s” feature reviews more than a million records culled from foundations’ 990 and 990-PF tax returns.

  • Determine whether you or your board members have any contacts who serve on foundation boards. You can gather this information using the Trustees, Officers, and Donors search box in the “Search Foundations” section of the Foundation Directory Online.

  • Don’t forget that corporations also award grants. The National Directory of Corporate Giving and the “Search Companies” section of the Foundation Directory Online present company-sponsored foundations and giving programs that are managed directly by corporations (rather than related foundations). Many companies award materials or services — often products they produce. You may find that these in-kind gifts are more valuable to your organization than the cash grants they also award.

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