This week, someone asked me how to help a very small organization that is trying to raise $100,000 for a building renovation. The organization would like to find grant funders to help support the work that they need to do. They wondered how to find grants to fund their organization when they don’t have money for an expensive subscription to a grants search database. The good news is that you can find grants that your organization can apply for without spending a lot of money on a database subscription.

First of all, the Foundation Directory Online, published by Candid (the new partnership between the Foundation Center and Guidestar), is a great resource.  You can access it for free at many places around the country.  Go to Candid’s map tool and find the library or community center nearest you that offers a subscription. In my area, the greater Atlanta area, there are several libraries that purchase a subscription to the database. I can visit the library, pull up a chair at a computer in their research area, and conduct my search. While I’m there, I can download and save information to my thumb drive or email myself the results I find.  Access to a great database, no charge!

One library in my area has a subscription that at one time was paid for by the local community foundation. If your area doesn’t have a subscription that you and others can use, consider approaching your local community foundation or United Way and asking them to subscribe to give access to organizations like yours. This is a great way that they can help lots of organizations.

Some state association of nonprofits and regional council of foundations have free search tools for nonprofits or members.  Find your state association and your region’s council of foundations to see what resources are available in your area through the National Council of Nonprofits.

In addition, though, there are some other good resources and good ways to do research on where to find grants that don’t require you to subscribe to a database that’s outside of your budget. One way is to search organizations similar to yours to see who funds them. If you’re a food bank, for example, look at the annual reports, newsletters, and websites of other food banks in other geographic areas. Who is funding those food banks? You can also use your professional networks (attending a conference of organizations similar to yours or AFP chapter meeting, for examples). Who funds other chapters of your organization? Don’t forget to ask your board members and other organizations in your area. Be sure to ask professionals at organizations that work with a range of nonprofit organizations in your area–for examples, the United Way and community foundation leadership of your area will be aware of many funders that support organizations in your community.

Once you’ve generated the names of some potential funders, you can pull funders’ 990 through candid’s website (for free) and find out everything (or almost everything) you’re going to want to know. A foundation’s 990 will list the organizations that they gave grants to and the amount of the grant. Sometimes there is a brief description of the funded program or project. From the list of grants the organization made, you can see the modal grant amount, the range, and what types of organizations the funder likes to fund. There will be contact information on the 990, too.  Again, no need for an expensive subscription.

One of the values I personally love right now is that the Chronicle of Philanthropy is currently including a subscription to Grant Station for its subscribers. For the cost of the newspaper, you get the bonus of access to the grant database.  This makes this another low cost way to do grant research.

The Grantsmanship Center also has a database that I love. You can select your state on a U.S. map. It will pull up a list of the top funders in your state (top foundation funders and top corporate funders). Their site also has a list of community foundations in your state so you can find the nearest community foundation to you.

According to this year’s Giving USA report, foundation giving is up. Pursuing grant funding is a great funding strategy – but before you can submit, you have to find a good funding match.  It is possible to do it and to do it without shelling out a lot of money for a subscription to a grant database. Happy grant hunting!

Picture: – used with permission.

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