LESSON 2 Wait a Second—What Is a Grant . . . and Where Do I Get One?


There is a misconception about grants—that just because grants are available, everybody should apply for one. After all, who couldn't use the money? But the truth is that there are times when you really don't need money. You need volunteers or student teachers, student lawyers, student social workers, or donated computers and secondhand books. Or simply a friend to give you a hand in getting a job done. And even if you do need money, there are plenty of fine organizations that have legitimate money needs that are not the least bit appropriate for any kind of grant at all. Sure, you may be able to raise cash through bake sales or raffles, through benefits or scholarships, through donations or gifts. But spend the time and energy to win a grant? No.—ASF


What Is a Grant?

A grant is an award of money that allows you to do very specific things that usually meet very specific guidelines that are spelled out in painstaking detail and to which you must respond very clearly in your grant proposal.

How Do I Know if I Need a Grant?

At first you may not even know if you need a grant. Before you let dollar signs start dancing in your head, you must have a problem that you (and your organization) want to solve, decide what you need to do to solve it, and figure out how much that might cost. You may work at the YMCA and feel that there is a serious drug problem in your community that you would like to address through a weekend camping program for teenagers at the Y. Maybe you're a pediatrician and have noticed a growing number of asthma cases among your preschool patients and want to find out why, or you're a third-grade teacher perplexed by violence that boys show toward girls during the school day and you want to get expert help to change this climate. Or you may live on a street where all the trees died of Dutch elm disease and you want to plant new ones. Or you want to make a film or compose a symphony or study abroad or write a biography. The question is: What do you have to do to get the results you want?

Some organizations have learned that chasing grants can take them away from their core mission or move an excellent program in the wrong direction. The most successful programs and organizations are not grant driven, they are mission driven. In other words, they are not created, massaged, and manipulated to fit the precise guidelines of a grant that just happens to be available. Rather, they have strong, comprehensive, well-developed programs or plans that show they have made good use of all other available resources. If money is needed to implement or supplement a well-designed program, that is where a grant comes in. But the program is the thing. The better designed the program is to address the need, and the more other funding you have raised or resources you have found to support it, the more likely you are to win grants. The same thing is true for individuals. Some people don't have a commitment to a topic for a film or book; they just have a commitment to getting a grant. But it has to be the other way around, of course.

When Money's Scarce, Aren't Grants Even More Important?

We won't lie to you. At the time of this writing, we are facing very uncertain times for grant seekers, to put it mildly. As we've said earlier, after the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the economy has started growing again, but slowly. Many foundations' resources are back to their normal levels, but recent interviews suggest that other foundations' endowments are as much as 20 percent lower than before the meltdown. The intense debate on the federal budget, the sequestration, and additional expected cuts at the federal level—aggravated by budget deficits at the state and local levels—have thrown a dark cloud over nonprofit and government service providers, researchers, businesses, and many others assisted by government funding.

Furthermore, cuts at the federal level are likely to lead to additional cuts in spending at all government levels because so much federal money flows through state and local agencies. This means less money for all kinds of projects, from the smallest to the largest.

We aren't trying to scare you; we just want you to think realistically and strategically about resources in coming years. If you're operating primarily with government or foundation grants, it's time to work on diversifying your funding plan to include other resources. Such efforts are not within the scope of this book, but we urge you to think about support through fundraising mechanisms such as appeals, events, sponsorships, social media, social entrepreneurship, and even fees from participants if your target population can support small payments.

More importantly, we believe that no matter how bad the funding climate is, there still will be opportunities for government grants and contracts. It's just that when money is scarce you need to be even more proactive in finding and winning funds to keep your programs going.

Grants and your mission. All fundraising should flow from and support your mission. Remember that it's one thing to do everything in your power to find grants to support your agency's programs; it's something else entirely to pursue grants that distract you from your core mission. If you provide services for senior citizens and then suddenly decide to apply for grants for preschoolers just because there's money available, you may dilute your organization's effectiveness—and raise questions in grantmakers' minds about your strategies. If community needs are driving you to expand your services, you must do so in a thoughtful, systematic way—never losing sight of your mission. If you are a senior center and know that the community needs children's programs (which no other organization provides), you may think about creating intergenerational activities (bringing together children and seniors) that do not take you so far afield that funders question your ability to do what you say you're going to do. After you have successfully created and operated the intergenerational programs, you may find it easier—and the grantmakers will find it more credible—to branch out into other activities for children.


