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.
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
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.
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:
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
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
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.
useful resources for individual grantseekers:
Annual Register of Grant Support. New Providence,
NJ: R.R. Bowker.
of Biomedical and Health Care Grants. Phoenix: Oryx Press.
of Grants in the Humanities. Phoenix: Oryx Press.
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
New York: St. Martin's Press.
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
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.