Researching Funders Online

During the past 10 years we have seen a revolution in how non-profits research funding sources. You no longer have to carry around a five-pound grants guide (although, many people still like the print publications). Instead, with the click or two of a mouse, you can instantaneously research funding sources on the Internet.

In terms of speed and efficiency, as well as the quality of information, the Internet has dramatically enhanced our ability to identify and research potential funding sources. It is important to view the Internet as a convenient and fun BEGINNING to your grant search rather than an end. Unless you are very careful, and are clear about what you are looking for, you can spend hours upon hours in a circular search that produces few concrete results.

Although, the Internet can be contagious, addictive, and incredibly effective in researching potential grant sources, REMEMBER that you will never get a grant through the Internet. You still need the human touch in which you talk to the funders on the telephone about your organization, or visit with them in person. And, of course, you still need to write a letter of inquiry or a grant proposal to the funding sources.

Some of the funding research web sites and databases cost money and will require a subscription, while others are free. To help you use your online research time wisely, we’ve compiled this list of our favorite funding research sites:

1. Council on Foundations — This is the trade association of about 60,000+ foundations across the country. On the bottom left-hand side of the home page click on the Affinity Group Network Members link. The affinity groups are the sub-sector funders that identify themselves as supporting particular issues. Go into the affinity group that you are most closely aligned to and make a list of their members. These are the funding sources that you know are interested in supporting your causes

2. Guidestar — This excellent web site lists the majority of the IRS 990 forms for both nonprofit organizations and private foundations and corporations. The 990s will provide you with relevant information including staff salaries and grantees. Research the 990s on this site after you have found relevant funding sources.

3. Independent Sector (IS) — The IS is the national trade association for larger nonprofits, including many private foundations and corporations. The web site has many articles on public policy, lobbying rules for nonprofits, ethics, etc. It is worth you while to visit this site.

4. Nonprofit Gateway — Before President Clinton left office, he commissioned the development of this web site to help nonprofits manipulate the maze of government programs designed to support the nonprofit sector. Over $500 billion per year of nonprofit funding comes from government funding. This is a good starting point for organizations wanting more information on government programs and activities impacting the nonprofit sector.

5. Chronicle of Philanthropy — The Chronicle of Philanthropy is the “voice of the nonprofit sector” and comes out every two weeks. Within this newspaper is a section on the most recent grants. This is the ONLY place that you can find the most recent grant listings for a select number of corporate and private foundations. For the current publication week, the database is free, but if you want to subscribe to the full database (well worth the cost) it is less than $70.

6. Charity Navigator — Charity Navigator is the only independent source that rates and evaluates nonprofits, United Ways and others with a four-star rating system. Check out organizations you have heard of to see how they compare to others across the country and in your community. The web site is also host to a number of well-written articles.

7. Philanthropy Journal — This electronic newsletter is published weekly and includes many excellent articles and tips, and is well worth a subscription (especially since it is free). Use the email address above to subscribe.

8. Grantsmanship Center — This for-profit group provides training sessions in grantsmanship all around the country, but also has a print publication with many relevant and interesting articles.

9. Hoovers — Hoovers is one of the gateways to the business community. The general information on the web site is free, but for a fee you can also sign up for more sophisticated information. If you want to research a public company, use this web site to gather some basic information.

10. National Council on Nonprofit Associations — This is the grassroots independent sector site, which is the trade association of all of the statewide nonprofit associations in the country. The site is a great source of interesting information impacting grassroots and mid-sized organizations.

11. The Foundation Center — This list would obviously not be complete without a mention of the Foundation Center. This is one of the most complete funding research resources on the Internet. There is a lot you can do here for free, but many of the more sophisticated search engines on the site are available for various fees. The Foundation Center also offer a variety of online and in-person workshops and classes.


From Richard Male and Associates
Vol. 3, Issue 4, January 27, 2005
Rich Tips is a free electronic newsletter published by Richard Male & Associates (RMA), a nonprofit consulting firm. Please send any suggestions or comments to 

Tips from readers:

From Kat Morgan, Hostelling International – USA : “Always check out their [the funder’s] web site, investigate it, and any links and/or free publications on their site. I also usually go to the web sites of those they’ve funded previously.”