The federal government and state and local governments give grants (sometimes called contracts) that generally require paperwork, audits, and accountability. Private foundations and corporations give grants. Individuals give grants, usually through a fund or trust set up for that purpose and administered by a bank or foundation.

In most areas of the country, a regional association of grantmakers (RAG) may publish a standard or common application form that grant seekers can use for all participating foundations in that area (many RAGs also publish a common report form). These forms incorporate headings that structure the way the proposal is written and the information that must be included. The forms differ a bit from area to area but are strikingly similar in content. All require the proposer to state a need, describe the program, present a rational budget, provide supporting materials that indicate the organization's capacity to implement the program, and document the organization's not-for-profit status. Each foundation may require additional information. All of these issues are discussed in Part II. You can find common application forms online; a sample appears in Appendix 4.

Government grants are generally announced through requests for proposals (RFPs, also called requests for applications, or RFAs; or notices of funding availability, or NOFAs) that specify the nature and cost of the program that must be proposed. Some government grants allow applicants a substantial amount of leeway to propose programs that address their organizations' specific needs; others are very prescriptive. All include guidelines, due dates, and so much required information that you will start to wonder why the grantmakers don't just write the proposal themselves. Foundations, on the other hand, tend to be less prescriptive. Most foundations do not issue RFPs, although some large ones, like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, may do so (in this case labeled "Calls for Proposals," or CFPs). Others may publish requirements that are as specific as the RFP for any government grant.


Foundations range in size from tiny family foundations with no staff (grant decisions are made by family members) and budgets under $100,000 to huge organizations that have dozens of professional staff members and give away millions each year. Understanding the differences may save you a good deal of time and energy in preparing proposals.

Family foundations. Family foundations often have narrowly focused giving patterns based on the intentions of the donor or the interests of current family members who are officers or trustees. Many do not accept unsolicited proposals, some because they are too small to review large numbers of proposals, others because their giving is earmarked for specific organizations.

Independent private foundations. This type of foundation usually has at least a small professional staff. It may have begun as a family foundation but is no longer controlled by the original donor or the donor's family. This does not mean that the donor's interests are ignored. Private foundations are ethically and, in most cases, legally bound to follow the donor's intent to the extent possible. If the terms of the original endowment or bequest said the money was to be used solely for organizations that train opera singers, that's what it is used for. The only discretion that the trustees have in making grants is, perhaps, selecting the best organizations to do the training. If the terms of the endowment are a bit broader—say, for health services for children from low-income families—many creative projects may be eligible for a grant.

Federated funds. Federated funds like the United Way were created to benefit the community by pooling donations from individuals and businesses and using those funds to support nonprofit organizations. Unlike independent and family foundations, which draw primarily on funds from a single donor or an endowment and do not seek funding from the public, federated funds maintain ongoing fundraising operations.

Corporate foundations. Corporate, or company-sponsored, foundations are independent entities created by large corporations with funds from the businesses themselves or from their founders. Most corporate foundations function like other foundations, receiving proposals and making grants, but their giving may be somewhat tied to the corporations' own goals. For example, a drug company's foundation may be established to fund medical research; a bank's foundation may fund community development.

Community foundations. In every state in the United States and in Puerto Rico, there are one or more (usually many more; the total tops 650) local foundations called community foundations, community trusts, or community funds. (To give you a taste of their omnipresence, we have included a partial list in Appendix 5.) Community foundations have been set up to administer individual trust funds or pools of funds from individual donors who want to benefit their own city or region but don't want to create a new foundation. To determine whether there is a community foundation in your area, search on "community foundation" and your city, county, or state; check with your local library (or even your local phone book); or go to a listing at the websites of either the Grantsmanship Center or the Foundation Center (discussed later in this lesson, and listed in Appendix 6).

A community foundation or community trust probably includes funds set up by donors with very specific purposes in mind as well as others with more general purposes. Living donors to such foundations may be able to recommend which organizations should receive grants. Under regulations governing the establishment of donor-directed funds, the final determination must be made by the foundation, but most program officers try to accommodate the donor's wishes.

Financial institutions. Financial institutions always have administered charitable trusts set up for the donor's purposes; a trend toward this type of trust is growing. Proposals to a trust held at a financial institution often are made in the same way as proposals to foundations.

