Grant Services - Advice and Tips

Finding the Top Funding Agencies for Your Organization

Thu, Nov 19, 2015 @ 11:11 AM / by Sherry Sherman

Describing a funding organization in general that’s a good fit for funding is easy enough: it’s amoney-4.jpg foundation that funds your proposed activities, in the amount you need, when you need it. The time-consuming part is sifting through all of the foundations—their funding criteria and their funding history—to find the ones that are the best match for your organization. There are tens of thousands of foundations, so it can feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack. can help you with this task by narrowing the field from thousands to a few. Our Grant Opportunity Search is a good way to do that. In this blog, though, we assume you’ve already narrowed the field to several viable agencies that fund the types or programs you want to propose. Now you want to narrow the list further. Here are five questions some key factors to consider when prioritizing opportunities, and where to find that information. Here are five questions to ask when assessing a potential funder:

  1. Does this funder give in your geographic area? Funders can be quite geographically specific in their mandate (think “community foundations”), and will often reject otherwise very good proposals based on geography alone.
  2. Does the size of grant you need fall within the funder’s guidelines? Grant size can be overlooked.  If you are asking for too much—or even too little—the funder may be less likely to fund your project over a competing project that has an ask amount more in line with the funder’s giving preferences.
  3. What type of support does the organization fund? While some funders will not specify where or how the grant dollars should be spent, other funders will explicitly provide only program support, or may choose not to fund capital campaigns, or prefer not to pay for facilities or equipment.
  4. Are there any specific requirements or restrictions that you have to meet? Funding agencies may require matching funds, which might be a stretch for your organization. They may require reports on end-user demographics that you are not able to obtain. There may be “hidden” requirements as well, as described in a recent blog here.
  5. What is the organization's funding history? Although many foundations publish detailed funding guidelines, actual funding history gives the truest picture of a foundation’s giving interests and patterns. A few questions to ask when evaluating a foundation’s funding history: How diverse are the foundation’s funding practices? Do they give to a wide range of funding categories, or are they very specific in what they choose to fund? How many recent award winners are first-time winners and how many are recurring winners?

There are foundation research products such as FoundationSearch, Foundation Center’s Foundation Directory Online, and GuideStar that provide tools to research and identify funders meeting a diverse range of funding criteria. Both FoundationSearch and Foundation Directory Online are subscription services. GuideStar is a free service. All of these organizations provide access to foundations’ Forms 990 which can provide a wealth of information for a non-profit researching grant opportunities.

Form 990 is the IRS form filed annually by tax-exempt organizations. A few tips for how to review 990s when conducting grant prospect research:

  • Page 1 will typically provide a phone number, contact name, mailing address, etc. in case this information is not readily available online or on a website.
  • A board of directors is usually listed, which can help you see potential connections between the funding organization and yours.
  • A list of previous grantees appears toward the end of most 990s.. The list typically includes the amounts funded, and occasionally the project/type of funding (general operating support, capital, program/project, etc.).


Call or email for help in finding funding agencies, in assessing opportunities you have found, or in any aspect of the grant process.


Photo Credit:Pictures of Money

Topics: grant trend, funding trend, funding needs

Sherry Sherman

Written by Sherry Sherman

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