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A Message to Grantseekers
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Beginning Your Research - Nonprofit Grantseekers
Beginning Your Research - Individual Grantseekers
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Guide to Funding Research

Beginning Your Research: Individual Grantseekers

Because most private funding goes to nonprofit organizations, the individual grantseeker should expect to encounter even stiffer competition for grant dollars than the nonprofit organization. It is essential, therefore, that you research all potential funding sources within your own discipline or geographic area. Here are some basic rules of thumb concerning individual grantseeking.

For students:

If you are seeking help with funding your higher education, you should first contact the financial-aid office at the college or university you plan to attend. Direct financial assistance from the college, federal and state subsidized loans and grants, work-study programs, and support from local clubs, alumni, or religious groups are all possibilities. Some corporations offer scholarships or tuition-aid programs to their employees or the children of employees. Foundations often provide financial aid through colleges or universities rather than directly to individual students. Only after all of the above resources have been exhausted should you consider approaching foundations or other outside funders on your own.

For other individuals:

Most grantmakers place highly specific limitations on their giving to individuals. Provisions for grants to individuals require advance approval of the program by the IRS. For this reason, grantmakers are unlikely to make exceptions to their program guidelines, even if you present a compelling case to do so. There is no quick way to perform this type of research. As with all grantseeking, the more time you have available and the earlier you begin, the better your chances of securing a grant. The more you know in advance about each funding source you plan to approach —especially as to eligibility requirements and limitations— the better you will be at presenting your funding needs. Do take the time to acquaint yourself with the scope of each reference tool you use. It is recommended that individuals apply to many different sources, but it is also important to be selective. If it appears that you don't qualify, don't apply.

Fiscal Sponsorship

Depending on the nature of your project, you might wish to consider affiliating with a tax-exempt organization to broaden your base of potential support. It is important that you begin looking for a fiscal sponsor at the same time that you start researching potential funders. Another option is to consider incorporating as a tax-exempt organization.

Since grants would then be made directly to the sponsoring organization, you and the sponsor should have in advance a clear agreement about the management of funds received and what fees — if any — may be subtracted from the grant. A useful resource on this topic is Fiscal Sponsorship: Six Ways To Do It Right, by Gregory L. Colvin (San Francisco: Study Center Press). For more information on fiscal sponsorship, see our FAQs, What is a fiscal agent, and how do I find one? and Where can I find examples of policies, procedures and guidelines for fiscal sponsorship agreements on the web? Or you could take the Guide to fiscal sponsorship online tutorial.

There is no master list of organizations willing to act as sponsors; you will need to investigate those with purposes similar to your own. Useful resources to help identify groups active in your field and potential nonprofit sponsors can be located in our FAQ, How can I find information on the Internet about a particular nonprofit organization?

The Foundation Center maintains a database of foundations that award grants directly to individuals. Information from this database is provided to individual grantseekers in two different formats:

Foundation Grants to Individuals. This print directory features more than 10,000 entries on foundations that award educational, general welfare, and arts and cultural support, as well as awards, prizes, grants by nomination, and funding for international applicants, company employees, students and graduates of specific schools, and research and professional support. Six indexes are provided to help target prospective grants by subject area, types of support, and grantmaker name.

Foundation Grants to Individuals Online. This unique online foundation database of grantmaker programs that award grants to individuals is convenient to use, since it can be accessed from the web. It is searchable by foundation name, foundation city, foundation state, field of interest, type of support, geographic focus, company name, school name, and free text search. It is available on a monthly or annual basis by subscription.

Both formats are available for free use in Foundation Center libraries or for purchase at our marketplace. When referring to the print version of Foundation Grants to Individuals, review the table of contents and the appropriate indexes to locate those entries that might describe the type of funding you seek. When using the Online version, be sure to try your search in a variety of ways. Try not to enter too many search terms into the field boxes at any one time since this tends to limit the number of "hits" you will receive. Text search is a particularly useful feature with this database.

Some useful resources for individual grantseekers:

Annual Register of Grant Support. New Providence, NJ: R.R. Bowker.

*Directory of Biomedical and Health Care Grants. Phoenix: Oryx Press.

*Directory of Grants in the Humanities. Phoenix: Oryx Press.

*Directory of Research Grants. Phoenix: Oryx Press.

Foundation Grants to Individuals. New York: The Foundation Center.

Foundation Grants to Individuals Online, New York:  The Foundation Center

Grants Register. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Margolin, Judith B. The Individual's Guide to Grants. New York: Plenum Press.

The Foundation Center's FAQs for individual grantseekers.

The Foundation Center's Reference Guides for Individual Grantseekers.

*Information is available in CD-ROM format in Oryx Press' Grants Database.

In addition to Foundation Center libraries and the Funding Information Network, many public and academic libraries maintain directories and other sources of information on grants to individuals, especially for those seeking scholarships. There may also be an agency at the state level, especially in the field of the arts, whose mandate includes helping individuals seek funding. An extensive bibliography of sources on funding for individuals will be found in Foundation Grants to Individuals.

The Foundation Center also offers several free one-hour training classes for individual grantseekers, Grantseeking Basics for Individuals in the Arts and Finding Foundation Support for Your Education. For a three-month calendar announcing dates and times, refer to the library homepage of the Foundation Center field office nearest you.

Finally, the Foundation Center online training course Grantseeking Basics for Individuals will help prepare you to seek out and identify potential sources of funding for your project.
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