How do you find the right foundation? As noted, most foundations were established to give money to causes that were of interest to their original donors, which means that some give to very narrowly defined programs—for example, medical research on a particular disease, mental health services for children affected by the Sandy Hook shootings, or a visual arts program for senior citizens—while some give money to address a wide range of social, medical, or cultural issues. Some give primarily to support religious purposes; some will not consider giving for religious purposes. A few give to individuals; most do not. Some foundations give only within designated geographic areas; others give nationally or globally. There is a foundation for every purpose, and you have to find the right ones for you.

There are two extraordinary resources for organizations seeking foundation grants: the Foundation Center and the Grantsmanship Center. Their focus differs slightly (e.g., the Foundation Center includes extensive services for foundations as well as for nonprofits; the Grantsmanship Center focuses on training and support for nonprofits), but both organizations provide a wealth of information, training, and other assistance online and on site, some free, some for a fee. Although there is considerable overlap among the information and services you'll get from these organizations, it's worth learning what each provides; then use the one you find most useful for your needs.

The Foundation Center. Your first stop is the Foundation Center, the older of the two resources. It maintains Foundation Center libraries in five cities (New York, Atlanta, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco) and Foundation Center Cooperating Collections in 470 public libraries, community foundations, universities, and nonprofit organizations. There are at least two cooperating collections (usually more) in every state. These maintain Foundation Center publications, and may provide free online research capability. There's a map at http://www.grantspace.org/Find-Us that will provide the location nearest you.

The Foundation Center provides information and other support to foundations, researchers in the field of philanthropy, and grant seekers, as well as training and tools to find resources and apply for grants. Every grant seeker should become familiar with its materials and tools. Most important are the Foundation Directory and the Foundation Directory Online (see the section below on Internet research, page 31, and Appendix 6), but there are many other directories that describe foundations and corporations by location, program interests, size of grants given, and many other characteristics, as well as foundation annual reports. These references will let you identify grantmakers in your area, find out what kinds of activities they prefer to fund, determine the general dollar amounts of the grants they offer, define eligibility, and locate the addresses, telephone numbers, and names of appropriate contacts at the foundations. Your local library may be able to get these Foundation Center materials for you, or may have other reference materials that will help you locate foundations in your city or region.

The Grantsmanship Center. The other very valuable resource on grants is the Grantsmanship Center (TGCI), which provides technical assistance and training to nonprofit organizations. Most of its extensive training and subscription services now require purchase or fees that range from minimal to substantial, but some of the most useful sections of its website (described on pages 33 below and in Appendix 6) are free. Based in Los Angeles, TGCI offers training programs in many locations across the country, including a five-day workshop on finding and preparing grant proposals. Other two- to five-day workshops teach proposal preparation for research grants, preparing federal proposals, nonprofit management topics, and more. The Center publishes materials on grants (including its own excellent Program Planning & Proposal Writing guide) as well as on grants administration and other topics useful to managing and supporting nonprofit organizations.

Approaching foundations. Before you submit a proposal to a foundation, you would be very wise to check its website or call or write for its annual report, grant application form or guidelines (if it has any), descriptions of programs it has funded recently, and any other information you can get. Your proposal is likely to be rejected automatically if it doesn't meet the recipient's guidelines. Much more about this later. Oh, and by the way, when you're checking out the foundation's guidelines, you would be wise to make a note of the current contact person's name, address, and phone number, and find out whether the foundation wants you to contact it by mail, phone, or email. As you'll hear again and again from the funders, they get annoyed when you send requests to their predecessors!

Foundations, like all 501(c)(3) organizations, are required to submit tax returns called 990s, which almost always include a list of organizations the foundation has funded during that tax year, and the amounts of money given to each. Some foundations, although not all, include the particular program for which each grant was given. The 990s are available (you have to register as a member, but it's free) on a website called GuideStar.

It also is helpful to know what kinds of organizations and projects each foundation really funds. For instance, a foundation may say that individuals and all types of not-for-profit organizations are eligible to apply for grants, but when you read its annual reports, you notice that this foundation has funded only medical schools—not their students—for the last five years. Another foundation may indicate in its guidelines that its average grants are between $100,000 and $200,000, so if your project will cost $350,000, you shouldn't expect to get it all from this foundation. If you ask for it anyway, do expect your request to irritate the grantmaker. And if you also notice in the annual report or the 990 that in the last three years this foundation hasn't actually funded anything for more than $50,000, far less than the minimum they specified, you probably should call to find out if they've changed their guidelines.

