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Knowledge to build on.  
A Message to Grantseekers
     
Initial Questions
     
Beginning Your Research - Nonprofit Grantseekers
Basic Funding Research Strategies
If You Already Know the Name of a Foundation Prospect
     
Beginning Your Research - Individual Grantseekers
     
The Proposal Process
     
Information Resources
     
Glossary
Guide to Funding Research

If You Already Know the Name of a Foundation Prospect

All of the more than 100,000 private and community foundations in the U.S. are listed in the Foundation Name Index of the Foundation Directory Online.

For foundations that do not have a web site or issue annual reports, you will need to refer to the IRS return, Form 990-PF. The IRS requires that every private foundation file a 990-PF form each year. IRS returns provide basic financial data, a complete grants list, and other information on each private foundation. The IRS return is often the only place where you will find complete grants lists for smaller foundations. The amount of detail provided on each grant will vary.

Be sure to check whether a foundation issues printed guidelines, newsletters, or press releases. This information is listed in most Foundation Center grantmaker records and might be found on grantmaker web sites.

Information Available from Grantmakers Themselves


Information directly from the source is much appreciated by grantseekers. And this type of information tends to be more up to date than what you find in directories or databases. By studying information from the funder, you can pick up subtle clues as to what motivates the funder along with specific hints as to preferred styles of approach and actual restrictions and limitations.

Web Sites

A comparatively small but growing number of grantmakers have established sites on the Internet. Some foundations, like the Verizon Foundation, encourage grantseekers to apply online. The type of information found at these web sites varies and may include annual reports, background information on the grantmaker, application guidelines, and information on the grantmaker's print publications.

Annual Reports

Approximately 1,100 foundations publish annual reports. These reports generally contain messages from the president, financial information, program descriptions and grants awarded during the prior year, application guidelines, lists of trustees and executive and program staff. You should always refer to Center directories to see whether there is an annual report available when you begin your research on a particular funder.

990-PFs

The Foundation Center makes 990-PFs available through our web site (as a link in the Foundation Finder, Foundation Directory Online, and 990-PF Search records) and through our libraries. You also might want to check for 990-PFs at Guidestar.org. You can examine these information returns without charge at Foundation Center libraries or request them through a Funding Information Network location. State attorneys general may have copies of 990-PF returns as well. They may also be ordered directly from the IRS for a fee. See our FAQ What are 990-PFs and where can I find them? for a list of options on obtaining 990-PFs.

Guidelines

Some funders distribute sheets or pamphlets containing proposal guidelines, geographic or other limitations, and application procedures and deadlines. Printed guidelines quickly give you a sense of whether or not you might qualify for funding. Always be sure to review the most current guidelines.

RFPs

When a foundation or the government issues a new contract or grant program, they send out a Request For Proposals (RFPs) to agencies that might be qualified to participate. The RFP lists project specifications and application procedures. While a few foundations occasionally use RFPs in specific fields, most prefer to consider proposals that are initiated by applicants. The Foundation Center's RFP Bulletin provides listings of RFPs. Each listing provides a brief overview of a current funding opportunity offered by a foundation or other grantmaking organization. This weekly posting is available for free on our web site, and you can sign up to have it sent directly to your e-mail box every week.

Newsletters

A small number of funders regularly issue newsletters that provide notice of new program directions, announcements of recent grants awarded, changes in board or staff, and updates on grantmaker activities.

Press Releases

Similarly, some foundations distribute press releases when newsworthy events occur.

Grants Lists

Some foundations publish grants lists or report their recent grants directly to the Foundation Center in the form of separate lists.


How Do You View or Obtain Guidelines and Other Materials?

Annual reports, printed guidelines, and newsletters may be available by contacting the funder directly.

Copies of these, along with grants listings and newspaper clippings, when available, will also be found in Foundation Center library files as well as at many Funding Information Network locations.

Next Steps


After reading this online guide, what should you do next? Here are some suggestions:

Participate in a Foundation Center training program or workshop. You can attend free or fee-based programs on funding research, proposal writing, grantmakers and their giving, and related topics at any of our five libraries. Our free 60-90 minute classes are basic introductions to the grantseeking process, the Center's resources and how best to make use of them, along with detailed instruction in a variety of fundraising strategies. There is no fee for our one-hour classes, but in most cases, advance registration is required. The Foundation Center also offers in-depth, full-day, fee-based courses in our own libraries and in other sites around the country. Orientations are also provided at many Funding Information Network locations; call for times and availability. Finally, you can attend special programs at our libraries and learning centers and at many of our Funding Information Network locations. Among the programs to choose from: Meet the Grantmaker panel presentations, Dialogue with Donors small-group discussions, technical assistance breakfasts, film showings, brown bag lunches, and workshops on a variety of topics.

Take a Foundation Center online training course. These interactive, self-paced, online courses reinforce lessons with interactivity, assignments, and self-tests.

Visit a Foundation Center library and explore its resources: books, periodicals, videotapes, CD-ROMs, and other computerized databases. All Center libraries have bibliographies, user aids, and catalogs to help you find the information you need.

Consider joining the Foundation Center's Associates Program, a fee-based service providing member organizations with telephone reference service, access to a special Associates-only web site, attendance at an annual conference, access to updates on grantmakers, customized e-mail and computer searches, and photocopying and fax services. For more information, call (800) 424-9836.

Refer to the Center's publication, Foundation Fundamentals, for more details on the topics covered here.

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