Although some foundations are interested in brand-new organizations and may even offer some technical assistance in preparing a proposal, most want to know that you know the ropes. Let the foundation see that you are aware of its work, that you have studied the annual report, that you have looked at the organizations and individuals that it has funded, and that you are making a careful decision to apply based on all your homework. Never be shy about letting the grantmaker see why you chose it and the amount of research you have completed to ensure that there are no holes in your proposal.


Corporations and local businesses may fulfill their civic responsibilities through grants and sponsorships to nonprofit organizations. Keep in mind that in a bad economy, many businesses may cut back on their giving. But when they can help, there is tremendous diversity in the amount and type of support that corporations offer. National corporations may give only or predominantly to national organizations, or they may give only in the cities where they have their business offices or factories. Some give to organizations supported by their own employees. A corner drugstore may sponsor the Little League team from a three-block area—which might mean buying T-shirts with the team's name (and the drugstore's logo). Businesses may give only to major cultural institutions, universities, hospitals, or other large organizations with a strong fundraising track record, or they may be interested in supporting small local groups in a specific region. Their decisions may be made by top management, a marketing department, or their own internal giving offices, corporate philanthropy or corporate responsibility departments, or independent foundations.

Although philanthropy is important for its own sake to many corporations, it is usually tied to business concerns as well. If you can show how a grant to your organization will bring broad recognition or publicity to the donor, even the most public-spirited company will be pleased.

Business donors or sponsors are often a good place for a small organization to begin seeking funding and establishing a track record in using these gifts—and your board members should be involved in this effort. Start with your local bank branch. Ask the manager if the bank provides assistance to a group like yours, and what you have to do to apply for it. Call every major business located in your community to see if the company has a giving program. If you know a business leader well, ask for suggestions about where to go for help. When you are ready to go to a major corporation, you can find lists of companies near you at the Foundation Center or Grantsmanship Center website.

Local civic associations, like the Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, Rotary, and Kiwanis, often have giving programs or provide sponsorships for local organizations. Remember that each civic organization has its own priorities—children, seniors, people with visual impairments—and is more likely to be interested in helping you if the program you operate falls within its guidelines. If managers or board members of your organization join such civic associations, they may make important connections with business leaders in the community and promote the organization's programs. Don't expect any large gifts from businesses, at least to start, but do be prepared to use the proposal development methods that we describe in Part II.

Federal Grants

Like other grants, federal grants are made to accomplish some public purpose. The nature of the grant, the eligible recipients, the method of award, and the terms and conditions are specified in the legislation that creates each grant program and in detailed regulations that are either laid out in the statute or added by the funding agency. Some grants have relatively few restrictions, while others are laden with significant limitations and extensive reporting requirements, based on the legislation.

As noted earlier, the federal government has recently begun to implement a deficit-cutting law called sequestration, or "the sequester," forcing nearly every federal agency and program to cut its discretionary spending. Even in such a dismal climate, we do not want to discourage you from including the possibility of federal funding in your planning if your programs coincide with federal priorities. The scope of federal support will continue to be significant in many program areas, even if the amount is reduced. Research on what is possible will become increasingly important.

Even when funding is available, many not-for-profit organizations—and even government agencies—are afraid of the work involved in obtaining (and reporting on) a federal grant. But organizations that go to the trouble of researching and writing a winning federal proposal often find that the federal grant can offer substantial, stable, multiyear funding. Nonprofit organizations also gain credibility when applying for state, local, and foundation funding—as well as some breathing room in a multiyear grant to identify additional funding sources.

We should note the federal government probably will continue a trend toward "devolution" that has increased in recent years: pushing funding out to state agencies, and sometimes to major cities, that it used to award directly to nonprofit organizations or local government agencies. Governments must still apply for such funding, but nonprofits will have to keep track of it and apply through their own states, cities, and school districts. Nevertheless, despite this process and despite our own concerns about the climate for federal funding in the next few years, we urge you to be alert to the possibility of appropriate federal grants in your overall fundraising plan.

How can I find out what grants are available from all the different federal agencies? There are three basic sources for federal funding information: the Federal Register, Grants.gov, and the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA).

The Federal Register is a daily publication that reports on all official federal actions—including federal funding opportunities—and Grants.gov is an online center that lists federal opportunities and provides for online submission of proposals. Once an agency decides to announce a grant program, the announcement, often with the whole application package, appears on one or both of these sites.

Occasionally a federal announcement appears far in advance of the application due date, in a massive projection of all of an agency's or a department's grantmaking for the coming fiscal year. Most of the time, however, notification of an individual grant program occurs within a designated period (after any required public comment, which can alter the final program announcement) and allows 30 to 90 days for a response. It is important to get your hands on the grant information as early as possible, to give you the maximum time needed to develop a proposal. Some libraries still subscribe to the daily paper version of the Federal Register, and most have computer access so you can get to Grants.gov and the_Federal Register Online_, and to other federal funding sources as well.

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA). Federal (and state and local) grant proposals are generally complex and time- consuming to prepare; developing and writing a comprehensive, technical grant application in the few short weeks or months that most federal programs allow is difficult. It is a good idea to develop programs well in advance rather than rely on the relatively short turnaround time given in the grant announcement. To do this, you need to know what funding will be available next year. Although funding for each federal program depends on the availability of money in any year's congressional budget, many programs have a multiyear track record that allows you to anticipate that they are likely to be funded again. That's where the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) comes in. The CFDA, which is published annually and is available as a paper document or online, describes every federal grant program: programs available to state and local governments (including the District of Columbia and Indian tribal governments), territories (and possessions) of the United States, public and private for-profit and not-for-profit organizations and institutions, and individuals.

The CFDA's comprehensiveness can be a drawback. It lists every federal program—including those that are no longer being funded. This means you need to do some sorting and cross- referencing to see if the programs you are interested in are still alive; often you must turn again to the Federal Register, Grants.gov, or individual agencies. Nevertheless, the CFDA can be a very good start, and your congressional representative's local office is a good place to find it. Most local offices have staff whose responsibility it is to help constituents with this kind of research. Some offices also have their own grants newsletters, funding workshops, or other funding information. If they don't, they can find out who can help you. (If you are planning a federal proposal, it's a good idea to talk with congressional staff anyway; you may want a letter from the representative in support of your proposal.)

Just one more thing about the CFDA: Programs are classified into many different types of assistance, and some of it can be a little confusing. Formula grants, for instance, are not the same as project grants. Formula grants are allocations of money to states or municipalities "in accordance with a distribution formula prescribed by law for activities of a continuing nature not confined to a specific project," for example, based on the number of residents in the designated area who are living below the poverty level—or just based on the number of residents.

Project grants described in the CFDA are the ones most grant seekers are interested in, because they include fellowships, scholarships, research grants, training grants, experimental and demonstration grants, evaluation grants, planning grants, technical assistance grants, and many others. All of the federal government grants we mention in this book are project grants.

State and City Government Grants Some cities make grant information available free of charge to residents through a municipal library, government office, or other public information center. School systems may provide grant information to staff, parents, and students. Large not-for-profit organizations are sometimes willing to share funding information with smaller ones, especially if they need to form partnerships to win grants. Not knowing what grants were available used to be a legitimate excuse for an organization or an agency that didn't seek funding. This is no longer true; the information is out there (see Appendix 6 for some examples). And it is usually cost-free or close to it. It is developing the grant proposal that is now most challenging—not finding the grant opportunities.

Some states, and even some cities, have the equivalent of the Federal Register or a statewide "e-grants" system in which you sign up via email and automatically receive notices in categories for which you've indicated an interest. However, in many places it may be harder to track down state and local grants information than it is for foundation or federal grants. Check with your library to see what reference sources are available, or begin to identify the state and local agencies that would be likely to fund your programs, and get in touch with the appropriate staff there (often you can be placed on a snail-mailing list for specific funding opportunities). In smaller states and municipalities this usually is fairly easy; it can take just a few phone calls. In larger states and cities you may need to be very persistent in finding the right department.

State and local elected officials. Your local elected officials are an important resource for funding, and it's important that they know and respect your organization because they can help you find and obtain grants, and because they themselves sometimes have small amounts of state or local funding at their discretion. Many localities publish listings of names and addresses of elected officials; again, your library and telephone directories will give you information on how to reach them.

Some state and local officials send out periodic grant listings. For example, the New York State Assembly leader publishes Grant Action News every month, as a mailing and online (www.assembly.state.ny.us/gan); this publication describes current and recent New York State agency grants, as well as some federal and foundation opportunities. Virtually all elected officials do mailings, so make sure you are on their mailing and/or email lists and read the mailings to see what committees your officials are on, what causes they are interested in, and sometimes the groups for which they have provided funding.

State and local elected officials' discretionary funding usually takes the form of grants, but the application process often is shorter and less demanding than for other types of proposals. For example, a New York City agency received a $15,000 grant to fund its Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program after meeting with a state senator whose local district did not have any CERT teams. After the grant was awarded, the agency received the paperwork from the New York Department of State. There was still an application to fill out in order to draw down the money, but it is much more fun to fill out the application when you know you have been awarded the funding!

Funding from state and local elected officials probably will be relatively small (the $15,000 for the CERT team only trains one team, while the agency trains about 30 teams a year), but every bit of funding can help. Also, if you are a new organization or program, this small amount of funding can be vital as seed money to show foundations and other funders that someone has confidence in you. As we will discuss later, funders like to give to programs that show some capacity; they want evidence that their grants will be well spent and that the organization is able to accomplish what the applicant promises.

And even if local elected officials do not have money available themselves, they may be able to help you get funding from other sources. For example, during meetings with state officials, that same New York City agency met with a state assemblyman from one of the city's boroughs and asked for a grant for a CERT team. The assemblyman did not have any funds of his own, but he was impressed by the project and approached a local real-estate company, which agreed to fund a team. In the same way, local elected officials can be helpful in getting donations for after- school programs, fundraisers, and so on.

So call and visit all your elected officials; send them information on your programs, and invite them to events. Often their staff will attend, but they are the ones who will make the funding recommendations so it pays to keep them informed. It may also be easier to get letters of support and/or commitment if they are already familiar with your work. In case you think we're exaggerating when we emphasize the need to call on your local elected officials for help, remember: It's their job. They care about improving the lives of their constituents. And when grant money pours into their communities it can only be a plus for them.

Using the Internet If you are one of the very few grant-seeking organizations that do not yet have Internet access, you'd better make this your highest priority. The cost is low and the benefits are significant to any organization, especially to the staff who need information to design programs and seek funding for them. Not only are grant information and exhaustive "best practices" information easily found online; increasingly, government and foundation grant applications must be submitted electronically. The entire process of finding and submitting grant applications is online for at least three of the application packages that we describe in the next lesson (two for federal funding and one for a prestigious Harvard University award), and a substantial portion of each package is devoted to technical difficulties you may have in submitting a proposal and how to resolve them.

Moreover, if your organization doesn't have a website or access to social media, find a way to develop them. There are sites that allow you to create your own website and maintain it for very low monthly costs. Having your own website and Facebook page, even if they're rudimentary, puts the agency's name and work into a public space and gives you a certain level of credibility in this information age.

Appendix 6 provides a fairly extensive (but far from exhaustive) list of useful websites for finding grant opportunities; a few of the most important are described below.

Foundation Center Online (www.foundationcenter.org). The Foundation Center's website has a wealth of information for both grantmakers and grant seekers. We focus here on resources for grant seekers, but it may be worth exploring the entire site to gain a broad perspective on philanthropy. In preparing for this edition, we were disappointed to find that much of what the Foundation Center Online once offered free is now available only by subscription or purchase. However, the website still offers plenty of free information and links to individual foundation and corporate websites. For example, if there is a particular foundation you are interested in, you can find out how to reach it (contact person, address, and phone number); learn about its assets and total giving; and link to its latest 990 tax filing (which usually includes lists of organizations funded).

The free site also has a section listing foundation requests for proposals, job listings in development and philanthropy, links to the Philanthropy News Digest, and other useful information. The site provides news about foundations and giving trends; offers books and publications on grantsmanship; and includes links to research materials, reference materials, collaboration resources, workshops, and more. A fairly new, free site is GrantSpace.org, which centralizes information and training on nonprofit planning and management, outcome evaluation, legal issues, finding funding opportunities and applying for grants, and other issues for nonprofit organizations.

The Foundation Center's major online subscription service, the Foundation Directory Online (FDO), is found at www.fconline.foundation-center.org. (Companion subscription databases, providing information on corporate grantmakers and foundations that give grants to individuals, are described briefly in Appendix 6.) The basic FDO subscription costs $195 per year. The advantage to subscribing is that you can search the entire foundation database using a variety of characteristics, including the city in which the foundation is located; the geographic area (state) where its grants are given; the type of grant it makes (program, seed grant, building/renovation, general operating, etc.); its officers or trustees; and programmatic areas of interest (children, aging, health, social services, etc.). The summary for each foundation also includes a link to its 990. This is a site that we have used constantly to find new foundation prospects and to brush up on information about foundations we know. Although there are more advanced (and more expensive) versions of the Directory, we find that the basic service offers nearly all the information we need.

If you can't afford a subscription, you can always use the Foundation Center libraries and Cooperating Collections as you would use any library—visit to get access to all of their free resources, training, and very helpful staff.

The Grantsmanship Center (www.tgci.com). The Grantsmanship Center, based in Los Angeles, was founded as a training center for nonprofits but now offers a broad variety of technical assistance. Information available at the website includes schedules of workshops and seminars, publications, and other resources. One of these resources is a searchable site containing abstracts of winning federal grant proposals and offering CDs for sale with top-scoring recent proposals by topic. These are pricey, but may be less costly than a trip to Washington, D.C., or Atlanta, or some other location where you can examine the winning proposals at no charge. The site also offers a daily list of federal government funding announcements from the_Federal Register Online_, foundation funding announcements, and tips about how to win grants. It provides reports and articles (free or for small fees) on grantsmanship, grant administration, and many other topics that are important to nonprofits. For example, at this writing the Center highlights a report on proposed changes in the federal grants process and how they will affect applicants. This site also includes free mini-webcasts on selected proposal-preparation topics and lists webinars on grantsmanship and announcements for Grantsmanship Center workshops in your area. Free and subscription sub-websites are described briefly in Appendix 6.

For grant research purposes, the most valuable aspect of this site is a map of the United States that connects you to lists of the top foundations in your state that give grants (contact information is provided, with web links when available); the names of companies with corporate giving programs; community foundations (with links to their websites and information about the areas they serve); and the state's own website.

Grants.gov: http://www.grants.gov. Grants.gov is a centralized grant site for the federal government and is rapidly becoming the first place to search for grants. The home page has a link to grant opportunities released during the previous week (organized by agency); a search feature to focus in on specific opportunities; a list of subscriptions you can sign up for to get direct notice of grant opportunities; a list of resources, such as foundation sites, state point-of-contacts lists, and links to other federal sites; and grant applications, among other helpful items. There's also a very helpful staff if you need to call for advice. Although most agencies continue to use the Federal Register, they now post their grant opportunities to Grants.gov as well, and increasingly require proposals to be submitted online from this site.

The_Federal Register Online_ (www.federalregister.gov). Not so many years ago, we had to pore over huge, flimsy paper copies of t h e Federal Register each day to find federal funding opportunities. Application packages could only be obtained by mail, with a wait of several weeks. But now the Federal Register is available electronically at no cost. Grant applications also can be obtained online. (In most cases you'll probably need Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is free, available by clicking on a button right at the Federal Register site.) The "Advanced Article Search" option (in the drop-down "Search" menu at the top of the page) lets you select the year of the funding you're interested in and enter one or more keywords, the agency that might offer funding, the type of document you're looking for (your search normally will involve "Notices"), or other characteristics.

Federal agency websites. Nearly every federal agency now has its own website, and some sites provide resources that can help you prepare a much more effective proposal. For example, the Department of Education has a section on research and statistics that offers links to a wide range of data, best practices (including a "What Works Clearinghouse" with links to practice guides, research on interventions, and other resources), and reports on performance evaluation. You may find information on a program you want to replicate, or data that are vital to your statement of need. You also will find descriptions of programs that have been funded in the past. Similarly, the National Science Foundation website, which is very user friendly, includes an "A to Z Index of Funding Opportunities" for researchers, educators, graduate students, and other users. It includes guidelines about how to prepare a proposal, recent articles about current research, information on awards, and more. See Appendix 6 for a list of some of the most relevant federal agency websites.

Other sites. Increasing numbers of state and local entities also are providing funding information online, but you often have to dig for it. Remember: you can link to your state's site from the Grantsmanship Center's site at www.tgci.com/funding/states.asp. The amount of information and ease of finding it varies from state to state. Some states have centralized sites that are easy to use. In others, if you dig a little deeper to specific agencies of interest (e.g., education, health, criminal justice), you will find many with their own funding sections that list their contacts and grant information. States' and local agencies' sites also can be good sources for obtaining statistics and other information that you will need when writing your needs assessment (see Lesson 7). Some state and local government sites are included in Appendix 6.

Many community foundations, regional associations of grantmakers, and individual foundations have an online presence and are often rich with information. For example, the Delaware Community Foundation's "Apply for Grants" page offers a table that tells you the types of grants available, the target population and geographic area in which each will be awarded, the purpose and amount of each grant category, and deadlines. The Chicago Community Trust carefully describes all of its wide range of funding priorities, organized by topic within each of the foundation's goals; it includes a listing of currently open requests for proposals by topic and provides a link to special grants by donor groups and "giving circles" that focus on specific interests and populations.

In New York City there is an organization called the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York, which regularly searches the_Federal Register Online_ and state and local government agency sites. It then emails its members brief summaries of the announcements in categories that they have chosen from a lengthy checklist. If the summary interests them, members can use the website listed in the announcement to download the request for proposals or other information. Ask at your library and other sources to see if a service like this is available in your area.

Publications and Newsletters Many for-profit organizations sell newsletters and books providing information about federal grants. Some offer information on foundation and corporate grants as well. We have subscribed to or purchased these publications in the past but have found that our own online research produces results that are just as effective and as timely (or more so). However, some of them do discuss trends in government and foundation funding as well as current grant opportunities, so if you have a particular area of interest (such as youth funding or health care funding), you may want to try a free sample or even a year's subscription to one of these publications to see if it works for you. We prefer not to make any recommendations here, but we will say that some companies appear to do much more exhaustive research and seem to have more "insider information" about future funding prospects than others; we suggest you review them carefully before you subscribe.

You may want to check out a free publication online. Philanthropy News Digest (PND) is a newsletter at http://foundationcenter.org/pnd. It provides updates on trends and news in philanthropy and is searchable. PND also highlights an "RFP of the day" (and a "job of the day"), and it lets you sign up for alerts.

It's also a good idea to read the trade publications—magazines, newsletters, newspapers, and blogs in your field of interest so that your grant proposal reflects current trends and best practices. These publications may include lists of grant opportunities of interest to their readers.

Finding out what government and private grants are available is the easy part of the grant process. It shouldn't cost you a fortune, and it shouldn't take hours of your valuable time.

Pop Quiz

Multiple Choice Select the best answer for each of the following questions:

  1. Most requests for proposals (RFPs) include:
    1. a description of the program you must propose in order to win a grant
    2. guidelines you must follow
    3. a due date for submission of the proposal
    4. all of the above are generally included in an RFP
  2. Foundations are:
    1. generally small
    2. always run by an executive director and at least two staff members
    3. unlikely to give grants of more than $15,000
    4. all shapes and sizes, with all different priorities, guidelines, and purposes
  3. When applying for foundation grants, you should:
    1. know what kinds of organizations the foundation has funded, but never mention it
    2. apply cold—without knowing anything about the foundation
    3. know what kinds of organizations the foundation has funded, and mention it
    4. ask for at least $10,000 more than the maximum amount of money a foundation says it gives, so you have room to negotiate
  4. Federal government grant opportunities are:
    1. not required to be announced anywhere
    2. only announced on federal agency websites
    3. always announced in the Federal Register or at Grants.gov
    4. announced every two months in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA)
  5. A good way for very small organizations to begin grant seeking is to apply for:
    1. large federal government grants
    2. middle-sized municipal grants
    3. donations from local businesses
    4. foundation grants

Essay Questions

Take 15 to 30 minutes to respond to the following essay questions, based on your answers to the essay questions at the end of Lesson 1 (you may want to write out your responses for future use). Include the following:

  1. How much money do I need, realistically, to run my project?
  2. What will the budget look like? Will the costs be primarily for staff, or consultants, or equipment and supplies?
  3. What kind of funder (foundation, government, other) is most likely to provide the money I need?
  4. Who are the three or four most likely funders for this project in this city or state?